The NHL has taken a two-week hiatus from its regular season schedule in order to give many of its top players an opportunity to try and bring home a Gold Medal in hockey for their respective country in the Sochi Winter Olympics.
An extended disruption such as this can either have positive or negative effects on a team when the NHL season resumes on Tuesday, Feb. 25, so here is a brief look at few teams you might want to bet on right out of the gate.
The Ducks head into the Olympic break with the most points in the NHL (87), but they posted a very pedestrian 5-5 record in their last 10 games. The most surprising aspect of this uninspired run is a 2-5 mark at home. Anaheim has been one of the best teams at home all season long at 22-5-2 overall, and their first loss in regulation at the Honda Center did not come until Jan. 23.
Anaheim is the type of team that could really benefit from a break in the action right now given how well it has played this year. The other positive should be a lack of rust with many of its top stars, such as center Ryan Getzlaf and goalie Jonas Hiller, making the trip to Sochi.
The Ducks first five games after the break will be at home, starting with St. Louis on Feb. 28. You may want to lay off that contest, but two solid betting plays come in the next two games against Carolina on March 2 and Montreal on March 5.
The Bruins are starting to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the Atlantic Division with a 7-1-2 run in their last 10 games. They have a total of 78 points and have opened up a seven-point lead over Tampa Bay heading into the break. Sometimes a stoppage of play such as this will work against the momentum created by a solid winning streak, but Boston is built to keep winning right into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
A key to avoiding any rust is to keep your goalie active during this layoff. Boston goalie Tuukka Rask will be making his Olympic debut for Finland. While he will probably split time with Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen, who are also on the roster, Finland should be able to work its way into the Medal Round as Bovada’s second-favorite to win Group B at +350.
Boston returns to action with a road game against Buffalo on Wednesday, Feb. 26 as a likely favorite. The Sabres went into the break with a four-game losing streak and a 2-7-1 record in their last 10 games. This could be a golden opportunity to go with the Bruins on what could be a very favorable puck line assuming they are giving the 1.5 goals on the road.
The Flyers have been a streaky team all season long, so a fast start out of the gate after the Olympics is a distinct possibility. They went into this stoppage with a four-game winning streak after going 1-4-1 in their previous six outings. They are currently in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 66 points, but Detroit is just two points back along with a trio of teams (Columbus, Ottawa and Washington) well within striking distance with 63 points.
Philadelphia will have only five players on its roster in the Olympics and three are defensemen. Left winger Michael Raffi (Austria) and right winger Jakub Voracek’s (Czech Republic) time in Sochi should be fairly short given that their countries are long shots at best to win a medal. While rust could be a factor, the break could actually serve to get some guys healthy as well as allow the bulk of the team some much-needed practice time.
The Flyers will host San Jose on Thursday, Feb. 27, and the New York Rangers on Saturday, March 1, before going on the road to play the Capitals the following day. You might want to lay off the game against the Sharks to gauge the team’s post-break form, but then go with Philadelphia against both the Rangers and the Capitals in key Metro Division matchups as long as it looks good against San Jose.
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