NHL Betting Preview: Playoff Push

Andrew Hammond Sam Carrick

There are two really important games happening on Saturday night in the Eastern conference, games that will determine if a Canadian club will get the last wildcard playoff spot. Where would you place your bets?

Ottawa @ Toronto

With a huge 5-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Thursday, the Sens are battling to keep their last wildcard spot. Tied with Boston with a game in hand, every game is a must win for the Senators. Coming into Toronto who are their biggest conference rivals, and a provincial foe, will not be as easy as the last time the Sens played Toronto at home when they easily won. But this time a lot more is on the line and there is no pressure on Toronto to perform. Toronto lots badly to Florida Thursday night giving up three goals in a 10:11 span of the second period, to a team who is 3 points right behind Ottawa. Toronto might play the spoiler here because they have nothing to lose and all to gain by playing the bad guy in this match up. The Senators have won the last two games in the Battle of Ontario, including a 5-3 victory last Saturday. Kyle Turris snapped a 3-all tie with a power-play goal late in the second period and added an empty-netter. Ottawa really needs these two points to keep ahead of Boston and Panthers.

The Senators would like to improve their power play as they went 0 for 6 on Thursday and are 7 for 56 (12.5 percent) during their 15-2-1 surge. On their loss to the Rangers defenseman Marc Methot said,”You’ve got to help out your goaltender, especially with Hammer since he’s stood on his head for us for so many games in a row, we certainly didn’t do him any favors and it showed and we got pumped on the scoreboard.” On the Leaf end, their miserable season is taking a toll, as center Phil Kessel and David Booth wrestled each other and has to be separated by teammates at practice on Friday. “Guys have been frustrated all year,” Booth said. “I think it was just a drill that promoted competition. It was actually good to see that, so hopefully we can take some of that competitive nature into our game Saturday.” Expect a close game and a tough battle.

Our Pick: Leafs over Sens in OT

Florida @ Montréal

Florida came off a fantastic win in Toronto where their goaltender, Luongo played solid and didn’t allow the Leafs a chance, except one goal which local boy Carrick scored for Toronto. Florida is 3 points behind Ottawa, and Boston who lost in overtime to Anaheim, and they are so close to knocking one of those teams off to win a wildcard spot. Coming into Montreal, the task won’t be easy to keep up with pack. After Thursday night’s results against Toronto, beating them 4-1, they have a real chance but before they get excited, they have some tests to face. Montreal already has 100 points and a guaranteed playoff spot, and the crowd in Montreal is very happy with their team, which means it will be a rowdy and loud crowd to play infront of. Luongo facing Carey Price makes for an amazing goalie match up, that will showcase two excellent goaltenders. Florida is upbeat and ready for the Canadiens as they begin a key stretch to get into the offseason. They held a full workout Friday morning in Montreal, and coach Gerard Gallant called it “the best practice of the year.”

“We finally got some help for the first time in a while,” Gallant said. “We’re in the battle right now. We’re in the fight.”

Florida is starting a tough four-day stretch in which it plays against three playoff contenders that he needs to knock off — including both the Senators and Bruins. After facing the Habs, they do a quick turnaround in Ottawa on Sunday evening. So they will be face to face with a team they want to push out of play. Florida then will play its final road game of the regular season in Boston on Tuesday and by then could be in a playoff spot. “The issue isn’t playing three games in four nights because these games are so much fun right now,” Gallant said. “We are playing very well right now and just want to see where we end up when it’s all said and done. We’re just trying to get to that goal.’’ The Habs might just get in the way of that goal.

Our Pick: Habs over Panthers