Saturday, April 10, 2010

Matt Cooke gets Kaned

What goes around, comes around.

The Battle for the Playoffs

Rangers +120 +1.5 (-250) Over 5.5 (+110)

Flyers -140 -1.5 (+210) Under 5.5 (-130)

Going into Friday night, the mission for the Rangers was simple. Win two games against division rival the Philadelphia Flyers and at least one of them in regulation, and you will join 15 other NHL teams in their quest to win the Stanley Cup. After Friday nights game, the Rangers accomplished two things. The first being a win and the second being a regulation win. Now the Rangers can complete their improbable playoff birth by defeating the Flyers for the second time in three days Sunday afternoon.
On Friday, an early giveaway led to a Flyers goal and lead just 40 seconds into the game. The Rangers would battle back eventually taking a 3-1 lead in the 2nd period. The Rangers saw that lead evaporate with little over 5 minutes remaining in the 2nd period. However, Rangers star Marion Gaborik gave the Rangers the lead for good just about two minutes later.

On Sunday, we can throw out all the statistics between these two teams and focus on two important facts. The first being that the Rangers have been the much better team down the stretch and seem to be clicking like a playoff team should while the Flyers have really struggled, only winning 3 games in their last 11. Since this game is like a playoff game, we look at one other important factor; goaltending. Henrik Lunqvist has once again proven that he is a top tier goalie in this league. The Rangers would not be anywhere without his consistent play. On the other hand, the Flyers have had their goaltending issues and now have throw their playoff hopes on Brian Boucher, the journeyman veteran can provide a break for a starter if injured for a couple of weeks but Sunday will be Boucher's 14th straight start, something he hasn't been used too in years.

SureShotPick: With both teams going in opposite directions, and their respective goalie situations, look for the Rangers to finish off their improbable but impressive run to the postseason.

Rangers straight up.

Edmonton at Los Angeles

Edmonton +200 +1.5 (-140) Over 5.5

Los Angeles-240 -1.5 (+120) Under 5.5

The Los Angeles Kings have qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2002. However, as they lead up to the post-season tournament, the Kings need to get their act together as they have looked out of sync of late. The Kings blew a two goal 3rd period lead at home to Phoenix Thursday night and saw them lose in a shootout and miss out a crucial point in the standings. The Kings can still grab the 5th seed and avoid playing San Jose, Vancouver or Chicago in the first round. The Oilers come into town with by far the leagues worst record. Look for the Kings to beat up on the lowly Oilers and gain two must needed points.

SureShotPick: Los Angeles straight up

Friday, April 9, 2010

Philadelphia at New York Rangers

Flyers +130 +1.5 (-240) Over 5.5 (+110)

Rangers -150 -1.5 (+200) Under 5.5 (-130)

The Flyers head to Madison Square Garden tonight to face the Rangers in game 1 of a home and home series that will probably determine the fate of each teams season. It is possible that if the Rangers win both games, the Flyers can also make the playoffs but they would need serious help. A Flyers win or 2 overtime losses will clinch a playoff spot for Philadelphia and it would at least end the inconsistent season on a positive note. The Flyers have struggled since backup goalie Micheal Leighton went down with an injury giving way to 3rd stringer Brian Boucher.
The Rangers however will need a two game sweep of the Flyers to punch their ticket to the playoffs. One of those wins must also be in regulation. The Rangers are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games and might have turned it on just in time to make the playoffs. The Flyers however have struggled, going 3-6-1 in their last 10. However back to back wins over Detroit and Toronto have kept their season going.

SureShotPick: The Rangers -130. As inconsistent and maddening of a season that it has been for Rangers fans, they won't dare get eliminated on home ice.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Anaheim at Dallas

Bonus Pick!

This could be the home crowd's last chance to say goodbye to Marty Turco, who may be playing his final game in a Stars uniform. It appears likely the veteran netminder will be moving to a different team in the offseason after spending his first nine NHL seasons with Dallas and becoming the Stars' all-time leader with 261 wins and 40 shutouts. It also might be the last chance to say goodbye to Mike Modano. This will be an emotional night in Dallas.

Take Dallas straight up. -170

New York Islanders at Pittsburgh Penguins

NY Islanders +180 +1.5 (-155) Over 5.5 (-130)

Pittsburgh -220 -1.5 (+135) Under 5.5 (+110)

The Pittsburgh Penguins will say goodbye to Mellon Arena tonight and at the same time try to clinch home ice in the first round of the playoffs as they try to defend their Stanley Cup. The Penguins sorta botched their chance to win the Atlantic Division with lackluster efforts in losses to Tampa Bay and Washington. Pittsburgh may get superstar Evgeni Malkin back tonight who has absolutely dominated the Islanders in his career. Malkin has 11 goals and 8 assists against the Islanders in his last 11 games.
The Islanders are on their 2nd impressive hot streak of the season and although they were eliminated from playoff contention, the young team continues to play hard knocking off Montreal in a shootout and Ottawa 4-1 on Saturday afternoon. The Isles are 8-3-1 in their last 12.
In Scott Gordon's 2nd year as Isles head coach, he has yet to leave Mellon arena with a victory. The Islanders have lost 6-4 and 3-1 in Pittsburgh this season.

Look for the Penguins to clinch a home ice advantage playoff round tonight while giving a tribute to the history filled Mellon Arena.

SureShotPick: Pittsburgh straight up

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Are the Lightning tanking it?

As the season is winding down, and certain teams are eliminated from playoff contention, I often hear fans utter comments such as this "I hope we lose every game and get a better draft pick" Of course, the NHL instituted a draft lottery in 1995 to prevent teams from doing that, but still it doesn't hurt to have the most lottery balls in the drawing for the first overall pick.

Knowing that NHL players play with more pride than all the other sports combined, it seems far fetched that an organization would actually consider losing games on purpose. However, looking at the trend of the Tampa Bay Lightning the last three seasons, including this season, one could make an assumption that something is up.

Lets start with two years ago, being the 2007-2008 season. Both Los Angeles and Tampa Bay were clearly the two clubs that had the worst records in the league. Tampa Bay ended that season going 2-7-1 in their last ten games, and losing the final four games convincingly. The Kings went 4-5-1 in their last ten games and both teams finished with the same number of points. LA had more wins than the Lightning so Tampa technically had the worst record in the league and the best chance at the first overall pick. The prized pick that year was Steven Stamkos, who was billed as the next great player by every scout in the league. He drew comparisons to Lemieux, Gretzky, Crosby, you name it. This season he has been brilliant posting 47 goals and 89 points. Don't feel bad for LA either, as they ended up with Drew Doughty who is under consideration for the Norris trophy.

Looking at Tampa's record last season might make the argument more convincing. The Lightning lost their final nine games in a row, and posted one regulation win in their last fourteen games. They couldn't lose enough to finish worse than the Islanders last year, but still ended up with the leagues second worst record and landed coveted defenseman, Victor Hedman. Does this smell fishy at all to anyone? After watching the Lightning get drubbed 5-0 by the Rangers, and 8-5 last night by Carolina, recently, I can't help but see a pattern here, and I'm intrigued to see how the finish the final three games.

I would never say that a team is not trying to win on purpose in this league, because it opens up more of a chance for injury, and hockey players have too much personal pride. Plus some of the players on the Lightning are fighting for NHL jobs and should be motivated to keep an NHL career.

However, this year promises to be a deep draft that includes Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin who are projected to be can't miss prospects. If you look at the overall NHL standings, and take out Edmonton, who clinched the leagues worst record months ago, six teams are separated by six points at the bottom. The Lightning currently sit with the third worst record in the league, only two points ahead of Toronto. Let's not forget that the Lightning were in the playoff hunt a few weeks ago.

This is a complex issue, not only in the NHL but other sports as well. It bothers me when teams such as the NY Islanders, and Carolina Hurricanes, who are playing well and fulfilling the spoiler roll to playoff teams on certain nights, may be hurting themselves in the long run. Of course, coaches will say otherwise that it's important to win every game for confidence going into the next season, which may be true. But really is it? What if the Islanders end up with the tenth pick instead of the third pick?

One would hope, the trend that appears to be happening in Tampa is just a coincidence and not the Lightning management acting on what the fans would want. Your thoughts?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

NY Rangers at Buffalo

NY Rangers +105 +1.5(-275) Over 5 (-130)
Buffalo -125 -1.5(+235) Under 5 (+210)

One of the biggest games on the NHL tilt tonight as the Buffalo Sabres can clinch the Northeast division with a win or an Ottawa loss, and the NY Rangers are still two points behind 8th seeded Philadelphia. In the Rangers is favor, is their recent success on the current 6 game road trip going, 4-0-1. All season long the Rangers have been better away from MSG, including a 2-1 win in Buffalo in early December. These teams have met three times thus far, and all were decided by one goal. The Rangers who have had trouble scoring most of this season, put up a surprising 13 goals in their last three games. Meanwhile, Buffalo has lost two in a row, including a listless 2-0 performance in Montreal on Saturday. This is the final home game of the regular season for Buffalo(24-10-6 at HSBC arena)

The Pick: I think Rangers fans should probably be more concerned with playing Toronto at home tomorrow, than playing Buffalo on the road tonight. Look for the desperate Rangers to eke out a one goal win.

Montreal at New York Islanders 4/6/10 7pm Nassau Coliseum

Montreal -135 -1.5 (+225) Over 5 (-140)

NY Islanders +115 +1.5 (-265) Under 5 (+120)

The Montreal Canadiens travel to Long Island to face the New York Islanders Tuesday night and try to solidify a playoff position. The task won't be easy as the Islanders are playing some of their best hockey this season going 7-3-1 in their last 11 games. John Tavares has found his scoring touch again with 13 points in his last 9 games. Blake Comeau has emerged as another young forward poised to be part of the future with 4 goals and 2 assists in his last 3 games. Comeau would be on pace to score 27 goals if he played in 82 games. The Islanders own a 22-14-3 record at Nassau Coliseum and have gone 8-2 in their last 10 at home. Martin Biron may get the start. The veteran goaltender is 6-0-2 in his last 8 starts.

Montreal has gone 10-4-1 since the Olympic Break and have positioned themselves in a playoff spot. With the Rangers playing the Flyers twice this weekend, Montreal can clinch a playoff spot with 2 more wins. The Canadiens have won all 3 meetings this season against the Islanders and will need to be at their best to win Tuesday night.

SureShotPick: Take the Islanders +1.5. The Islanders have only lost a home game by more than 2 goals three times since Christmas.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Eastern Conference Stanley Cup Odds and Predictions

odds from

Washington Capitals 7/2 The Washington Capitals through patience and dedication, have stuck to their plan and are now being rewarded. The Capitals have clinched the Presidents Trophy and home ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Capitals have also set their own franchise record for most wins in a season with 51. To us, the most impressive statistic besides individual stats from Ovechkin, Backstrom, Knuble, Semin.. and the list goes on and on is that the Capitals have outscored opponents 301-222. A margin of 79 goals.

Prediction: The Capitals will be one of the last two teams standing in the Eastern Conference. This still might not be the year the Caps win the cup.
What scares us about Washington is although they score a ton of goals, they give up a lot as well. 222 goals against is 2nd highest among current playoff teams and Jose Theodore has a 2.85 GAA and a .909 save percentage which ranks 32nd and 23rd in the league. Not impressive stats for any goalie, let alone the starter for the President's Trophy winners.

New Jersey Devils 15/2
Every year we say that this will be the season that the Devils start to fade. Every year we are wrong. Martin Brodeur has been the backbone once again and although he has looked human this season, has played plenty well enough to keep the Devils in the Atlantic Division title hunt. Zach Parise has had another terrific year and the addition of Ilya Kovalchuk gives the Devils offensive prominence they haven't had maybe ever in their history. However, beyond their top 2 forwards, the Devils don't have much depth and their 208 goals are 2nd fewest among current playoff teams.

Prediction: The Devils will struggle in the playoffs. Their defense as a team although solid, lacks a star or leader that can step up in a big spot. Most playoff teams can slow the Devils offense enough where they will have to depend on their
secondary scoring to pick up the slack. All in all, Brodeur is not the same goalie he used to be and look for the Devils to be upset in the 2nd round.

Buffalo Sabres 16/1
Once again Lindy Ruff has the Sabres playing well and headed toward the playoffs. The Sabres are 24-10-6 at home and home ice advantage at least in the first round will be a big help. The Sabres are one of the most truly balanced teams from coaching down to goaltending. The Sabres have four 20 goal scorers and 12 players, 11 of them forwards have at least 10 goals. T
he defense is lead by veterans Montador, Henrik Tallinder and Craig Rivet. Rookie sensation Tyler Myers has serious Calder consideration for his outstanding play this season. You also can't say enough about Ryan Miller. His 38-19-8 record 2.23 GAA and .928 Save Percentage all rank in the top 5 in the NHL. The Sabres only lack a puck moving and scoring defensemen but can overcome that with depth at all positions.

Prediction: With experienced coaching and a very deep and balanced team, the Sabres could be the dark horse in the East as they really don't have any blaring weaknesses. The Sabres can also play tough and can goon it up with anyone. The Sabres will win 2 rounds depending on who they play and how matchups pan out.

Pittsburgh Penguins 9/2 With arguably two of the three top players in the world, it's hard to flat out say the Penguins won't repeat as Stanley Cup Champions. Sidney Crosby has figured out how to be a prolific goal scorer. We all knew about the playmaking ability of C
rosby, now add his league leading 47 goals to the picture and we now have an all around stud. The Penguins have 11 players with at least 10 goals and their forward depth is impressive. As deep as it is, they still lack a prolific player to go along with Malkin and Crosby. Sergei Gonchar leads the defense and Marc-Andre Fleury holds down the house in goal.

Prediction: The road to the Finals could lead through Pittsburgh. HockeySureShot feels that it is very important for Pittsburgh to win the Atlantic Division. Teams that finish 6th-8th in the Conference are much weaker than teams 1-5 and Pittsburgh could benefit from an easier matchup in the first round.

Ottawa Senators 22/1
The Senators are headed back to the playoffs mainly
because of a sick 4 week run before the Olympic Break that saw them win 11 in a row and 14-2 in that 16 game stretch. After a terrible start post Olympic Break, the Senators have turned it on lately and saw their 6 game winning streak snapped after clinching a playoff spot.

Prediction: The Senators will either play the Devils or Penguins unless things dramatically change. We give the Senators a shot against the Devils but not much of one if they face Pittsburgh. Either way, the Senators will not get out of the 2nd round.

Montreal Canadiens 28/1 The Canadiens 10-4-1 surge since the Olympic Break
has the Candiens on the verge of making the playoffs again. The Canadiens saw a mass overhaul during last offseason and it took the team some time to gain chemistry. Lately the Canadiens have been a tough opponent and are playing well at the right time. Montreal has a balanced scoring attack with Cammalleri, Plekanec and Gionta all with at least 24 goals. They lack a serious superstar and are not very deep on defense.

Prediction: Unless Montreal wins out and Ottawa free falls, the Canadiens will pla
y Buffalo, NJ or Pittsburgh in the first round and they will be playing golf within 10 days of the start of the playoffs.

Boston Bruins 33/1 The Bruins are clinging to a playoff spot currently and unless a meltdown in their final 4 games, the Bruins should make it. The loss of Marc Savard hurt their enigmatic defense ever further. The Bruins have won on grit, defense and the goaltending of Tuukka Rask.
Tim Thomas has had a disappointing year and without the emergence of Rask, the Bruins would be on the outside looking in.

Prediction: The Bruins are last in the NHL in goals and will have a hard time winning a playoff game, let alone a series. They will be out quick.

Philadelphia Flyers 50/1 The Flyers management has once again not given their team the best chance to win. As previously reported by HockeySureShot, the Flyers are down to their 3rd string goalie Brian Boucher. The Flyers are 3-6-1 in their last 10 and are in danger of missing the playoffs for only the 2nd time in the last 15 years. A number of coaching changes and player changes over the years, the Flyers have yet to make a move to acquire a long term goalie.

Prediction: If the Flyers can hold off the red hot Rangers and Thrashers, they will find themselves wishing they hadn't. Flyers out quick.

New York Rangers 80/1
The Rangers have won 3 straight and are 6-3-1 in their l
ast 10. They are getting hot at the right time and could find themselves in the playoffs for the 3rd straight season. Henrik Lundqvist and Marion Gaborik have earned their paychecks this season but a lack of consistency have kept the Rangers from a better season. The Rangers are a patchwork team with some solid young players but no stars on the horizon.

Prediction: If the Rangers can continue their winning ways, they will catch Philadelphia or Boston or both. However, they will be out very quickly as well.

Atlanta Thrashers 100/1
Although the Thrashers have a lot of work to do to m
ake the playoffs this season, their late season play and ability to stay in the race has to be optimistic to fans. The Thrashers have some good young talent and HockeySureShot has always questions Kovalchuk's commitment to winning. Moving him along might have been a blessing in disguise.

Prediction: This won't be the year for Atlanta but if GM Don Waddell can add a veteran or two to this team during the offseason, a playoff goal for next season isn't an unreasonable goal.

note: The Thrashers have been eliminated

New York Islanders 250/1 The Islanders are still mathematically alive but won't be for long. However, their is finally hope on Long Island as a core of young forwards took a big step as a group this season. If John Tavares can become the superstar he is projected to be, and the Islanders can sure up their defense, Islander fans will be waving rally towels next April at Nassau Coliseum.

Prediction: They will be eliminated by Tuesday night, but a 15 point improvement and
meaningful hockey in March gives Garth Snow's rebuilding ideology some serious cred.

note: The Islanders have been eliminated

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks

Minnesota +190 +1.5 (-150) Over 5.5 (-115)
Vancouver -230 -1.5 (+135) Under 5.5 (-105)

The Vancouver Canucks look to clinch the Northwest Division tonight against the Minnesota Wild. The Wild were officially eliminated from playoff contention recently and have nothing to play for for the first time this season. Look for Vancouver to come out hard and clinch the division. The Wild have had an up and down season and missing the playoffs is a disappointment for them.

SureShotPick: Vancouver straight up as they clinch the Northwest