What can we expect from the last weekend in the NHL and how to avoid teams with nothing to play for. Get my NHL picks & predictions here.
How to properly bet on the last weekend of the NHL season.
Of course the Washington Capitals are the number one ranked team in my rankings but the gap isn't nearly as big as it once was. The Caps have two games remaining starting with the St. Louis Blues on Saturday and ending with the Anaheim Ducks Sunday. For the first time the Capitals are facing some adversity which is why I rarely like to back President Cup winners. Most winners glide through the regular season only to find out that that extra level of intensity for the playoffs doesn't exist. Washington has lost three straight on the NHL odds moneyline while trying to get Braden Holtby his record tying 48th win. Holtby needs to improve on his .871 save percentage in his last two game while Washington hasn't beat a team with a winning record in their last four attempts. Last two are confidence builders.
The Pittsburgh Penguins end the season against the Philadelphia Flyers who desperately need a victory. For the Pens who are the hottest team in the league it's just about maintaining a playoff level of intensity while hoping that they get healthier while not not adding to the pile of wounded players. Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to be back soon to give Matt Murray some relief.
Dallas finishes up against the Nashville Predators with the Central Division title on the line. The Stars are my NHL pick to win the West just because of the way they are playing against the better teams as they have won six of their last seven games against teams with a winning record. The knock on them has been their goaltending but now that Anntti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen are playing better as a tandem that makes Dallas a strong Cup contender.
Their opponent could possible be the Florida Panthers who finish up against the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers will be resting their top guys for sure as they have clinched the second spot in the Eastern Conference. I expect Al Montoya to start who could use a confidence boost after playing well all season. Montoya has a .878 save percentage over his last two games.
The Los Angeles Kings can wrap up the Atlantic Division with a victory over Winnipeg Saturday. Despite their win over the overrated Ducks on Thursday, Los Angeles is just 4-6 over their last 10 games. They were beaten by Winnipeg in their last meeting 4-1 so revenge and maintaining defensive intensity will be their focus.
San Jose finishes against the Arizona Coyotes Saturday as they should be looking to gain some momentum at home where they are a leagues worst 17-20-3 among potential playoff participants.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are locked the second spot in the Atlantic. They'll end the year against Montreal while trying to overcome the loss of Steven Stamkos. Steve Yzerman recalled Jonathan Drouin from Syracuse, a move that looked unlikely at the trade deadline. They will continue to find continuity as they try to overcome numerous injuries.
The St. Louis Blues who are 8-2 in their last 10 can win the Central with a win against Washington and a Dallas loss to Nashville. They need to find as much offense as possible. The Blues have struggled to crack the upper crust in my rankings because of offensive inconsistency. Tarasenko, Steen, and Brouwer seem to be heating up.
Chicago has started to play like the old Hawks with a 6-2-2 streak. Expect Corey Crawford back this weekend. They need to get stronger on the penalty kill.
To round out the top ten, the Anaheim Ducks can still catch the Kings for the Pacific Division lead. They are been so bad offensively this season that it has been impossible to include them in my top 10 most of the season. Their big guns are starting to slow as Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry have a combined two points in their last four games.
Looks like I'm going to ride the backs of the Florida Panthers and Dallas Stars heading into the playoffs. @DanaLaneSports