At the beginning of the regular season, the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins were the two favorites in the Eastern Conference. While the Penguins have held up their end of the bargain, the Bruins have gone into the tank.
The Boston Bruins Can Win Because…
The Pens have fallen on hard times themselves. Pittsburgh is coming off a 4-1 loss to Montreal on Saturday and that was actually their fifth loss in their last seven games. To put that in perspective, the Pens had only lost 10 times in their first 32 games. Now they’ve lost five times since December 22nd. You might want to keep this in mind when looking over the NHL odds.
The big issue for them is – as it always is – between the pipes. The Pens have allowed at least three goals in six of their last seven and that’s tough to overcome. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury had played so well to start the season but clearly, something has gone awry. He’s allowed 17 goals in his last six outings, which is a big concern. When you factor that into the equation, it makes it hard to lay the juice with the Penguins. Both teams are sputtering, so maybe the Bruins are worth a play here.
The Pittsburgh Penguins Can Win Because…
The Bruins are not in the same league. Although there is the perception that Boston is supposed to be a Cup contender, the reality has proven to be quite different. The numbers don’t lie: the Bruins were 13-8-0 after their first 21 games. Entering Wednesday, they are just 19-15-6. That means they’ve lost 13 of their last 19 contests. Chief among the concerns is goaltender Tuukka Rask, who posted a 2.98 GAA and .896 save percentage in the month of December. Beyond that, Boston just isn’t scoring much these days with just 2.55 goals per game (21st in the NHL). That number drops to 2.39 when they’re on the road and what might surprise you the most is that they allow 3.00 goals per game when away, which is eighth-worst in the NHL. We’re talking about a team that has been one of the best defensively over the last five years.
They might be scuffling a little bit but they’ve been off since Saturday and should be able to regroup. As for Boston, this is a team that’s broken right now. They’re coming off a 2-1 loss at Carolina, who is a bad team in their own right. If they’re going to lose in that spot, how can you possibly trust them in Pittsburgh?
The Pens should get the win here but -160 is too expensive for my tastes – especially with both sides struggling. Instead, I’ll go with the over as my NHL pick. While this tends to be an under series with five of the last seven meetings staying under the number, I like the over in this spot. It’s a short total of just five and both goaltenders are struggling right now. That being the case, we should see enough goals to push us over the number here.
NHL Pick: Over 5 at The Greek