You can almost set your watch to it. Pittsburgh gets off to a slow start, the hockey Twitter world freaks out. GM Jim Rutherford finally has seen enough by late November or early December, so he trades a couple players not having good seasons, which shakes up the chemistry.
Whether that matters, nobody really knows, but once January is in sight, the Penguins start upping their game with the Stanley Cup playoffs on the horizon.
Pittsburgh was on streaks of 8-0 and 11-1 through Saturday’s action and was on the heels of Washington for first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Pens are in the top five in scoring, power-play scoring percentage and killing penalties, and improving to near the top 10 in goals allowed.
Pittsburgh for the season is not a good bet, but after being the worst wager in the NHL for more than a month and having now cut their deficit by more than half, the Penguins are back on the Play On short list for your hockey picks.
This past week, another petulant NHL management person came to the forefront. Dallas CEO Jim Lites came out and criticized two of the Stars top players, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin.
According to The Athletic, Lites had told reporters that Seguin and Benn have been “f—ing horses—; I don’t know how else to put it.”
Lites, who said the feeling was shared by team owner Tom Gaglardi, added: “For me, it’s pissed me off. What nobody says is what is completely obvious to me: We are getting terrible play from our top two players. … We are a stars-driven league, and our stars aren’t getting it done. … These guys are not good enough. They’re not good enough for me, they’re not good enough for the owner.”
Dallas has been at .500 most of the season and an ordinary bet for NHL picks. In reviewing the preseason magazines and preseason NHL odds on futures and win totals, the Stars are right about where everyone expected, except for Lites.
If you do some research, you will find the Stars’ top line of Benn, Seguin and Alexander Radulov is second in the NHL in 5-on-5 hockey in plus/minus for goals scored vs. opponents.
Lites can say what he wishes but it is his GM, Jim Nill, who put this team together, which has few secondary scorers, numerous busts on free-agent signings (Blake Comeau and Valeri Nichushkin the latest) and a series of poor drafts.
Benn and Seguin could be more consistent, but in the new world of the NHL where speed is key, Dallas is driving in the right-hand lane going 60 mph on I-40 through the Lone Star State, with a posted speed limit of 75.
Tasty Rink Betting Tidbits
- CAROLINA is 2-8 off a road win against a division rival the last three seasons.
- COLUMBUS is 14-3 when playing with three or more days rest since 2016.
- COLORADO is 0-13 off two or more consecutive home losses the last three seasons.
- N.Y. RANGERS are 3-19 in road games after a loss by two goals or more in their previous game.
- VEGAS is 27-9 after playing a game where four or fewer total goals were scored.
- TAMPA BAY is 17-2 against teams allowing 3+ goals a game this season.
- OTTAWA is 12-3 “over” playing against a team with a losing record this season.
- CALGARY is 10-3 “under” in road games against teams allowing 2.85+ goals a game this season.
- EDMONTON is 17-6 “under” off a road win by two goals or more the last 3 seasons.
- LOS ANGELES is 10-4 “over” at home after one or more losses this season.
What Lies Ahead: The Schedule
Sunday: Washington wraps up its three-game road trip, playing a third time in four days (at least off Saturday) and Detroit tries to win for only the third time in 13 contests.
Monday: Nashville and Toronto have been floundering. The Predators and Maple Leafs have not shown well in home/road scenarios, so who breaks out of lethargy?
Tuesday: Columbus has been playing well, but do they have a shot to cool off the sizzling Tampa Bay Lightning on the road?
Thursday: A Central Division showdown with Winnipeg at Minnesota. Are the Wild up to the task, being just a .500 team on home ice?
Saturday: Hockey Night in Canada
Boston at Toronto, 6:30 p.m. ET
Colorado at Montreal, 6:30 p.m. ET
Arizona at Edmonton, 10 p.m. ET
Ottawa at San Jose, 10 p.m. ET
It should be a good one with the Bruins at the Leafs to start the night. Neither the Avalanche nor Canadiens are playing well, so who steps up? Will the Sharks finally start meeting preseason expectations?