LHJ’s top NHL picks for the week of March 22-27

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 National Hockey League season has continued to see several teams take full grasp of their divisions while others try to get themselves back into position to qualify for the playoffs.

Traditional Eastern Conference teams have put themselves in prime position for a chance at this season’s Presidents Trophy with Tampa Bay (48 points), Washington (44), Florida (44), and the New York Islanders (44) currently sitting in the league’s top four places.

The Vegas Golden Knights (43) and Edmonton Oilers (42) are the best shot right now from the traditional West teams, serving as the lone two representatives in the current top eight.

As for offensive stats, numerous players are continuing to fly at the top of the goal-scoring charts over the past two weeks, with Leon Draisaitl, Alexander Ovechkin, Jake Guentzel, and Connor McDavid all registering six goals or more in that span. No surprise that all four of those players are playing for teams that are in the current playoff places in their respective divisions.

With games coming thick and fast in the second-half of the season, I decided to break down the best betting options for both teams and players.


Colorado Avalanche

The Avs are currently trying to catch up to the Vegas Golden Knights in the West Division, but are the hottest team right now in the NHL. Colorado has won its last six games, and overall have won eight of its past 10 (8-1-1). A +32 goal differential is currently good for the second-best mark in the league, sitting only behind Tampa Bay (+42) for that rank.

Whenever you have Nathan MacKinnon leading the way, you’re always going to have a good chance of getting points, but his supporting cast (Gabriel Landeskog, Nazim Kadri, Mikko Rantanen) has been huge, too.

Up this week: @ Arizona 3/22, @ Arizona 3/23, vs. Vegas 3/25, vs. Vegas 3/27.

Vegas Golden Knights

Vegas is first in the West Division, holding that spot over Colorado currently. Despite losing to the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday night, the Golden Knights have won five of their last six games and boast a +31 goal differential thanks to one of the deepest offensive units in the NHL. Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, and Alex Tuch have led the way for the Golden Knights once again this season and will be a tough group to stop, no matter who the defense.

Marc-Andre Fleury’s 16-5 record and 1.87 GAA isn’t half bad either.

Up this week: vs. St Louis 3/22, @ Colorado 3/25, @ Colorado 3/27.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Many people expected a hiccup or two from defending champions Tampa Bay this season with star forward Nikita Kucherov out until the playoffs. Jon Cooper’s team have done everything but so far, posting the best record in the league and holding onto the overall No. 1 spot. Andriy Vasilevskiy is a favorite for the Vezina Trophy as the Russian has posted a 20-3-1 record along with a 1.86 GAA through 24 games.

Steven Stamkos has picked up the slack with Kucherov out (15 goals this season), while Victor Hedman continues to be one of the best two-way defenseman in the league.

Up this week: @ Dallas 3/23, @ Dallas 3/25, @ Carolina 3/27.


Leon Draisaitl

No surprise to see the defending Hart Trophy winner leading the way over the past two weeks, as Edmonton tries to sneak up the North Division standings. Leon Draisaitl has been a machine of late for the Oilers, scoring eight goals and adding six assists for 14 points since March 8.

The Oilers forward is currently 10 points behind his teammate Connor McDavid for the league lead, but isn’t showing any signs of slowing down which is a worrying sign for the rest of the All-Canada Division. Draisaitl will get three cracks at a streak Montreal team this week before ending the week at division leaders Toronto.

Up this week: @ Montreal 3/22, @ Montreal 3/24, @ Montreal 3/26, @ Toronto 3/27.

Alex Ovechkin

The Washington Capitals started the season slow, but since have put themselves in the drivers seat of the East Division. 35-year-old Alex Ovechkin is playing some of his best hockey in the red, white, and blue, scoring six goals in his last seven games. Ovechkin recently passed Phil Esposito for sixth all-time in the NHL scoring ranks and very well could pass some others this season alone.

For the Capitals to have any shot of holding onto the top spot over the likes of New York and Boston, Ovechkin will need to continue doing what he’s best at – scoring.

Up this week: vs. New Jersey 3/25, vs. New Jersey 3/26.

Mika Zibanejad

The New York Rangers may seem like a long shot to put themselves in the playoff picture, but a red-hot Mika Zibanejad could spring them into action. Zibanejad is coming off a stellar two-week period where he scored four goals and added six assists in seven games for New York. A six-point outing in a 9-0 romp over the Philadelphia Flyers this past week could propel the forward into a major role for the Rangers in the second-half of the season.

The 27-year-old delivered many exciting moments in 2020 and will be favored to form a deadly partnership with Artemi Panarin down the stretch.

Up this week: vs. Buffalo 3/22, @ Philadelphia 3/25, @ Philadelphia 3/27.

You can follow Larry Henry on Twitter (@lhenry019) and e-mail him at [email protected].

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