The Hunter’s Week Ahead – 10 Dec
Tips, Tricks, Picks and Odds.
90 per cent of hockey is mental… and the other half is physical.
The immortal words of The Great One (Wayne Gretzky) shine truer now than ever before and, as the NHL storms onwards in its 102nd iteration, I thought it was about time for me to shine the light on this leviathan physical and mental contest. There’s no sport quite like hockey and this season is shaping up to be an all-time classic. We have a bunch of hot contests coming up this week and I’m as keen as anyone to see how it all pans out.
As always in this column, I’ll explore what Australians can look forward to in this week of sports and provide the tips that I feel most confident in based on my research, analysis and expert intuition.
On Tuesday, we start the week with an absolute premier matchup between two serious title contenders in the Mile High City (Denver).
Colorado Avalanche v Calgary Flames
Colorado are a team characterised by their offensive prowess. They currently sit as the second-best offence in the NHL, averaging 3.69 goals per game with a total of 107. They’re a well rounded team, with the third most wins in the league, but have room to improve in the powerplay, sitting near the bottom in powerplay kill percentage (78.9%) and powerplay success percentage (19.1%). They’re a tough team to beat, but if Calgary cop a few lucky penalties, they’re definitely in with a shot.
Of course, Calgary are no easy team either. They started the season at a roaring pace, but settled a bit in recent weeks and now sit in the middle of the table. I think if the flames can make the playoffs they’re bound for a deep run – but whether they can get enough wins to do so is questionable. One thing I can commend the Flames on is their success in the clutch, winning three games already this season in a shootout (second only to Arizona with five).
So, this is a question of whether Calgary can hold on until OT, preferably with a couple of goals off the powerplay, or whether Colorado will be too good too fast.
For this one, I have to side with the Avalanche. I can’t see there being too many calls against them at home and ultimately they should walk (skate) away with a two or three goal win.
The Hunter’s Hot Tip: Colorado -1.5
Two of the biggest franchises in the NHL battle it out on Wednesday in this east v west demolition show. This is bound to be one of the matches of the week – despite each team’s mid-to-low table mediocrity thus far.
Los Angeles Kings v New York Rangers
The Rangers are a team with a few big weeks ahead of them. How they perform in this lead-in to the All-Star break could well set the tone for whether they become a legitimate playoff contender or have to write off yet another season. They currently sit right in the middle of the table at 18th and have a similarly ranked offence (ninth) and defence (18th). A win against the Kings could do wonders to get the Rangers’ season on the right trajectory, so they’ll come to LA ready to play.
The Kings will enter this one absolutely desperate for a win. They sit third from bottom in the league in wins, offence and powerplay offence – but, are treading water (barely) for the time being. They need to put together a great string of wins to get back in playoff contention (like St. Louis last year), and could see a scalp like the Rangers as an achievable goal.
So, will the Kings get the points they so desperately crave? I think they might just do it. With the home advantage of the Staples Center, I think LA might just be able to create some magic. Whether this gets their entire season back on track remains to be seen, but I think they can pull off a win here.
The Hunter’s Hot Tip: LA to Win
Thursday brings us one of the games of the season. Numbers one and two in the NHL are set to fight it out for the top spot in DC and I cannot articulate how epic this match will be. These two teams lead the league in just about every statistical category, so no matter what unfolds, it’s bound to be a thriller.
Washington Capitals v Boston Bruins
Fresh off their Stanley Cup defeat last season, the Bruins are back with a vengeance and ready to dominate the league. They’re a top three team in goals for and against, as well as league leaders in ROW (Regulation Overtime Wins). The Bruins are a dangerously good team on a bad day – and this won’t be a bad day by any means.
Of course, to win, they have to beat DC, Stanley Cup winners in 2018 and one of the deadliest forces on the ice this season. The Caps lead the league in wins, points and goals for. Their stellar offence is supported by a decent defence and they’re definitely looking like the team to beat this season.
Honestly, with the quality both these teams possess this match is effectively a coin toss. I can’t help but side with the home team – especially because Boston are in a bit of a slump (if you can call losing two games in a row a slump). This’ll be a must-watch match, and I think the Caps will only pull clear in the third.
The Hunter’s Hot Tip: Capitals to Win