An action-packed night awaits hockey fans as 13 NHL games are on Thursday’s schedule. The battle of New York between the Rangers and Islanders takes place out on Long Island, two tired teams match up in Philadelphia as the Flyers and Canadiens face off after each played on Wednesday night and the Avalanche look to end their four-game losing streak when they take on the Sharks.
There’s plenty to wager on, but let’s take a closer look at two games in particular. Here are my two best bets for Thursday:
New Jersey Devils vs. Washington Capitals: Capitals -1.5 (-120)
Even though the Capitals’ offense has been in a bit of a slumber over the last three games, this matchup has all the makings of a blowout. Washington has to be embarrassed by the way its current three-game homestand started. They lost to New Jersey 5-1 despite outshooting them 34-22. The Capitals would love to end the homestand with some revenge and they’ll turn to a different goaltender to make that happen.
Ilya Samsonov will be between the pipes for Washington. Despite not having the same type of name value Braden Holtby does, he’s been the far better goaltender this season. Samsonov has won each of his last eight starts, never allowing more than three goals in any game. In fact, he carries an elite 1.62 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage over those eight starts.
While the Devils had a nice little two-game run where they beat the Capitals and Lightning on back-to-back nights last week, they came crashing back down to earth in a 7-4 loss to the Maple Leafs on Tuesday. It was a reminder that when the Devils lose, they tend to lose big. In their 29 losses this season, 20 have come by multiple goals. Let’s hit blackjack tonight and make it 21.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Boston Bruins: Penguins (+120)
There is a whole new energy around the Penguins now that Sidney Crosby is back. He made his triumphant return from injury with a four-point night in a 7-4 victory over the Wild on Tuesday. As is the case seemingly every year, the Penguins have been ravaged by injuries to key players but continue to perform.
Speaking of injuries, the status of Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask is in doubt for this game. He suffered a head injury that forced him to leave Tuesday’s game against the Blue Jackets. Given the unpredictable nature of head injuries, it seems likely the Bruins will give him a few extra days to rest. Boston plays Pittsburgh again on Sunday afternoon.
The Bruins have been scuffling for a while now, doing enough to keep their head above water but relying a little too much on the loser point. Boston is 7-6-7 since December 5 and has seen their Atlantic Division lead start to slip away as the red-hot Lightning have gained a ton of ground.
Despite ranking third in the NHL in points percentage at home, the Bruins have only won 58% of their games at TD Garden this season. That’s nearly identical to the percentage of games the Penguins have won on the road in 2019-20. Expect a rejuvenated Penguins offense, led by Crosby, and strong goaltending from Tristan Jarry, who’s 9-1-1 in his last 11 starts, to get the job done in Bean Town.
Season Record: 22-21-1 (-0.36 units)