WIth just a handful of NHL games on this Monday, we can eiither side with the clear cut favorite, take a risk with the heavy dog, or side with the total. Let's take an in-depth look at the best option for our wallet with our picks of the day.
Pittsburgh Penguins (22-6-4) vs. Florida Panthers (14-9-8)
A Less Riskier Proposition
One of my favorite methods of betting in any sport is siding with the superior team on the road, therefore you're not laying a lot of juice and in this game, the Pittsburgh Penguins are the perfect example.
The Penguins are just 1 point behind Anaheim in the NHL in total points and they've had to do some of this without star player Sidney Crosby. The kid is back from a bout with the mumps and the Penguins are rolling, winning 3 straight games and they'll look to make it four games in the 2nd half of a home and home with the Panthers.
A good hockey team needs a good netminder and the Pens have one of the best in the business in Marc-Andre Fleury (19-4-2). Fluery is coming off of a huge performance in a 3-1 victory over these same Panthers on Saturday as he stopped 45 out of 46 shots. The Panthers put a ton of pressure on Fleury and one wonders if he can replicate the same performance on the road. My money is on Fluery, especially with the offensive support that he has.
Pittsburgh has one of the most potent offenses in the NHL. They rank 3rd in the league in goals scored (3.1) and are one of the best teams on the power play, converting 24.3 % of the time. This is also a great defensive team, thanks to Fleury, allowing just 2.2 goals per contest and also excel when one man short. Even Crosby has gotten back into the groove with a goal on Saturday after a very long drought. Florida is catching this team at the wrong time.
A Bounce Back Game?
Leading scorer, Evgeni Malkin (15 goals, 23 assists) had his 6 game point streak snapped against Florida but still kept the pressure on offensively (5 shots on goal) despite the penalties. I look for a big game out or Malkin here. Florida doesn't have the ability to keep up with Pittsburgh if this game becomes a high scoring affair. The Panthers average just over 2.1 goals per game, which is good for 28th in the league. Roberto Luongo, who is a very good goalie in his own right, will need to do his best to withstand the pressure and keep Florida in this game.
Free NHL Pick: Pittsburgh -140 at 5 Dimes
San Jose Sharks (19-11-4) vs. Anaheim Ducks (22-8-5)
Great Odds For the League's Best
Any time that you can get the Ducks at odds of -124 at home, a place in which they dominate, don't hesitate and just make them your NHL pick. That's not to say that the Sharks are some pushover. The Sharks have won 5 straight games and have owned Anaheim lately.
San Jose is coming off of a 3-2 overtime victory over the St. Louis Blues to extend their winning streak and defenseman Brent Burns played a major role in this game as he scored the game winner and had an overall huge game overall, while seeing a ton of ice time. Expect Burns to come into tonight's game with a lot of confidence and Anaheim has to be a bit worried.
Back to Anderson
In their last game, the Ducks were crushed by the Ottawa Senators, 6-2. Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov made only his 2nd start of the season and was a total flop, allowing 6 goals and stopping just 25 shots.
I would expect Frederik Anderson (18-5-4, 2.41 GAA) to be back in net tonight for the Ducks to have a chance at beating a team which has owned them. While going 0-2 with a 6.22 GAA against the Sharks NHL odds, Anderson has won 8 out of 9 games in December. This will be a major test for the Ducks as a team and they'll need the players like Ryan Getzlaf (12 goals, 25 assists) and Corey Perry (14 goals, 8 assists) to be heavily involved.
Even though the Ducks are the betting favorite, a win here is like pulling off the upset and I look for them to flip the script on the Sharks at the Pond.
Free NHL Pick: Anaheim -124 at 5 Dimes