It’s the final week of the NHL season. A time of celebration for some fans – those who will be able to watch their team in the postseason and fans who can’t bear to watch their team play another game this season.
But it’s also a time of excitement around the league. There’s nothing like playoff hockey, as the old adage goes. But as cliché as that saying has become – it’s the truth. There’s nothing like playoff hockey, and the most exciting time in the sport is right around the corner.
Before we get there, however, we’ve still got one more week’s worth of games. Here are my favorite bets in two of the more meaningful games on the slate.
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Nashville Predators ML (+120; DraftKings)
The Predators haven’t exactly closed out this season in a powerful way, which has really kept them from locking up a playoff spot and taking a breath as the season comes to a close. But tonight’s game is a big one for many reasons, and I think they’ll come to play and pull another upset over the visiting Flames.
For starters, the Predators have played well against Calgary. Just last week, they downed the Flames 3-2 in a shootout in Nashville and will look to keep riding that momentum tonight. Secondly, this is the home finale for the Preds. It sure looks like they’ll be playing at least two more playoff home games, but nothing is guaranteed in this league. Nashville will be motivated to close out the season on a high note.
Finally, take a peek at the standings; this game is huge for Nashville, but not so much for Calgary. The Flames have already locked up their division crown and have absolutely nothing to play for. The President’s Trophy is out of reach, and their seed is locked in. There’s nothing else to play for except fine-tuning their game for the postseason. The Predators, however, still have not clinched a playoff bid, much in part to them losing six of their last nine contests.
A win tonight will all but seal the deal and put the Preds in the NHL’s second season. And with two road games looming, including one in Colorado, and a battle between Dallas and Vegas set to take place tonight as well, there’s a lot on the line here. A win tonight, and there’s a high likelihood the Predators will play these Flames in round one. A loss coupled with a win from Dallas means the Predators will likely battle Colorado in the opening round – a situation nearly every team will want to avoid.
The motivational edge is clearly with Nashville despite their recent struggles. Expect Juuse Saros in net for the Predators, and look for them to pull the upset as a home underdog.
Dallas Stars ML (-115; PointsBet)
The Stars are right on the cusp of clinching a playoff berth, much like the Predators from the above handicap. All that’s left to do is to beat the Golden Knights – the team they’ll host tonight.
— Jim Biringer (@JimBiringer) April 25, 2022
Dallas has been struggling of late and has had tons of chances to lock up a playoff berth, but they continue to squander those opportunities. Heading into tonight’s battle with Vegas, Dallas is 2-3-1 in their last six, but they’ve got the chance to avenge it all tonight – and I expect them to be motivated on their home ice.
The issue with the Stars of late is they haven’t been scoring many goals. In their last seven games, Dallas has scored just 14 goals, or exactly two per game, and that’s just not going to get it done come playoff time. The Stars need to start finding ways to generate offense right now, and what better way to do that than to take on a struggling Golden Knights team on their ninth and final life?
Expect Vegas to start rookie journeyman Logan Thompson between the pipes. He’s been a nice story but has surrendered 12 goals in his last three games, only one of which was a victory. If Dallas can get to him early, the floodgates could open in front of the home crowd.
I also have no faith in the Golden Knights in do-or-die games anymore. They desperately needed to beat the Canucks in at least two of their three matchups in early April but ended up with a 1-1-1 record and allowed Vancouver to capture points in each game. They needed to keep pace with Los Angeles and Dallas last weekend but got shut out by Edmonton of all teams and then fell flat on their face at home to a New Jersey team missing almost a third of their roster. And then, on Sunday, Vegas allowed a goal with one second left and lost in a shootout to arch-rival San Jose, effectively putting the final nail into their coffin.
The Knights simply don’t show up for big games, and Dallas can finally see the light at the end of the playoff tunnel. I like Dallas tonight, all the way down to -125.
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