Five Alive: Predators Overtake Maple Leafs As Best Value So Far

Jimmy Murphy

Wednesday, November 21, 2018 8:08 PM UTC

Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018 8:08 PM UTC

Time to give THANKS to our five best teams so far in Five Alive, and right now the Predators are GIVING you the best bang for your buck!

With the NHL going dark for the second time this season -- this time for Thanksgiving and not some unknown and asinine reason like on the first Friday of the season -- it’s time for another "Five Alive" poll ranking the Top 5 NHL teams. This Top 5 poll isn’t necessarily going to match your typical rankings around the hockey media circles. We, of course, will have the best-playing teams in there but also maybe teams that can get you more value for your money. We’re just over the quarter mark into the 2018-19 season and while some of the usual or expected suspects are off to a great start, there have been some big surprises early on in the NHL, so let’s get into our second "Five Alive" poll!

1. Nashville Predators (15-5-1, 15-6 ATS)

The Predators were an en vogue pick to return to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in three seasons and potentially hoist Lord Stanley for the first time in franchise history next June.

Nashville entered the season at +850 to win the Cup and they can now be had at +700 because they have come as advertised! Entering their Thanksgiving Eve matchup with the St. Louis Blues, the Preds sat atop not only their division and the Western Conference, but led Toronto by a point in the race for the Presidents' Trophy as the best team in the NHL. The Predators were also a decent "over" team going into Wednesday’s game at 9-11-1 on the over/under. They had scored 70 goals and allowed just 49.

Nashville may be missing two key players in defenseman P.K. Subban and forward Viktor Arvidsson for the next two to three weeks, but that hasn’t slowed them down as they won two straight heading into their game with the Blues at home and have showed no signs, except for a recent three-game hiccup, of slowing down. A main reason for that and for them being able to overcome injuries is their stellar goaltending tandem of Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros. Rinne entered the game Wednesday at 8-2-0-1 with a 1.69 GAA, .942 save percentage and with two shutouts. Saros was 7-3-0 with a 2.94 GAA and .903 save percentage.

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Pekka Rinne maalilla - Nashville Predators. 😬😮👏pic.twitter.com/MlQPapvOjQ

— Uutismaailma (@uutismaailma) November 15, 2018
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2. Toronto Maple Leafs (15-6-0, 15-6 ATS)

In our first Five Alive we had the Maple Leafs at No. 1, and while they dropped one spot in this poll, that by no means should reflect negatively on them. Toronto lost top scorer and superstar Auston Matthews to a shoulder injury on October 27. Matthews hit the IR with 10 goals and 16 points in 10 games and things looked potentially bleak for the Buds. There’s a reason general manager Kyle Dubas went out and signed highly coveted center John Tavares, though, and it has been crystal clear during Matthews’ absence as Tavares leads the team in goals with 13 and the Maple Leafs are 7-3 since the former’s injury leading into their game at Carolina on Wednesday. Mitch Marner has also been instrumental in Toronto staying consistent as he led the team in points with 28 and assists with 22 helpers.

The Leafs entered Wednesday's game atop the highly competitive Atlantic Division and at the top of the Eastern Conference with 30 points. The offense has come as advertised as the Leafs had scored 74 goals. The goals against, though, has been a pleasant surprise as the Leafs had allowed just 53 goals and that’s mainly because Freddie Andersen is having a season worthy of Vezina and Hart trophy consideration. Prior to Wednesday's game, Andersen was 12-5-0 with a 2.08 GAA and .935 save percentage.

With Matthews' return on the horizon, the future is bright for this team that came into the season as the odds-on favorite to win the Stanley Cup at +650 and remains the favorite at BetOnline at +600.

3. Tampa Bay Lightning (14-6-1, 13-7 ATS)

The Lightning are another Cup contender that has had to face some adversity via injuries as they have been without defenseman Anton Stralman and forward Ondrej Palat for a while, and last week found out that they will be without Vezina Trophy candidate Andrei Vasilevskiy, who broke his foot in practice November 13 and then re-injured it in a 4-3 win over the Penguins the following night. He is expected to miss five more weeks and the Lightning will need to depend on backup Louis Domingue, who entered play Wednesday at 5-3-0 with a 3.51 GAA and .892 save percentage.

Vasilevskiy’s absence will definitely have an effect on the Lightning and maybe more so than Matthews’ has on the Leafs, but with the depth up front and on defense that Tampa Bay has, they should be able to battle through this latest obstacle. The offense is still clicking as they have scored 76 goals and been led by Brayden Point, who is having a breakout season with 14 goals and 26 points. The Lightning have allowed 61 goals. They’re 10-10-1 on the over/under.

The Lightning came into the season at +700 to win the Cup and are now +750.

4. Winnipeg Jets (12-5-2, 12-7 ATS)

After making it through to the conference final in 2018 and for the first time in franchise history, hopes were and remain high in Winnipeg that this hockey-crazed Canadian city may have their first Stanley Cup parade ... even if it’s still snowing in June! The Jets came into this season at +1000 to win the Cup and can still be had at the same odds.

The Jets had scored 61 goals and allowed just 48 heading into Wednesday’s game at Calgary. They were 7-9-3 on the over/under. Captain Blake Wheeler led the team in assists with 21 and in points with 24. Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine were tied for the team lead in goals with 11. Between the pipes, Connor Hellebuyck started off a bit slow but is rounding into form and was 9-5-0-1 with a 2.74 GAA and .913 save percentage.

Winnipeg appears to be one of those teams that at times may make you wonder if they’re legit contenders but then reminds you that they’re simply pacing themselves for the playoffs, because as the saying goes, it’s a marathon, not a sprint!

5. Buffalo Sabres (13-6-2, 13-8 ATS)

A week ago, the Minnesota Wild or maybe the Columbus Blue Jackets may have been in this spot, but you cannot ignore the resurgence in Buffalo where Sabres fans, much like Jets fans, are looking to parade down Chippewa Street with their first Stanley Cup parade next June! The Jets fans are closer to that reality right now but the future gets brighter and brighter in Buffalo as the Sabres entered their game with the Flyers on Wednesday riding a six-game win streak.

Paced by captain Jack Eichel (who led the team in assists with 19 and points with 24) and newcomer Jeff Skinner (who led the team in goals 14), the Sabres rapidly climbed up the standings in November and look poised to make the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons. The Sabres entered the season at +8500 to win the Cup, but that has now dropped down to +4000 with their recent play. The Sabres had scored 65 goals and allowed 60. They were 11-9-1 on the over/under.

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