Free NHL Picks: Canucks To Keeps It Close vs. Penguins In Pittsburgh

Mark Lathrop

Saturday, January 23, 2016 1:16 PM UTC

Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016 1:16 PM UTC

Our NHL handicapper spots a trend you can back with confidence in Saturday afternoon NHL action! Let's check the Canucks & Penguins NHL odds, for our sharp play on the matchup.

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NHL Pick: Canucks +1.5 -174
Best Line Offered: at Heritage


The surprising Vancouver Canucks (20-17-11, 51 pts.) finish up their six-game road trip on Saturday night with a visit to the Pittsburgh Penguins (22-17-7, 51 pts.). Each team is coming off of a win on Thursday night and have rested Friday before this matchup. The opening odds in this game favor Pittsburgh at home, and bettors can find them at -180 on the money line. The O/U total has been set at 5 goals, with a shade on the over at -120.

Any line movement to speak of has favored the Canucks, as their odds at BetOnline decreased on the money line from +171 to +162 in the few hours after opening on Friday.

Pittsburgh is on the second game of a short two-game home stay, and is coming off of a 4-3 win over the visiting Philadelphia Flyers. That win broke a streak of eight losses against the Flyers, and the stars of Pittsburgh’s first line played a huge role. Sidney Crosby continued to play well, getting five shots on goal, logging an assist, and scoring a goal. Phil Kessel had an even better game, scoring two goals in the matchup, one on an impressive breakaway two-on-one with Carl Hagelin. The power play machine was definitely running for the Penguins on Thursday night.

Pittsburgh net minder, Marc-Andre Fleury, stopped 29 shots on the night while allowing 3 goals. The 12-year Penguin veteran is in the midst of the best year of his career by goals allowed average, where that statistic is sitting at 2.30. Fleury is 17-11-5 on the year. Pittsburgh fans are hoping that Fleury doesn’t need the night off on Saturday, as his backup, Jeff Zatkoff, is having a pretty bad run of late. Pittsburgh is 1-5-1 in their last seven games with Zatkoff minding the net, so the drop off is considerable if Fleury doesn’t start.

Fleury was the winning goalie in the last matchup versus the Canucks in November, allowing 2 goals on just 20 shots in a 3-2 win in Vancouver.

Vancouver is 3-1-1 in the first five games of their road trip and are guaranteed a winning trip regardless of tonight’s game. Vancouver is coming off of a 4-2 win in Boston as a heavy +188 underdog. In fact, they have three outright wins as underdogs in their last five games, and only one loss was by more than one point (important for your puck line bettors). In this last game Daniel Sedin scored two goals to become the all-time goal leader in Vancouver franchise history, so good on him.

Although Jacob Markstrom played well against Boston, it is Ryan Miller who is expected to get the start for Canucks against the Penguins. Miller is carrying an 11-12-7 record this year to go along with a 2.69 goals allowed average. He’s played well in winning and losing a game in OT in his last two, stopping a high 93 shots in those two games.

Vancouver has had their share of overtime losses this year with eleven. That number far exceeds the rest of the NHL, buy hey, a point is a point. With this trend, and the fact that I just learned that Jeff Zatkoff is likely to be the goalie for Pittsburgh, I have a strong lean towards playing Vancouver in this game. However, I’m going to take Vancouver on the puck line, not the money line. Vancouver has not lost to Pittsburgh by more than one goal since November of 2010, a span of six games. Take Vancouver +1.5 at -179 at Heritage with confidence as one of your Saturday afternoon NHL Picks.

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