NHL Preview 4-6/11

Vegas Golden Knights surprised most with their run to the Stanley Cup finals last year and many thought that a similar challenge could be enjoyed this term, although things have not gone according to plan.

Hurricane to hit Vegas

Whether the surprise factor has gone or the Knights are taking time to adjust with the likes of Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny coming into the team – certainly not helped by the long-term injury to the latter – things are just not working for Gerard Gallant and his men.

Vegas have drifted to 21.00 in the outright market after winning five and losing seven of their opening 13 games, although they are still shorter in the betting than their next opponents, Carolina, despite the Hurricanes having the better record so far, winning six and losing five of 12 games.

Carolina’s problem has been scoring as they boast the NHL’s highest shots per game average at 41.7, while they boast the joint-best shots against average at 24.5, ironically with the Golden Knights.

Neither side goes into this game in the best of form but given Vegas’ struggles, a Hurricanes win at 2.40 is well worth considering with the home side installed as the 1.60 favourites.

Pens can repeat against favourites

Two of the Eastern Conference’s big guns go head to head in the early hours of Saturday morning when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Toronto Maple Leafs at the PPG Paints Arena.

The Leafs remain the outright favourites at 6.50 to win the Stanley Cup although they have yet to establish themselves as top dogs in the Atlantic Division, currently lying fourth behind Tampa Bay, Boston and Montreal – although they are only one point behind the leading Lightning.

Pittsburgh had been on a roll to surge to the top of the Metropolitan Division, with a four-game win streak kicked off by a 3-0 win in Toronto.

They have, however, come unstuck in their last two games, losing twice on the bounce to the red-hot New York Islanders, who have joined the Pens on 15 points in the division with a four-game winning run of their own.

Pittsburgh are priced at 12.00, sixth in the betting, to get back to Stanley Cup winning ways but can lay down a marker in this match-up with Toronto perhaps struggling without long-term injury victim Auston Matthews, still their leading scorer in both goals and points.

The Leafs have lost their last two, scoring just two goals in those defeats, and Sidney Crosby – who has notched nine points in his last five games – can lead his men to a double success over the Stanley Cup favourites.

Another tricky test for Predators

Another tasty encounter looms in Nashville as the Predators host the Boston Bruins, with the home side sitting pretty at the top of the Central Division on the back of an impressive 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Pekka Rinne made his return to the line-up for that clash, posting impressive figures with 42 saves at .977, and it is understandable why they have been installed as 1.71 favourites against Boston.

The Bruins have picked up in recent games, winning three of their last four to move up to second in the Atlantic Division, and those perhaps seeking some value in the 2.25 on offer for the away win, may have noted that all three of Nashville’s defeats this season have come at the Bridgestone Arena.