Free NHL Picks: Sharks Rise As Avalanche Continues To Tease And Disappoint

Doug Upstone

Wednesday, February 24, 2016 7:52 PM GMT

San Jose and Colorado are fighting to not only make the Stanley Cup playoffs but move up the ladder to higher seeds. The betting odds favor the Sharks, but can Avalanche even the score?

Being a part of two of the last three postseason slots means both these teams are essentially already in playoff mode with 20 or so games left in the regular season and picking up points no matter how is what matters.

The outcome of this contest is a potential table-setter for the next couple weeks the way the schedule sets up for each, with seeming favorable NFL odds boards.

 

Sharks Need Win to Continue to Hunt Los Angeles
Since Jan. 9th, San Jose (32-26 SU) is 15-6 SU and climbed to within five points of Los Angeles for the Pacific Division lead. The Sharks completed a trade on Monday with Toronto in acquiring defenseman Roman Polak and center Nick Spaling, which is a sign the front office is thinking Western Conference champions or bust.

Despite never being quite good enough to win the West, San Jose has kept its core players together and everyone understands time is running out before having to start over. The Sharks proved what they are capable of late and if they could get at least home series in the playoffs they become even more treacherous. San Jose went into St. Louis and pushed around the Blues in 6-3 triumph, making them 21-11 SU on the road, which is the best record in the West. The veteran leadership of top scorers Joe Thorton (55 points), Joe Pavelski (55) and Patrick Marleau (37), who range in age of 31-36 years old, has made this an efficient road-grader, who knows how to prepare.

This team is fourth in scoring and has the third-best power play and once they have all defensemen back from injury, this is confident group which knows it can win on the road anywhere.

 

Colorado Has to Find Way to not be Average
After ugly 4-9-1 start, Colorado (31-31 SU) was .500 by Dec.19th at 17-17 SU. Since then the Avalanche have taken two steps back only to take two steps forward. Colorado's low water mark has been three games under .500 and as high as two games past break even. So basically, the Avs have been about as satisfying as a Coors Light to a millennial craft beer lover.

All this team has done all year is tease and disappoint, not really having an offense that can be depended on or a defense where the word -reliable- could be used in the same sentence. Other than leading scorer Matt Duchene (48), the rest of the offense is pedestrian and the fact that 18-year veteran Jarome Iginla is Colorado's third leading goal scorer, tells you what you need to know about this offense.

With Semyon Varlamov dealing with the flu, coach Patrick Roy announced Tuesday Calvin Pickard will be the starting goalie against San Jose. Certainly health is part of the reason for the Avs top goaltender is out, but his play is a perfect reflection to the Avalanche win two, lose two march. Colorado is also only 13-17 SU at the Pepsi Center.

 

What to Expect and Winner
After the visitor won the first two meetings, San Jose crushed Colorado 6-1 on home ice on Jan. 23rd. If the Sharks can emerge with a victory and finish 4-1 on the road trip, there next seven games are against foes below .500, enabling them to make a further push. Though Colorado has underwhelmed at home, tonight starts six of seven before the home folks, giving them a chance to end this mediocre funk.

After being slammed 5-1 at Vancouver, the Avs are 5-1 after a loss by four or more goals, but only one of those wins came at home. When looking to make NFL picks, have to prefer a veteran squad who knows how to win on the road and when rested, is 11-2 away playing only their second contest in five days this season.

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NHL Pick: San Jose -140
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes