The San Jose Sharks have to like their chances of making good in Anaheim on Friday night, given how dominant the road team has been in their recent head-to-head series. The Sharks' latest visit to Honda Center highlights an action-packed NHL schedule, which includes a mammoth 14-game Saturday schedule that includes the Tampa Bay Lightning looking to continue their bettor-friendly ways as modest favorites in St. Louis, and the Chicago Blackhawks having transformed into an under lock following their wild over run. Here are the top matchups, tips and trends to monitor as the regular season winds down:
A four-game losing streak has put the Sharks in a difficult position as they look to remain in the Pacific Division title hunt – but they'll have a great chance to make up some ground Friday night as they battle the woeful Ducks. San Jose sits five points behind the Calgary Flames atop the division, but they can take solace in the fact that they've won each of their previous four visits to Honda Center, outscoring their state rivals by a 16-9 margin over that span. It's an ongoing trend between the teams, with the road unit having won seven of the previous nine head-to-head encounters overall.
Tampa Bay an Awesome Play?
It's no surprise that the Lightning remain the most profitable team in the NHL even with some truly lopsided odds in their favor – and they'll have a chance to build on their lofty resume Saturday as they visit the St. Louis Blues. Tampa Bay is listed at just -120 against the Blues – and that makes it a tremendous profit option considering that the Lightning have won 38 of their past 53 games as favorites of between -110 and -150. But past history suggests that could be a trap, with the Blues having won seven of the past 10 meetings, including five of the previous six in St. Louis.
We Told You!
If you perused this space earlier in the week, you would know that the Chicago Blackhawks are primed to be a strong Under option the rest of the season as a major totals correction takes hold. And wouldn't you know it, the Blackhawks carry a three-game Under streak into Saturday's showdown with the host Colorado Avalanche. The Blackhawks shook the betting world earlier this season by putting together a 20-1 O/U stretch – but with their game totals routinely settling at 6.5 or even 7, Chicago is just 2-4 O/U in its past six and has seen just 11 total goals scored over its previous three games. Saturday's total sits at 6.
Two of the best defensive units go toe-to-toe Sunday night as the New York Islanders host the Arizona Coyotes. And whatever oddsmakers list as the total for this one, the under should be a wildly popular play. The Coyotes enter the weekend having gone 32-40-2 O/U for the season, one of the best under success rates in the Western Conference. But they don't hold a candle to the surprising Islanders, who are an incredible 24-46-4 O/U on the campaign while boasting the NHL's lowest goals-against average (2.39). The teams have combined for five or fewer goals in six of their previous nine meetings.
Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals
If the Capitals have any hope of repeating as Stanley Cup champions – and oddsmakers have their doubts, pegging the Caps at +1,500 to win the title – they'll need their No. 1 netminder to be a whole lot better. Holtby has had a rough season to date, posting a 2.95 goals-against average – the highest of any qualified goalie with a winning record – to go along with a .907 save percentage. But while Holtby's .901 save percentage in March is actually lower than his season mark, he has a 2.61 GAA and a 5-2-1 record for the month thanks in large part to Washington allowing just 27.2 shots per game – fourth-best in the NHL.
Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche and Blackhawks do battle in a home-and-home series this weekend – and it's possible that Colorado will be without one of the league's most gifted forwards for either or both games. Mikko Rantanen left Thursday's 3-1 win over the Dallas Stars with an undisclosed injury and his status for this weekend's home-and-home set is up in the air. the Avalanche, who moved into the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference with the win over the Stars, can ill afford to be without the services of Rantanen, who has 31 goals and 56 assists on the season.
Hat Trick Trends
- Playoff races mean tighter defensive play – and oddsmakers have been slow to keep up, at least based on the totals outcomes from the previous seven days. The under is a sizzling 34-17 over that span, good for a 66.7-percent success rate. The past 30 days worth of games have seen the under convert nearly 56.2 percent of the time.
- On the same theme, games officiated by Mark Joannette have produced more under value for bettors than any other referee in the league. Joannette's assignments have produced a whopping 19.46 units in favor of the under, with a record of 23-41 O/U. Teams have combined for an average of just 5.51 goals in his games.
- Which team will wear the crown as the worst value play of the 2018-19 season? Heading into the final stretch of regular-season games, it has become a two-horse race between the New Jersey Devils (-15.91 units) and Los Angeles Kings (-15.23). Colorado (-10.90) and Detroit (-10.70) are also in contention.