For most of the American-based NHL teams, this week starts the very end of the 2021 regular season — a COVID-impacted 56-game sprint that featured temporary, geographically-driven divisions isolating each grouping from the rest of the hockey world.
On Monday, 28 of 31 teams will be in action to provide one of the final jam-packed NHL slates this year. It also provides some difficult calls for gamblers down the stretch as some of the league’s very best teams that have already clinched postseason berths may start to rest their players or take their foot off the proverbial gas pedal while lesser sides see players fighting for jobs next season.
Let’s take a look at each of the NHL’s 14 games on Monday night and who we’ll go with.
Boston Bruins (-230) at New Jersey Devils (+190)
All the Bruins need is one more point to clinch the final playoff spot of the Eastern Division after the Penguins, Capitals, and Islanders have already clinched. It would officially eliminate the Flyers, Rangers, Sabres, and Devils from postseason contention. New Jersey is on a three-game win streak — all against the sputtering Flyers — but they shouldn’t be much trouble for a motivated Bruins side.
The pick: Bruins
Chicago Blackhawks (+195) at Carolina Hurricanes (-235)
The Hurricanes are hitting their stride at the right time, going 7-0-3 in their last 10 games with a power-play that is clicking at a 40% rate. The Central Division leaders take on a Blackhawks team eight points back of the final playoff spot, owned by the Nashville Predators. They’re trending in the wrong direction having gone 4-5-1 in their last 10. Elimination is nigh.
The pick: Hurricanes
Dallas Stars (+125) at Florida Panthers (-145)
Florida is just two points back of the Hurricanes but has two more games played, making their chances to win the Central all the more difficult. The Stars, meanwhile, are just three points behind the Predators for that last spot in the division with a game in hand. Both teams are playing well and the season series is tight, but the Panthers have more firepower, making it hard to pick against them at home.
The pick: Panthers
Nashville Predators (-165) at Columbus Blue Jackets (+145)
The Predators hear the footsteps behind them and need to keep the positive results churning. They’re 6-3-1 in their last 10 while the slumping Blue Jackets have just one win in their last 10. Even in Columbus, this seems like an easy pick.
The pick: Predators
New York Islanders (-300) at Buffalo Sabres (+250)
Fresh off a playoff clincher against the Rangers, the Islanders are coming off a two-game series against the Blueshirts in which they outscored them 7-0 combined. The Islanders have beat the Sabres in each of their six meetings this season and that doesn’t look like it’ll change anytime soon.
The pick: Islanders
Pittsburgh Penguins (-140) at Philadelphia Flyers (+120)
Will a rivalry night wake the Flyers up? Probably not. They lost three-straight to the lowly Devils and now face the high-flying, East-division-leading Penguins who have won seven of their last 10. The Flyers have played Pittsburgh tough this season, winning four of six meetings this season, so that does provide a moment for pause.
The pick: Penguins
Toronto Maple Leafs (-145) at Montreal Canadiens (+125)
The Canadian-leading Maple Leafs have beaten Montreal five of seven times this season, but the Canadiens are fighting to move up from that final No. 4 playoff spot in the North. Hosts in an upset.
The pick: Canadiens
Washington Capitals (-115) at New York Rangers (-105)
The Rangers are all but eliminated, but they’ve played the Capitals surprisingly well this season taking four of six. They haven’t lost at two games at Madison Square Garden either.
The pick: Rangers
Winnipeg Jets (-155) at Ottawa Senators (+135)
The Jets are still in the driver’s seat of securing a playoff spot, overcoming early-season drama that concluded with the trading of Patrik Laine. They’re an easy pick against the Senators, who have just 43 points in 51 games.
The pick: Jets
Anaheim Ducks (+218) at St. Louis Blues (-258)
Only the Sabres are worse than the Ducks, which makes their matchup against the West’s fourth-place side, St. Louis, very easy.
The pick: Blues
Vegas Golden Knights (-125) at Minnesota Wild (+105)
Do you want a heavyweight showdown? Here it is. Vegas has won nine of its last 10 while the Wild have gone 8-1-1 in that same span. The Wild have also won the last four against the Knights. Both have clinched playoff spots in the West, now let’s see if Minnesota can catch first-place Vegas at just six points back.
The pick: Wild
Edmonton Oilers (-185) at Vancouver Canucks (+160)
Connor McDavis and the Oilers are cruising with seven wins in the last 10 games. The Canucks, meanwhile, have lost seven of their last 10. To secure the No. 2 seed in the north, Edmonton can’t let up.
The pick: Oilers
Los Angeles Kings (+130) at Arizona Coyotes (-150)
The Coyotes have a puncher’s chance of sneaking into the playoffs barring a Blues collapse. Arizona is three points behind the final West spot but has played three more games than St. Louis. Both teams are struggling, but the Coyotes have much more to play for.
The pick: Coyotes
Colorado Avalanche (-245) at San Jose Sharks (+205)
The Avalanche are putting the finishing touches on a season that sees them as one of the Stanley Cup favorites. Yet they’re four points back of the Golden Knights with seven games to play. They won’t trip up in San Jose.
The pick: Avalanche.