Dysfunction may be brewing in Dallas, as Stars CEO Jim Lites went to the press and called out the team’s captain, Jamie Benn, and top-paid player, Tyler Seguin, for a lack of performance on the season. The Stars are underperforming right now, with just 43 points in 39 games and sitting in fourth place in the Central Division, but they had just come off a 2-0 shutout in Nashville at the time. The team may have responded with a 5-1 shellacking of the Red Wings on Saturday, but the problems in Dallas have to do with defense. Will the Stars turn things around? Or will they remain one of the NHL’s biggest enigmas? In the East, Washington and Tampa Bay lead the Metropolitan and Atlantic Divisions, respectively, and both teams have won nine of ten. We have put together three sports betting suggestions for you as you think about NHL betting in the last week of 2018.
Top NHL Betting Picks of the Week – December 31st Edition
Power Rankings: While six teams solidify their spots at the top, the Penguins and Blue Jackets are on the rise https://t.co/sNb9hgdTL1
— SI NHL (@SI_NHL) December 31, 2018
Monday, December 31
Pittsburgh at Minnesota (6:00pm ET, ESPN+)
Pittsburgh had shown considerable inconsistency over the first half of the season, but things seem to have turned around on defense, as the Penguins have now won five games in a row, beginning with a 2-1 win in Washington on December 19. Since then, they have won those five games by a combined score of 18-5, and in their last two games, they have routed Detroit and St. Louis by a combined score of 11-3. That run coincides with the return of Matt Murray in net from a lower-body injury, and the offense has responded confidently, as Sidney Crosby had a goal and three assists in that win over the Blues.
Minnesota just ended a five-game skid with a 3-1 win in Winnipeg, thanks to 26 saves from Devan Dubnyk on Saturday. That redeemed a performance against Chicago on Thursday when he had permitted three goals on just 10 shots and found himself yanked. Getting that sort of win on the road in the Central Division-leading Jets’ arena has to be a shot in the arm. But can they hold off the Pittsburgh offense?
NHL Betting Prediction: Pittsburgh 5, Minnesota 3
Tampa Bay at Anaheim (8:00pm ET)
Tampa Bay has won five in a row, scoring at least five goals in each game, but three of those wins have been one-goal wins, as the Lightning are leaning hard on their offense right now, as the defense is giving up goals left and right. On Saturday, they held off Montreal at home, 6-5, behind two goals from Adam Erne, including the game-winner with just over a minute left in regulation. The Lightning are 13-0-1 in their last 14 games and got Andrei Vasilevskiy put up 33 saves, but the lack of defense will cause problems eventually — can the Ducks make the Lightning pay?
Given that the Ducks are riding a five-game skid right now, this could be another win for the Lightning. The Ducks put up four goals against Arizona on Saturday but still lost by one in overtime. Anaheim had led, 4-2, midway through the second period, but they gave up two goals to tie and then lost 33 seconds into overtime. With that sort of defensive lapse, it’s hard to see them stopping Tampa Bay.
NHL Betting Prediction: Tampa Bay 5, Anaheim 2
Tuesday, January 1
Boston vs Chicago (at Notre Dame Stadium) (1:00pm ET, NBC)
The latest edition of the NHL’s Winter Classic takes place on New Year’s Day, and while the Blackhawks are nominally the home team, the game is not even taking place in the state of Illinois. Chicago is appearing in its fourth Winter Classic, but their record in their first three shots at this outdoor game is 0-3. Boston is appearing in it for the third time; they have put up a 1-1 record to this point. Right now, Boston has split their last four games and beat Buffalo, 3-2, on Saturday. In that win, they came back in the third period to tie the game and send it to overtime, when Sean Kuraly scored with just over a minute remaining in the extra session. If they can keep their offensive pressure on the Blackhawks, they should win this.
NHL Betting Prediction: Boston 3, Chicago 1