This Week's Best NHL Bets

This Week's Best NHL Bets

This Week's Best NHL Bets
By Bill McBride
Covers.com

HOT TEAM: Dallas Stars

The news just keeps on getting better in Dallas. The Stars are hot, they're in first place, they're headed for a No. 3 seed in the Western Conference playoffs, and on Saturday, they saw the return of captain Brenden Morrow.

Morrow, suffering from neck and shoulder stiffness, even scored a goal, as Dallas defeated Anaheim, 2-0, and pushed a point streak to 10 games. Dallas has won nine of those games -- a 4-3 overtime loss to Pittsburgh on Feb. 29 is the only thing keeping it from being a perfect 10 -- and is peaking at the right time.

The road will get tough, for sure, in the playoffs. If the season ended on Saturday night, Dallas would be in line for a first-round date against Chicago. That won’t be easy. But for now, there aren't many teams playing better hockey than the Stars.     

COLD TEAM: San Jose Sharks

Coinciding with the rise of the Stars, has been the fall of the Sharks, a team that clearly has enough talent to win the Pacific Division. But when they woke up on Sunday morning, San Jose was in third place in that division and one point behind Colorado for the eighth and final playoff berth in the West.

Traditionally, the Sharks don't disappoint until the postseason, but they are giving their fans a head start on that this season. They are 0-5 in March, and were shut out twice in that run.

But wait, it gets worse. If you go back to Feb. 16, they finished that month on a 2-5-1 stretch. So, add it all up, that's 2-10-1 in their last 13, with just five points, headed into Monday's date at Edmonton.

OVER PLAY: Ottawa Senators

Ottawa is hanging tough, and showing just enough spunk to think the Senators will finish the deal and make the postseason during this surprising campaign. One thing that is alarming though, is a rash of up-and-down games that are not indicative of this time of year.

No matter to totals players, though, because this just means Ottawa is a solid over buy right now. Saturday's 4-3 shootout loss to Buffalo pushed an under-less streak to four games (one push), and was the seventh over in the Senators' last 10 games.

The statistics continue to be padded along the way. Jason Spezza is now up to 73 points, Erik Karlsson has 69, and Milan Michalek has 32 goals. But beware of the week ahead. Ottawa plays scuffling Montreal twice and free-falling Toronto once -- two teams that might not be able to match Ottawa offensively.

UNDER PLAY: New York Islanders

Islanders rookie goalie Anders Nilsson, 21, has breathed some new life into this defense, and though it likely won't result in a miracle finish and a postseason berth against the rival Rangers, in what would be an interesting Nos. 1-8 matchup, he has helped the Islanders turn into a decent under play down the stretch.

On Saturday night, during a 2-1 loss to New Jersey, he came within two minutes of consecutive shutouts. The run ended but the loss was New York's third under in the last four tries.

And it's important to keep an eye on their roster over the next few days. On Saturday, the Islanders did not dress forwards Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin because of the flu. And in the same loss, Michael Grabner returned after missing three games with the flu. As they need replacements, and shuffle some things around, they may become lax defensively, so be careful. 
     
SURVEYING THE SCHEDULE:

The Flyers are rolling -- undefeated in March through Saturday -- thanks to goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. They are trying to catch Pittsburgh for the No. 4 seed in the East and this is a big week in that fight. Sunday began a home-and-home set with New Jersey, and also started an interesting run in which Philadelphia will play every other day until March 27. Game on, day off, game on, day off for 16 days.

Different story for the Canucks, who can rest up this week, and prepare for the final push toward the postseason. After Saturday’s surprising 4-1 loss to Montreal, Vancouver now will play just three games in the next nine days. By the time the Canucks open a back-to-back set against Chicago and Dallas on March 21-22, there should be some fresh legs on their bench.

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