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I had my first losing night in a long time last night as the Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers engaged in a much tighter matchup than I had anticipated. The loss on my only pick snaps a nice streak in which I hadn’t encountered a losing night, somewhere in the neighborhood of two weeks. Buffalo and Tampa Bay put on the clamps and really didn’t give us any shot at coming close to the OVER 5.5 as they sat in a 1-1 deadlock late in the third period. Steven Stamkos bagged the winner with just over five minutes to go in regulation time and the Lightning escaped with a win after a nice effort from the road team in this one. I will look to get back on the winning track here as Saturday has eight evening games on the schedule.
Detroit Red Wings @ Washington Capitals
My Pick – OVER 5 (-125)
The Detroit Red Wings and Washington Capitals collide tonight in D.C. as Detroit looks to make it three in a row away from home while the Capitals will attempt to win their fifth consecutive game on home ice. The two teams currently sit within the Eastern Conference playoff picture with Washington going an impressive 11-1-4 over their last 16 games while the Wings knocked off both Alberta teams with a 4-2 win in Edmonton and more recently a 3-2 win in Calgary. The big reason for Washington’s surge up the standings is of course The Great 8. Ovechkin has scored 16 times in his last 31 games to give him 21 on the season to go with 36 points in 40 games. Although Detroit’s not usually mentioned when discussing the NHL’s most potent offenses, they have scored 2.8 goals per game this season and they have scored seven over their last two. Washington scores 2.98 goals per game, putting them near the top of the league in that category. Where both of these two team’s do a lot of their damage is on the powerplay. Detroit and Washington rank 2nd and 4th in the league respectively with the man advantage, and we all know that is when Ovi is truly lethal as displayed by his nine powerplay tallies on the season. Although Detroit excels at killing penalties, Washington does not judging by their 79.1% mark in that category, near the bottom of the league and with Braden Holtby starting his 24th consecutive game this evening, it’s a possibility this unit could falter this evening. I took a look at the OVER 5.5 at +140, however I decided to sell a half goal here and go with 5 at a reasonable price.
Pittsburgh Penguins @ Montreal Canadiens
My Pick – PENGUINS (-105)
The Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens with familiarize themselves once again this evening after the two met last Saturday in what resulted in a 4-1 win for the Montreal Canadiens. At the time that was Montreal’s ninth victory in ten games and they were flying high. However, all good things must come to an end and the Tampa Bay Lightning stormed the Bell Centre on Tuesday night and delivered a 4-2 blow to to Habs team coming off of a long road trip. Montreal has had rather large peaks and valleys this season for a team that remain one of the best in the Eastern Conference. You sure don’t want to be in a valley tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins as they are, as always, one of the league’s most offensively potent teams. Their 2.95 goals per game and 21.5 percent rate on the powerplay are real solid numbers, but their play defensively this season compared to others is what has been the driving force here. They only give up 2.35 goals per game, while it’s not better than Montreal’s at 2.30, it’s darn close and isn’t really talked about all that much. Marc-Andre Fleury’s 2.20 goals against average and .925 save percentage are a nice sight to see for a Penguins team that has stuck with the man whom they drafted number one overall despite his iffy performances in the post-season in recent history. It’s a tighter defensive system under Mike Johnston this season and it’s certainly paying dividends for this team. They kill penalties at a 87.% rate, while Montreal’s powerplay is at just 14.2 percent. Montreal averages only 27 shots on net per game compared to Pittsburgh’s 31, and the Habs only find twine 2.62 times per game. I like the Penguins as underdogs tonight to hand the Habs their second consecutive loss.