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This Week's Best NHL Bets

This Week's Best NHL Bets

This Week's Best NHL Bets

Every week, we update you on who's hot, who's not and situational betting spots in the National Hockey League.

For the week of March 17-23.

Hot team

Boston Bruins (4-0 SU)

No team has rounded into Stanley Cup form better than the Bruins, who have reeled off 12 consecutive victories and appear to have the inside track on the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Not only did the Bruins roll their way to a perfect 3-0 road trip last week - defeating the New Jersey Devils, Colorado Avalanche and Phoenix Coyotes - they prevailed by two goals each time. In a league where one-goal victories have become the norm, the red-hot Bruins have won all but two of their games during the streak by multiple goals.

Cold team

Toronto Maple Leafs (0-4 SU)

That sound you hear is the air being let out of the Maple Leafs' tires as they sink down the Eastern Conference standings and are now in danger of missing the playoffs altogether. Toronto has dropped five straight and six of seven, and struggled to keep the opposition from filling the net en route to a winless week. Toronto opened with a 3-2 loss in Detroit, then returned home for a 5-3 defeat to Tampa Bay and a 4-3 loss to Montreal before ending the stretch with a 3-2 setback at the hands of the New Jersey Devils.

Best Over play

Tampa Bay Lightning (3-1 SU, 4-0 O/U)

Who needs the defending Art Ross Trophy winner after all? Not the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have overcome the trade to send Martin St. Louis to the New York Rangers and remain one of the top teams in the East. Led by superstar Steven Stamkos - who has recovered from his broken leg and is as dangerous as ever - the Lightning played a perfect over week, scoring a combined 14 goals in victories over Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa before dropping a 4-3 overtime decision against a formidable Pittsburgh Penguins team.

Best Under play

Carolina Hurricanes (2-1 SU, 0-3 O/U)

Carolina is doing its best to remain in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt, but goals remain hard to come by as the season reaches its final three-week stretch. Netminders Anton Khudobin and Cam Ward were the stars for the Hurricanes last week, as Khudobin shut down the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 3-1 victory and Ward made 34 saves to lead Carolina past Winnipeg 3-2. With forwards Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner in prolonged slumps - the two have combined for just four goals in March - it's no surprise the Hurricanes have gone under in four straight.

Surveying the schedule

A lower-body injury to star forward Patrick Kane has dealt a major blow to the Chicago Blackhawks' chances of catching the St. Louis Blues for top spot in the Western Conference. Chicago begins the week six points behind first-place St. Louis, with the Blues holding a game in hand and two teams - San Jose and Anaheim - standing between the Blackhawks and the conference leaders. The 'Hawks have a four-game week coming up, with a home game against Dallas leading into a road trip that will take them to Boston, Ottawa and Pittsburgh.

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Re: This Week's Best NHL Bets

NHL Contenders With the Easiest and Toughest Final Schedules

With the NHL schedule down to its final three weeks, the focus shifts to which teams have the easiest and hardest schedules the rest of the way.

Strength of schedule can make a significant difference down the stretch, both for teams scrambling for a playoff spot, and for those already in and looking to enhance their standing. With every point so critical, a tough sked can mean a seat on the couch come playoff time, and NHL bettors need every edge they can get at this point in the season.

Here are two contending teams with easy schedules, and two with major uphill climbs:

Easy schedules

Pittsburgh Penguins (46-20-5, second in Eastern Conference)

Stanley Cup odds: +635

It may take a minor miracle for the Penguins to catch Boston atop the conference standings (the Bruins enter Tuesday with a seven-point advantage) but Pittsburgh's schedule works in its favor. The Penguins play seven of their final 11 games at Consol Energy Center, and only two - Sunday against visiting Chicago and April 6 versus host Colorado - come against teams presently in the top five in their conference. Expect Sidney Crosby and friends to take full advantage of a cushy final stretch and make the Bruins sweat a little.

Anaheim Ducks (46-18-7, third in Western Conference)

Stanley Cup odds: +748

What could be easier than an 11-game stretch that includes three meetings with the dreadful Edmonton Oilers? Not a whole lot, which is why the Ducks find themselves in prime position to make a run at the conference's top seed despite entering Tuesday four points behind first-place St. Louis and two back of runner-up San Jose. And it gets better for the Blues. The next eight games come against Vancouver (twice), Winnipeg, Nashville, Calgary and Edmonton (three times) - all occupying the bottom five spots in the conference.

Difficult schedules

Colorado Avalanche (44-21-6, fifth in Western Conference)

Stanley Cup odds: +1,100

Patrick Roy's team has one of the most challenging schedules of any team in the West, making its grasp on fifth spot in the conference a tenuous one. The Avalanche play seven of their final 11 games away from the Pepsi Center, including a pivotal contest in St. Louis and a season-ending stretch against San Jose and Anaheim - all three teams ahead of them in the standings. Of their four remaining home games, three are against teams in the top five in their respective conferences - San Jose, the Rangers and Pittsburgh.

Dallas Stars (34-26-11, ninth in Western Conference)

Stanley Cup odds: +4,800

Big D could be in big trouble thanks to a season-ending schedule that has the Stars playing seven of their remaining 11 games on the road. That includes a grueling five-game road trip that begins Saturday against the conference-leading Blues (whom the Stars face twice the rest of the way) and includes a showdown with the high-octane Tampa Bay Lightning. There's also the small matter of a four-games-in-five-days stretch that could leave Dallas gassed for its final two games against St. Louis and Phoenix.

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