Saturday, April 3, 2010

Edmonton at Phoenix

Edmonton +235
Coyotes -310

The Coyotes look to get back on track tonight at home after clinching their first playoff birth in years. Edmonton is playing out the string. Look for the Coyotes to wake up and win this one.

SureShotPick: Coyotes -310

Friday, April 2, 2010

Western Conference Odds to win Stanley Cup

San Jose Sharks 5/1

It's no secret that playoffs have not been kind to San Jose in recent years. Last season the Sharks won the Presidents trophy for the best

record in the league and were knocked out by Anaheim in the first round. Perhaps Dany Heatley is the missing ingredient for playoff success, but the Sharks still seem to be weak on defense after Boyle, Murray, and Vlasic, and still depend too much on the Thornton line for offense. Evgeni Nabokov was not great in the playoff series for Anaheim and will need to be on his best game for the Sharks to go deep in the playoffs. Overall, we're not thrilled with the Sharks depth on the third and fourth lines, and also their second and third defense pairings.

Prediction: They are very strong at the Shark Tank and on talent alone should get by the first round and perhaps can make it to the Western Finals if they meet the right opponent. We still think the Sharks have holes, and have a hug obstacle mentally to get over the playoff letdowns of years past.

Chicago Blackhawks 3/1

The Blackhawks have struggled in the month of March posting a 6-7-2 record. Very young and skilled team that has one major hole. Goaltending. Cristobal Huet and Antti Niemi have solid numbers, but have struggled at times this season and still have to prove themselves in the playoffs. Niemi will probably be the guy and he does have seven shutouts this season, so he is capable. Offensively, Chicago is loaded with Kane, Toews, Sharp, Brouwer, Hossa, and Versteeg. They also have important role players such as John Madden, Ben Eager, Dustin Byfuglien, and Andrew Ladd. No team has more overall balance upfront and can skate like the Blackhawks. The defense is very solid, although the loss of Brian Campbell will hurt. It all comes down to if you trust their goaltending.

Prediction: Will be playing in the Western Conference finals.

Vancouver Canucks

This is the most impressive team I have seen this season in my opinion. The Sedin's have been brilliant this year. The Canucks are finally getting secondary scoring from players such as Mason Raymond, Ryan Kesler, and Alex Burrows. They are a physical team that is quick, and is big and solid on defense. Who would think that the biggest worry Canuck fans have is Roberto Luongo in goal? He has struggled since winning the gold medal for Canada, but should get it together by the playoffs.

Prediction: Western finals at least and could win the Cup.

Phoenix Coyotes

The Cinderella team of the NHL thus far, has two strengths that are key to winning the cup; Goaltending and defense. Phoenix has allowed the least amount of goals in the league thanks to Illya Bryzgalov in net who leads the NHL in shutouts. Head coach Dave Tippet has had playoff success with Dallas, and they also have veteran defensemen with playoff experience. Phoenix can role out four quality lines and is fast and scrappy.

Prediction: 30-1 seems very high for one of the hottest teams in the league. They have just as good of a chance as any team to reach the Stanley Cup because of their goaltending. May not be as talented as Chicago, Vancouver, San Jose and Detroit, but should advance to the 2nd round.

Nashville Predators

Barry Trotz is one of our favorite coaches as he has done a masterful job with the low budget Predators once again. This is another team that has tremendous defense and goaltending. Shea Weber is perhaps the most underrated defensemen in the league as well as Dan Hamhuis and Ryan Suter which form one of the leagues best defense. Pekka Rinne is on par with any of the goalies in the NHL but has never played in the playoffs. As usual they don't score often but do have a 30 goal scorer in Patric Hornqvist and solid veterans such as Jason Arnott, Steve Sullivan, and JP Dumont. They can skate with any team in the league and will out work teams also. Nashville may not be talented enough to go deep in the playoffs, but they will make things difficult for whoever their opponent is.

Prediction: Nashville impresses us every year, but it would be a surprise if they get past the first round.

Detroit Red Wings

The Red Wings are the leagues hottest team after the Olympic break posting a 13-2-1 record. Nobody wants to face the experienced Detroit Red Wings in the playoffs. Injuries were a key factor as to why they struggled most of the season. Unfortunately for the rest of league, players such as Johan Franzen, Valtteri Flippula, Tomas Holmstrom, Niklas Kronwall, and Dan Cleary, who were injured earlier this season are healthy and making immediate contributions. The MVP of the Red Wings has been goalie Jimmy Howard , who is a candidate for the Calder trophy and even the Vezina trophy. He has started every game since Jan. 27th and is among the league leaders in GAA, and save percentage. This team has won before, and is peaking at the right time.

Prediction: People will jumping on the Wings bandwagon as the wise guy pick. However, as great as Howard has been he is still unproven in the playoffs. Last season the Wings were on the verge of winning the Cup but should signs of fatigue against Pittsburgh in the finals. They are still a relatively old team, especially on defense. Depending on who they play, they could be out in the first round or make it to the second, but to us they are a notch below the leagues elite.

Los Angeles Kings

One of the dark horse teams on the verge of punching a ticket to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Not the fastest team in the league, but excellent at cycling the puck in the other teams zone, and they have players such as Ryan Smyth, Dustin Brown, and Michal Handzus, who create havoc in front of the net and score the garbage goals which are needed in the playoffs. The Kings have a balanced attack on offense with seven players who have scored more than 15 goals thus far and are one of league's best on face offs. Defensively they are led by Drew Doughty who in his second year is being considered for the Norris trophy. They may be weak in their third defense pairing and goaltender Jonathan Quick, as well as most of the team, has never appeared in the playoffs. The Kings goal this season was to just make the playoffs as this team on the rise may be another year away from seriously contending for the Stanley Cup.

Prediction: They will be a tough out in the first round and could pull of an upset, but more than likely will be out in the first round.

Calgary Flames

Big win tonight over Colorado moves the Flames into a tie with the Avalanche for the 8th seed. Calgary's strength is defense and goaltending, but struggles so often scoring goals. The Flames don't have the depth offensively to be a serious threat, if they even make the playoffs. Miikka Kiprusoff is capable of stealing a game in the Calgary net, and they will play a physical game, but the lack of scoring makes it hard pressed for them to make any impact in the playoffs.

Prediction: Should they make the playoffs, they will be out in the first round.

Avalanche 35/1

The surprising Avalanche are in a freefall at the wrong time and are in danger of missing the playoffs. This is a very young team with tremendous upside for the future that would be thrilled just to make the postseason. Goalie Craig Anderson, who has been terrific most of the season is struggling like the rest of the team. Chris Stewart, Matt Duchene, and Paul Stasny, lead the Av's offense which is solid but isn't overly explosive. The Av's are relying on so many young players, it would be difficult for them to be a threat to anyone in the post season.

Prediction: Head coach Joe Sacco has done a tremendous job getting this team to where they are at. The Av's are headed in the right direction, but if they do make the playoffs they will be a quick out.

Lighthouse Project and Nassau Coliseum on Long Island

Bloggers Nick Giglia of Let there be lighthouse and B.D. Gallof of Hockey Independent weigh in on the silence Islanders fans have heard about the Lighthouse Project and plans to develop Nassau Coliseum and Surrounding area. The Islanders lease is up with their current building at the end of the 2014-2015 season.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Philadelphia at NY Islanders 7pm

Philadelphia -140 -1.5 (+215) Over 5.5 (even)

NY Islanders +120 +1.5 (-255) Under 5.5(-120)

The Philadelphia Flyers have found themselves clinging to a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They are tied with Boston and Montreal for 6th place in the East with 82 points, while 9th place Atlanta is 2 points behind them with 80 points and the 10th place Rangers with 78 points. A visit to Nassau Coliseum to face the Islanders should be exactly what the Flyers need. The Flyers have won 15 straight against the Islanders, the longest current streak in the NHL. 14 of those wins have been in regulation. So chalk this pick up to the Flyers? Not exactly. The Islanders have played at times much better than their record this year and the last 3 games against the Flyers have been 1 goal loses included both games this year at Nassau Coliseum and 4 of the 5 games between these 2 teams have been by 1 goal. Only a 6-2 blowout in Philadelphia on December 8th was more than 1 goal. In the other 4 matchups, both teams failed to combine for more than 5 goals total. Another trend to look for is that the Islanders who will again miss the playoffs for the 3rd straight season, have been respectable at home. They own a 20-14-3 record at Nassau Coliseum. The Isles also haven't lost a game at home by more than 1 goal since February 6, and only 3 times since Christmas.

SureShotPick: Sureshot feels that tonight is the night the Islanders break their streak against the Flyers. However, all the trends lead to taking the Islanders +1.5 as they seem to always cover when the underdog at home.

Also, 4 of 5 games between these 2 teams have had 5 goals or less scored between them. Take the Under.

Parlay the Isles +1.5 and the Under for better payout.

Bonus Pick!!! Nashville -115 over St.Louis!!!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Anaheim at Colorado

Anaheim +155 +1.5(-190) Over 5.5(-125)
Colorado -175 -1.5(+165) Under 5.5(+105)

Huge game for Colorado, as they find themselves clinging to the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Going into action the Avalanche lead the Flames by four points and must get back on track after dropping two games in a row, and losing five of six. Not the best time of year to have a losing streak, but common for young teams as the pressure of the playoffs intensifies. Colorado goalie, Craig Anderson, who has been solid all season, has given up more than four goals in four of his last five starts. This starts a crucial three game homestand for the Av's which includes Friday's showdown with the Calgary Flames. Colorado did play better on Sunday at San Jose putting up 45 shots on goal but fell 4-3. As for the Ducks, they have been a lousy team on the road posting a 12-20-5 record. They have not beat a playoff bound team outside of Anaheim since Jan. 10th when they won in Chicago. It appears that backup goalie, Curtis McElhinney will get the start for the injured Jonas Hiller. Second leader scorer, Ryan Getzlaf, is still battling an ankle injury and he didn't make the trip to Colorado.

The Pick: Colorado (-175)
It's hard to trust the Ducks on the road because the only team that they have beaten since Feb. 2nd on the road is Edmonton. Anaheim is almost certainly eliminated, while Colorado is fighting for their playoff lives and desperate for two points.

San Jose at Dallas

San Jose -140 -1.5(+210) Over 5.5(-120)
Dallas +120 +1.5(-250) Under 5.5(even)

San Jose is still trying to clinch the best record in the West, while the Dallas Stars are on the fringe of being officially eliminated. These two teams met in San Jose on Thursday, with the Sharks shutting out Dallas 3-0. The last time they met in Dallas on march 16th,the Stars erupted by scoring eight goals and blasting the Sharks 8-2. However, that was when the Sharks were in the midst of their season long six game losing streak. This is a different team right now as they have won four in a row, and although they will be without Joe Thornton tonight, they do have a rested Evgeni Nabokov in net tonight and should be motivated to avenge what happened the last time they played at American Airlines Center. Dallas has been too inconsistent all season, and goes back to the struggling Marty Turco in goal tonight.

The Pick: San Jose -140
Sharks seem to be motivated without Thornton and are playing much better of late. Secondary scorers such as Devin Setoguchi and Joe Pavelski have stepped up in Thornton's absence.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Phoenix at Vancouver

Phoenix +150 +1.5(-190) Over 5.5(+110)
Vancouver -170 -1.5(+165) Under 5.5 (-130)

No team in the NHL deserves more credit than the Phoenix Coyotes. The fact that they have clinched a playoff berth already, and are one of the hottest teams in the league right now, is a surprise to almost everyone. Head coach Dave Tippet will be named coach of the year, and GM Don Maloney should be named executive of the year. His deadline acquisitions of Wojtek Wolski and Lee Stempniak have paid immediate dividends. Wolski has scored a point a game since being a Coyote, and Stempniak has scored 12 goals in twelve games since being acquired from Toronto. Phoenix has not played since they clinched a playoff berth with a win over over Colorado on Saturday night at home. As much as we respect and admire what the Coyotes have done, there could be a let down tonight in Vancouver against the Western Conference's best team at home. The Canucks have a 27-8-2 record at GM place and should be an angry team after losing 3 of 4 games recently. Head coach Alain Vigneault is worried about his teams recent stretch run of complacency and sent home defensemen, Shane O'Brien, for arriving five minutes before practice started. This may be the right opponent for the Canucks as they will not take Phoenix lightly at all.

The Pick: Vancouver -170
Very confident in the Canucks getting back on track tonight at home.

Monday, March 29, 2010

AHL Coach loses it

Abbotsford Heat and former Calgary Flames head coach Jim Playfair loses his mind after disagreeing with a call from Referee Jamie Koharski in a AHL game over the weekend. Your thoughts below.

Dallas at Anaheim

Dallas +120 +1.5(-240) Over 5.5 (-120)
Anaheim -140 -1.5(+200) Under 5.5 (even)

Two pacific division rivals that are all but mathematically eliminated collide for the first time since Dec. 31st. Dallas holds a 3-1 series lead thus far and is wrapping up their three game California swing. The Stars were shut out by San Jose 3-0, and defeated Los Angeles 4-1 on Saturday, scoring all four goals on the Power Play. Dallas has not won back to back games since mid-February, but one bright spot has been the play of goalie Kari Lehtonen who will get the start tonight. He has won three straight games and stopped 29 of 30 shots against the Kings. However, due to skipping a team meeting last night, one of the Stars best forwards, Mike Ribeiro will be a healthy scratch tonight. Anaheim returns home after going 1-2 in Western Canada. The Ducks are struggling to score without star froward Ryan Getzlaf, who is still out with an ankle injury. One bright spot for Anaheim is their play at home. They have won four straight at the Honda Center and overall are 23-11-3. Interesting trend in this series; the total has gone over in six of the last seven games between the two teams in Anaheim.

SureShotPick: Difficult games to pick tonight, but the Over in this game looks like a safe bet.

Over 5.5 -(-120)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Once again the Flyers just don't get it

As the calender turns toward April, and the playoffs are approaching, one thing is always certain this time of year; The Flyers have goaltending issues. Such a surprise, I know. For a franchise that has one of the most loyal fan bases in the sport, they still forget to address the most important position in hockey. This issue has been a decade long crisis as I'm sure even the most loyal Philly fan has serious doubts that this team, the way it is currently structured, can win a round in the playoffs if they even qualify. While writing this they sit four points ahead of ninth place Atlanta.

During the off season, the Flyers decided to take a risk by signing the enigmatic, Ray Emery after he was bought out by Ottawa and vanished from the NHL for one year. He had a reputation as having a poor attitude and clashed with players and management. Although he reached the Stanley Cup finals with Ottawa in 2007, he had a terrible year in 2008, and the Senators tried vigorously to trade him, but not one single team was willing to take a risk on him due to the locker room distractions he caused in Ottawa.

To Emery's credit, this summer he said the right things, and had a better attitude going into training camp proving he deserved another chance. After a slow start, Emery posted decent numbers, 2.64 GAA, and a .905 save percentage. He also managed three shutouts, and 16 wins in 29 games.

Emery didn't get to prove himself for a full season with the Flyers as he was battling a hip injury and was declared out for the season on March 2nd. Ironically, it was one day before the NHL trade deadline. The decision for GM Paul Holmgren, was simple. Stick with backup Michael Leighton, who was picked up on waivers from Carolina, but showed flashes of being a number one goalie, or attempt to trade for a goalie such as Marty Turco, Martin Biron (again), Dwayne Roloson, or even Tomas Vokoun.

Philadelphia decided to stick with what they had, and since has lost Leighton to a high ankle sprain and he is probably out for the season. Even if Leighton was healthy, is he really the answer in the playoffs? Now the Flyer goaltending carousel belongs to journeyman, Brian Boucher, who reached the Eastern Conference Finals for the Flyers TEN years ago. The undrafted, Johan Backlund was just called up this week to back up Boucher, and may make his first start in goal this weekend because the Flyers play back to back games.

Quite simply, you cannot win in the playoffs with shaky goaltending, thus in our opinion the Flyers may be the easiest out of all the potential playoff teams. Throughout the years, they have made poor management decisions between the pipes. Whether it was signing John Vanbiesbrouck, or Sean Burke, when they were past their prime. Or continuing to think that Roman Cechmanek was going to lead them to the promised land, they have failed to draft and develop a solid goaltender. Perhaps, they tried to acquire Tomas Vokoun, and the price was too high. The rumor, was that Florida wanted Jeff Carter, and in that case they were wise to not make that move. I know it's hindsight, but wouldn't either Biron or Roloson have been an upgrade?

Part of the reason that the Flyers are in this situation is that they have salary cap restrictions, as too much money is spent on players such as Pronger, Briere, Carter, Richards, and Gagne. They will have to unload one of those players to be able to sign a decent goalie in the offseason. This again goes back to managements inability to develop a young, inexpensive goalie of the future. One team that can sympathize with the Flyers are the Los Angeles Kings, who have had goaltending issues, probably since Kelly Hrudey, or even Rogie Vachon. Finally, the Kings addressed the issue by using high draft picks on goalies, and it has paid off with Jonathan Quick, and they also have a stud prospect in Jonathan Bernier.

Should Brian Boucher take the Flyers deep in the playoffs I promise to write about it and give him, and the Flyers credit for trusting him. We expect the Flyers fans to be rabid as usual, should they face Washington, or perhaps, Pittsburgh, in the first round. But how many of them actually think they have a legit chance this season, when year after year they have the same issue haunting them?

Columbus at Chicago

Columbus +255


Chicago -310

The Blackhawks look to avenge an 8-3 drubbing they took at the hands of Columbus Thursday night when the two teams meet again in Chicago. The Blue Jackets travel to Chicago coming off a 4-3 Overtime loss to the New York Islanders last night.

Thursday's game saw Columbus take command early and erupt for 4 goals in the 2nd period. Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said "There was nothing to be excited about. Discount it and throw it in the garbage can." The Blackhawks will look to do just that. They own a 27-7-3 record at home and haven't played since their blowout loss on Thursday.

SureShotPick: Look for Chicago to take out frustrations and avenge their loss. Take the Blackhawks -310 and bet big.

Calgary at Washington 3pm

Calgary +220

Washington -260

The Calgary Flames make a rare visit to Washington this afternoon to face the NHL leading Washington Capitals. The Flames are coming off a 5-0 beat down from the Boston Bruins yesterday and a 3-2 loss at Nassau Coliseum Thursday night from the Islanders after leading through 2 periods. The Flames currently sit 6 points back of 8th place Colorado. With 7 games remaining, and poor play, the Flames playoff hopes might be over.

"We have to run the table now.' Flames captain Jarome Iginla said after the Boston game, 'Other teams have done it in the past, run the table at the end. We need to put together 5 or 6 wins, it's literally all game 7's for us now."

The Washington Capitals are on their way to their first President's Trophy in team history. The Caps are 6-1-3 in their last ten and a very impressive 27-4-4 at home this season. As SureShot has written about in their Eastern Conference Preview, we are not sure that the Capitals have enough defense or goaltending to win it all. Although the Capitals have been winning, their goaltending is far from set. Coach Bruce Boudreau seemed to be set on young netminder Semyon Varlamov to be the teams #1. However, Varlamov has lost 4 straight games while Jose Theodore has won 7 straight with a very solid 1.95 GAA in those starts.

Calgary has not won in Washington since March 13, 1999.

SureShotPick: Washington -260