NHL Free Picks - Hockey Predictions April 4
Battles for position in this season's NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs continue to rage on heading into the final seven days of the regular season. Turning to this Saturday's action, I have come up with three division matchups that offer the best chance to pay off as this week's "best bets" in the NHL.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (2 p.m.)
The Penguins are now in fourth place in the Metro Division after fading a bit down the stretch with a 3-6-1 record in their last 10 games. They are coming off a 4-1 loss to Philadelphia this past Wednesday as heavy -190 home favorites. Pittsburgh now has to head on the road where is has lost four of its last five games. Recent form has to be a major concern for this team at the wrong time of the year.
Columbus has already been officially eliminated from playoff contention, but it could be the hottest team in the league right now with a 9-1 record in its last 10 games that includes an eight-game winning streak. The Blue Jackets are 4-1 in their last five home games and they have won two of three against Pittsburgh in this season's series. During this impressive eight-game run they have averaged 4.3 goals a game while posting a goals-against average of just 2.5. Stick with the current trends in this one as Columbus adds to the Penguins' slide with a ninth-straight win.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Florida Panthers (7 p.m.)
The Lightning come into this in-state rivalry with just one win in their last five games following a 4-3 victory against Florida -160 home favorites on March 24. Three of the four losses came on the road as they wrap-up a five-game road trip this Saturday night. Tampa Bay is still in contention for the top seed in the Atlantic Division with a total of 102 points, but it has had its issues away from home this season with an overall road record of 17-16-7.
The Panthers kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a 6-1 victory over Carolina as -170 home favorites this past Thursday to post their third win in their last five games since that loss to Tampa Bay. Florida is ranked 25th in the NHL in scoring with an average of 2.4 goals per game, but it has upped this average to 3.5 goals over its last six games. The home team in this series has won five of the last seven games including all three meetings this season. This is another division matchup that I am going with the home team as a probable underdog given both team's current form.
Calgary Flames vs. Edmonton Oilers (10 p.m.)
Calgary remains in striking distance of the second seed in the Pacific Division with 91 total points, but it has not done itself any favors with three losses in its last five games including a 4-1 loss to St. Louis this past Thursday as a +130 road underdog. Saturday will be the Flames fifth-straight game on the road in a trip that started with a 4-2 loss to Minnesota as +165 underdogs. With the exception of Thursday's loss, the one constant in their previous seven games has been the ability to still score with an average of 3.4 goals a game.
The Oilers have long since been eliminated from the playoffs with an overall record of 23-42-13 and they continue to ride out the string with back-to-back road losses to Anaheim and Los Angeles by a combined score of 13-3. Edmonton is ranked 26th in the NHL in scoring with just 2.3 goals a game and it is ranked last in goals allowed with a GAA of 3.3. Calgary has dominated this series as of late with six-straight wins, but I am going with the OVER in this matchup on an expected line of 5.5. The total has gone OVER in three of the last four meetings.