The first Saturday after the All-Star break is a busy one around the NHL. Nearly the entire league is on the schedule today, with 14 games on tap. A handful of teams are playing their first game since the break as they return from their bye week. While there may be some rust to shake off for those teams, there is some value for bettors to take advantage of.
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 Saturday:
Colorado Avalanche at Philadelphia Flyers: Avalanche (-150)
Colorado hasn’t played in a week and a half, but any rust it might have is offset by the fatigue the Flyers are feeling after a 4-3 overtime loss to the Penguins on Friday night in Pittsburgh. The Avalanche will also have a significant goaltending advantage in this game, as starting Flyers goalie Carter Hart is still out with an injury.
Philadelphia will be forced to either play Brian Elliott for the second time in as many nights or throw third-stringer Alex Lyon in net. Lyon lost his only start of the season on Jan. 16 when he allowed four goals to the Canadiens. In 14 career games over parts of the last three seasons, Lyon has a 3.14 goals-against average and an .894 save percentage.
The Avalanche will be well-rested and ready to pick up where their offense left off in the first half of the season. They rank second in the NHL in goals for with 3.65 per game. They are also the third-best road team in the league with a record of 14-8-2.
While I would normally be worried about a team starting sluggish after being off for so long, I’m willing to overlook that here because of the talent disparity. Expect the Avs to find a way to earn the season sweep over Philadelphia after already beating them 3-1 on Dec. 11.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Arizona Coyotes: Blackhawks (+135)
Like Colorado, this will be Chicago’s first game in nearly two weeks. The Coyotes already have two games under their belts since the break, but both were losses.
Although the Coyotes have a better team on paper than the Blackhawks, this is a classic example of two teams heading in opposite directions at the moment. Chicago lost a close game to former head coach Joel Quenneville and the Panthers heading into the break, but had won the previous five games before that. Arizona has lost seven of its last eight games and look out of sync in every element of its game right now.
Elite Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper is not yet ready to return from his injury, so former Blackhawk Antti Raanta will start for Arizona on Saturday night. He’s lost three games in a row and allowed 13 goals on 78 shots in those contests. Chicago will likely counter with Robin Lehner, who has won nine of his past 11 starts after losing back-to-back games against the Coyotes in early December.
The Coyotes are well below .500 as favorites this season and are in a slump. There’s too much value to not take the Blackhawks in this one.
Season Record: 27-26-1 (-1.13 units)