It’s Wednesday Night Rivalry. Time now for our NHL Daily Predictions.
|Devils vs Maple Leafs
ML +170 / -200
|Penguins vs Capitals
ML +110 / -130
|Bruins vs Avalanche
ML -135 / +115
|Islanders vs Ducks
ML +120 / -140
|Flames vs Kings
ML +115 / -135
Here are tonight’s starting goaltenders, courtesy of LeftWingLock.
The Game to Watch: Penguins vs Capitals.
The first official Wednesday Night Rivalry is upon us. Washington will play host to the Pittsburgh Penguins as the Capitals begin their year-long quest for revenge.
As any Capitals fan can tell you, revenge doesn’t come on Game 3 of the regular season. It comes in Games 83 and beyond in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Washington dominated the pace of play and outplayed the Penguins at every turn, but simply allowed too many odd man rushes and breakaways. Pittsburgh was allowed one or two freebies a night and didn’t miss one.
If you’re going to get annihilated in possession, you better be opportunistic and finish the few chances you get. The Pens did just that last spring.
With the Penguins being the two-time reigning Stanley Cup champions and the Capitals losing several key components of their winning core, the expectation for Washington to run roughshod over the regular season is mostly gone. Perhaps that can help a team like the Capitals. The less pressure in that room the better.
So what will we get out of this particular installment of the Pens-Caps rivalry?
Mostly, anger. Alex Ovechkin, the perennial bridesmaid, has seven goals through three games. Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Penguins just got back from visiting the White House completing their victory lap from last season’s Stanley Cup triumph.
At this point I like to envision Alex Ovechkin as Russian Clubber Lang in Rocky III, furiously training while Rocky Balboa is off on the Muppet Show and wrestling Hulk Hogan for charity.
You might be asking yourself why I made a Rocky reference involving a Russian and did not liken him to Ivan Drago. The way I see it, Ovi isn’t Drago until he actually slays the beast and beats the Penguins as Drago pummeled Apollo Creed.
Washingtons offense is coming in red-hot. TJ Oshie had a two-goal night Monday in a loss to Tampa Bay, while Nick Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov continue to weave magic in the offensive zone. Backstrom had three points in the loss.
Phillipp Grubauer was tagged with the loss. Braden Holtby will get the nod in net tonight.
Pittsburgh got off to an inauspicious start, falling on opening night in overtime to St. Louis then getting obliterated in Chicago. They earned their first win on home ice in a rematch of the Stanley Cup Final, shutting out the Nashville Predators 4-0.
Evgeni Malkin scored a minute into play to put the Pens on top to stay. Olli Maatta had a goal and an assist. Matt Murray stopped all 26 shots thrown his way.
The game being held at the Verizon Center is a big advantage. Washington wants blood, as a team and as a city, against the Penguins. An early season home win would get their swagger back in a big way.
Prediction: Take the Capitals to win. Play the under. Six is a lot to ask for.
Other NHL Daily Predictions
Bruins vs Avalanche: How often do you see a home-and-home between two teams on opposite sides of the country?
The Colorado Avalanche have surprised pretty much everyone by getting off to a strong start. They’ve beaten the Rangers in the Garden, the Bruins in the Other Garden, and now are hosting the Bs at the Pepsi Center just two days later with a chance to go 3-1.
Boston has not had a home win against the Colorado Avalanche since 1998. Can the Avs keep that luck going?
I’m not terribly optimistic.
See, the Avs are rebuilding. Everyone and their grandmother knows that. The team has earned a couple of wins and their star players are doing well, but Peter Forsberg has all but demanded that Matt Duchene sit out until he’s traded away. Which won’t happen.
So the team is being held together with rubber bands and duct tape. But at least they’re fun to watch for the time being.
The road team has won nine of the last 10 meetings between these two teams. Boston shut the Avalanche out their last trip to the Pepsi Center. The year before last, they won 6-2 in Denver.
Patrice Bergeron and David Backes remain out of the Bruins’ lineup.
I still like the Bruins’ odds. They still have David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand to lead the charge.
Prediction: Take the Bruins to win. Play the under.
Devils vs Maple Leafs: Get a good look everyone. A New Jersey Devils game has an over/under set at 6.
Of course, that may be more a testament to the strength of their opponent rather than a compliment to their newfound offensive prowess.
The Devils routed the Buffalo Sabres 6-2 and are getting contributions up and down their lineup.
Will Butcher has been an early standout, especially on the powerplay. I mentioned in my season preview that one of the items on the checklist this year for Butcher was to establish himself as an NHL-caliber puck mover. That seems to be going well. He has three assists so far.
Toronto is now 3-0 and are scoring at will. Auston Matthews netted the game-winner in overtime Monday night against the Capitals, marking the third straight game of four or more goals out of the young Leafs.
Not only are the Leafs heavily favored to win this particular home game at -200, they’re expected to win by at least two goals (the spread is Toronto -1.5).
The Devils will put up a fight, but the Leafs are rolling too hard.
Prediction: Take the Maple Leafs to win tonight. Play the under. When an over/under is set at six, I’ll always take the under. If you get burned, tip the cap to a great hockey game.
Flames vs Kings:
Unfortunately, Jaromir Jagr will probably not be playing tonight for the Calgary Flames. He still is working to get into playing shape so that he can properly make an impact for the team.
My guess is that he will make his Flames debut Friday when the team comes home to take on the Ottawa Senators.
UPDATE: In a surprise move, Jaromir Jagr WILL in fact be in the lineup tonight for the Calgary Flames. Management had given no indication as to the date of the Ageless Wonder’s debut in a Calgary sweater, and it would have made sense to hold off until the team returned home Friday.
But this works just fine. Does it impact the outcome of the game? Yes, but for right now, not much. It will take a game or two to fully click with his linemates. He did not have a camp or a pre-season, after all. Let’s cut the man a little slack.
— SportsCentre (@SportsCentre) October 11, 2017
Calgary is venturing to Los Angeles to take on the Kings. They have lost four of their last five times in the Staples Center.
Jeff Carter had two goals and two assists against the Flames last season. Johnny Gaudreau had four points in the season series as well.
The Kings had a down year last season to say the least. Star goaltender Jonathan Quick spent much of the year sidelined with an injury and the offense sputtered. They have put that behind them and have outscored opponents 6-1 in their first two games.
They’re like the San Francisco Giants. The Cup Final is in an even year this year, so the Kings have a shot.
Prediction: Take the Kings to win tonight. Play the under.
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