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NHL Highs & Lows: Desert Dogs in More Ways Than One

Unusual Suspects Make the Top Five

Every week in the NHL brings something different. With the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoff race heating up, teams are either fighting for their playoff lives or for home-ice advantage. But some are also playing as spoilers. These also-rans have little to win other than throw a wrench in their rivals’ playoff hopes. These underdogs got hot last week and have been lucrative NHL picks.

While these dogs win on the books, the Boston Bruins continue to shorten their NHL futures odds and are now down to +350 from +375 last week to win the Stanley Cup. Other contenders like the Minnesota Wild and New Jersey Devils also saw their odds shorten as they also look to win their respective divisions in what is shaping out to be a close race to the finish.

Jonas Siegenthaler #71 of the New Jersey Devils stops the puck - Elsa/getty images/afp
Jonas Siegenthaler #71 of the New Jersey Devils stops the puck - Elsa/getty images/afp

Top Five

1. Devils

No one is catching Boston, but the Devils are making a strong push to do so. For 2023, the Devils’ 76.7 point percentage is just behind Boston’s at 77.6 percent. The Devils have won seven of their last nine games and tied Carolina for the Metropolitan Division by shutting out the Hurricanes on Sunday night.

Akira Schmid may be this team’s X-factor as he could pull a Matt Murray and be the Stanley Cup difference-maker for the Devils. Since rejoining the team, Schmid has posted a 3-0-1 record with a 94.4 save percentage.

  • Championship odds: +1200

2. Kings

The Vegas Golden Knights remain the favorites to win the Pacific Division, but the Kings are quickly gaining ground. Since the All-Star break, the Kings have the same point percentage as Vegas. They get this spot over their rivals because the Kings had some impressive wins last week: 5-2 over Colorado and 4-2 over Washington.

New acquisition Joonas Korpisalo has impressed in his two starts, stopping 52 of the 56 shots he’s faced. If he is the answer the Kings have needed in net, this is a team that can go on a deep playoff run and make surprising NHL news.

  • Championship odds: +3000

3. Coyotes

Arizona has put its “tanking” plans on hold to deliver one of its best weeks of the season. The Coyotes went 3-0-1 last week, upsetting Minnesota and nearly doing the same to Colorado as a +350 underdog.

Clayton Keller had two goals and an assist against Minnesota. He’s been on fire and has 28 points in his last 17 games. Since February, he has scored in all but two of Arizona’s games and has had nine multi-point games. Arizona recorded a point in eight of these games. He’s worsened the team’s NHL odds for Connor Bedard, but he’s made Arizona hockey watchable again.

  • Championship odds: +100000

4. Canucks

Firing Bruce Boudreau for Rick Tocchet has proven to be not as horrible as everyone thought. Under Tocchet, the Canucks are 10-7-2. The team is 7-2-1 in its last 10 games and has won four straight. Most notably, Vancouver has appeared to patch the penalty kill. It killed off 14 of its last 15 penalties, with Toronto being the only team to succeed in scoring.

The Canucks’ offense has also picked up. It has scored three or more goals in each of these last four wins, led by Elias Pettersson’s six points. Of course, like Arizona, Vancouver has likely tapped out of the race to get Bedard.

  • Championship odds: +50000

5. Penguins

Pittsburgh is making a strong push to solidify its wild-card spot for the playoffs. The team has gone 7-1-1 since Feb. 25. A lot of its wins have come against the non-playoff teams plus a pair against the fading Lightning. The Penguins will have to do more to prove it is worth betting online come the playoffs.

Evgeni Malkin is on a six-game point streak while Sidney Crosby is at four. But Tristan Jarry will need to be better. He has won four of his last six starts but has a subpar 88.8 save percentage and got yanked against Columbus.

  • Championship odds: +3300

Bottom Five

28. Senators and Sabres

Sometimes it is tough to tell these two teams apart. Just when each side seems to get it going, it goes on a losing skid. Both Ottawa and Buffalo share the same strengths and weaknesses: They can score plenty of goals but also give up more in exchange. Ottawa has lost two straight and Buffalo has dropped four in a row. These teams gave up the most goals last week.

  • Championship odds: +12500

29. Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets are consistently losing, unlike all the other bad teams. Columbus has now lost four straight games and remain an easy team to fade on NHL predictions. Johnny Gaudreau has not scored a goal since Valentine’s Day.

  • Championship odds: +100000

30. Sharks

San Jose has bottomed out since even before the trade deadline. The Sharks are 2-10-1 in its last 13 games and its losses are getting uglier: 6-0 against Colorado and 8-3 against Washington, just to name a few. Erik Karlsson continues to rack up points at a historic rate so it will be interesting to see if he gets the nod to win the Norris Trophy with how terrible his team has been.

  • Championship odds: +100000

31. Canadiens

Montreal is making a strong push to get into the top three spots for the Bedard sweepstakes. Its injury list is longer than its wins in 2023. The Canadiens have a worse record in their last 10 games than Columbus, Chicago and Anaheim. The team’s wins have come against the likes of San Jose and Philadelphia, though the Canadiens did somehow beat New Jersey at +285.

  • Championship odds: +12500

32. Flyers

Philadelphia is a mess both on and off the ice. The team just fired general manager Chuck Fletcher after he failed to make significant moves during the NHL trade deadline. Meanwhile, the team is 3-10-2 in its last 15 games and six of these losses came by three or more goals.

  • Championship odds: +50000

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