Nearly half the NHL is back in action on Tuesday night in the first normal-sized slate of games after the All-Star break. Now, with most teams past the halfway points of their seasons, it’s almost crunch time to make moves in the standings for playoff positioning.
So, the games between contenders take on a little more weight, especially if teams are in the same division or potentially fighting for the same wild card slots. Two games on Tuesday fit the bill as the Pittsburgh Penguins visit the Boston Bruins and the Vegas Golden Knights take on the Edmonton Oilers. Those games are big for all teams involved, especially with a few of them struggling right now.
New Jersey Devils at Montreal Canadiens
Something’s gotta give in this game. The Devils, who lost 4-1 to the Ottawa Senators on Monday night, have lost seven straight games (and 10 of 11) while the Canadiens have lost six in a row and 12 of 13. Now that ties are a thing of the past, one of these two really bad teams has to win this game.
Montreal has the rest advantage and, likely, goaltending edge with New Jersey probably going with third-stringer Jon Gillies. But, even with the Devils being terrible for the last few months, they score 0.5 more goals per game than the Canadiens and allow 0.37 fewer goals per game. New Jersey doesn’t have Jack Hughes (COVID protocols) but Montreal is a team even the Devils can beat.
This game is close to a pick’em but the Devils are slight road favorites. If you want big value, consider New Jersey on the puckline.
Carolina Hurricanes at Ottawa Senators
Carolina lost a rough one to the Toronto Maple Leafs lon Monday, blowing a 3-2 third-period lead and losing 4-3 in overtime on a Mitch Marner goal. Even with that defeat, the Hurricanes have won seven of eight overall and are looking like one of the best teams in the league — and one of the most balanced.
Ottawa has shown some life lately — the Senators were impressive in their win over the Devils — but they likely won’t start Matt Murray in back-to-back games. Carolina’s drop-off from Frederik Andersen to Antti Raanta is much smaller than Ottawa’s from Murray to Anton Forsberg. Plus, the Senators are still without Drake Batherson (ankle) and Josh Norris (shoulder).
Consider Carolina on the puckline as well as the goals over, too. The Hurricanes score nearly 3.5 goals per game and should have a big night coming off a loss.
Columbus Blue Jackets at Washington Capitals
If you’re betting online, look for the Capitals to come out of the break rejuvenated and ready to shake off a disappointing January. Washington just hasn’t been able to string together good performances over the past few weeks and will try to break that trend against a Columbus team that allows a ton of goals.
The Blue Jackets give up 3.67 goals per game, which is tied for the second-most in the NHL. Washington doesn’t exactly light up the scoreboard but the Capitals have a ton of talent and are much better than they have played. This is a good bounce-back spot for Washington and it makes sense the Capitals are such big home favorites.
Pittsburgh Penguins at Boston Bruins
A pair of struggling contenders face off as the Penguins visit the Bruins in both teams’ first game back from the All-Star break. Pittsburgh has lost its last four games — all at home — so Sidney Crosby and Co. will desperately be looking to get off the schneid. Things haven’t been going much better for Boston lately as the Bruins have lost three of five.
Linus Ullmark has started the last four games in net for the Bruins amid Tuukka Rask’s continued struggles. Rask is still probably Boston’s top option in goal but that could change soon if Rask keeps allowing crooked numbers and Ullmark plays well.
Boston is a slight home favorite. The over/under is a low 5½ goals so the over might be worth a bet.
Minnesota Wild at Winnipeg Jets
The Wild are destroying everything in their path lately, having won six games in a row (nine of 10), and are doing so while scoring tons of goals and getting good enough goaltending to stay afloat. Meanwhile, the Jets have lost seven of eight and are in a big offensive slump, scoring two goals or fewer in five of those games.
It’s not going to be an easy night for Connor Hellebuyck, whose numbers aren’t great this season but clearly hasn’t been getting sufficient help from his skaters.
As you’d expect, Minnesota is solid road favorites. The goal total is only six goals, which might be a bit low considering how the Wild average 3.83 goals per game on their own.
Vegas Golden Knights at Edmonton Oilers
While Vegas is currently leading the Pacific Division, the red-hot Oilers aren’t too far behind so this is a big game for both teams. Edmonton has won five of its last six and looks much more formidable with Evander Kane in the lineup. The Golden Knights have won two in a row but are coming off a so-so month of January in which they went just 5-4-3.
Vegas — still awaiting Jack Eichel’s return to game action which would be his first with the Golden Knights — got some bad news on Monday as defenseman Zach Whitecloud was diagnosed with a broken foot. He’s been really good for Vegas so that’ll be a big loss for a few weeks.
The Golden Knights are slightly favored on the road so the Oilers’ moneyline might even be the smart play here.
Arizona Coyotes at Vancouver Canucks
Sitting on the fringes of the Western Conference playoff picture, the Canucks need all the points they can get so they have to beat teams like Arizona even without top defenseman Quinn Hughes (COVID protocols). Vancouver lost five of seven before the All-Star break — Arizona lost six of seven — and the offense has been come-and-go. The good news is that the Coyotes give up a ton of goals so maybe the Canucks’ offense can break out of its funk.
Vancouver is huge home favorites so there’s really only value on the Canucks’ puckline, but it’s probably worth it considering how bad Arizona is on both ends of the ice.