Off the Christmas break, the NHL is back to action with rested teams. And the league's two hottest teams heading toward the New Year are Columbus and Minnesota -- not your normal powerhouses.
The Blue Jackets are on a 13-game winning streak and have taken over the points lead in the NHL. The Wild have been just that in assembling a 11-game winning streak and have moved into second place in the Central Division behind Chicago. So what's the deal with these two?
Columbus Doing Everything Right
Long a doormat of the NHL, Columbus finally figured out how to draft the right kind of players and they have matured into a winning group behind the leadership of John Tortorella. The fiery coach added the right type of discipline this young team needed and "Torts" also changed some of his demanding ways to match what his club needed. A look at numbers explains why the Jackets are so strong:
Goals Scored -- 2nd in NHL
Goals Allowed -- 2nd in NHL
Power Play Percentage -- 1st in NHL
Penalty Kill Percentage -- 12th in NHL
Until further notice, have to consider Columbus each time out on NHL picks for a couple weeks.
Minnesota's Defense Almost Never Rests
During the first nine games of win streak, the Wild allowed measly 14 goals. They finally appeared human in surrendering four to the New York Rangers, playing their third game in four nights, but the offense came through in spades with seven tallies of their own.
With six outstanding defensemen and goalie Devan Dubnyk (ridiculous 1.57 goals-against average) in the net almost three quarters of the time for Minnesota, this is the toughest team to score on in the league and the Wild are 4th in killing penalties.
Like Columbus, the Wild offense is exceptional and deep, ranked fourth in scoring, with 13 players in double digits in points (Columbus has matching number). Want to figure out when Minnesota will finally lose in NHL betting? Go ahead, we dare you!
Pucks Bettors, Always Consider This
In sports like hockey, basketball and baseball that are played multiple times a week, once a team finally sees a win streak snapped there is usual letdown and frequently these teams will be a little off kilter in next contest or possibly more. This recently happened to Philadelphia, which has gone into a mini-slump after a 10-game win period.