The Bruins’ grip on the final Eastern Conference playoff spot is tenuous as they collide tonight against a surging Senators squad seeking to displace them but after reviewing the NHL odds which side is the right side in our NHL picks?
Boston Bruins (33-32 SU, -11.3 units)
The Bruins have been riddled this season by injuries, scoring droughts and a sudden lack of depth at on the blue line where they have always enjoyed a sizeable advantage over their Eastern Conference foes. But Zdeno Chara isn’t getting any younger and the preseason trade that shipped premier defenseman Johnny Boychuk and his $3.5 million salary to the Islanders in exchange for draft picks hasn’t helped. Unfortunately future draft picks don’t block shots, levy crushing hits on streaking forwards or score from the point. Not in the 2014-2015 season they don’t.
However, if the B’s are going to get hot then they could not have picked a better time. Boston has reeled off four wins in their last five games with the most recent victories coming against the Philadelphia Flyers (3-2) and Detroit Red Wings (5-3). In their last outing, as -120 favorites in NHL odds, against Detroit the Black & Gold pocketed not one but two short-handed goals which lifted them to their 5-3 victory in front of a raucous crowd at the Boston Garden.
The Bruins are middling in three of the four major statistical categories: 14th in power play percentage, 16th in penalty killing and 18th in scoring. Yet defense, the fulcrum of their success in recent years, is once again their strong suit as they rank 10th in the league allowing an average of 2.5 goals per game. However that is a far cry from being at the top or very near the top as they have been throughout the better part of coach Claude Julien’s reign. In addition, their penalty killing unit was also amongst the best but this season they have been mediocre at best. Thus the cost of sending Boychuk on his way coupled with the diminishing skills of Chara appears to have exacted their toll.
Ottawa Senators (30-34 SU, -0.9 units)
The Senators are a most unlikely candidate to be the hottest team in hockey as the season enters the homestretch. Yet their eight victories in nine contests are undisputed and have positioned Ottawa as a dark horse to sneak into the postseason by virtue of their late season surge. The swirling controversy is coach Dave Cameron’s decision to start veteran netminder Craig Anderson upon his return after a six-week absence due to a bruised right hand over the upstart rookie Andrew Hammond. Anderson delivered a victory in his first game back on Sunday when the oddsmakers installed his Senators as -150 home chalk in NHL odds in a 5-4 shootout win against the Calgary Flames. However, it was Andrew Hammond who took over for Anderson when he went down and led the most recent revival by compiling a 7-0-1 record and a 1.24 goals against average which included a pair of shutouts. Cameron has tapped Anderson as his netminder tonight against the Bruins.
Craig Anderson has registered a 9-3-3 mark with a 2.36 GAA and .926 SV% at the Canadian Tire Centre this season. His counterpart will most likely be All-Star Tuukka Rask who is 1-0-2 versus the Senators this season with a 2.17 goals-against average lifetime against them. I give the edge to Boston in the battle of the goaltenders in addition to owning a 16-5 record in the last 21 meetings in Ottawa and a 28-10 mark in the last 38 meetings.
A curious betting trend in this contest is the 1-5 record that the Senators own in their last six contests after scoring five goals or more in their previous game as is the case here. I’m not sure if that stat is an aberration or a manifestation of a team that played above their offensive heads and regress to the mean with a fury the following game.
While I would not bet my mortgage on a game where both teams are clearly “in the zone” I do believe that Boston gives us superior value in our NHL picks as they are indeed the better team from top to bottom.
NHL Pick: Boston -117 at 5Dimes