Bruins, Predators the bet on teams for NHL's second half
February 28, 2017 3:02 AM
by Ian Cameron
As the NHL season approaches Wednesday’s trade deadline, it is time to take a look at some teams I have targeted as “bet on” and “bet against” moving forward.
The Boston Bruins stand out as a potential “bet on” squad. Boston has enjoyed a rejuvenation of energy and team chemistry after dismissing head coach Claude Julien and handing it over to interim Bruce Cassidy.
The Bruins are 6-1 since the coaching change and have scored 3-plus goals in all but one of those games. Cassidy put an emphasis on wanting his team to attack more offensively, which explains why they are over on a 4-2-1 O/U run under his watch. But while the offense has enjoyed an uptick in production, defense and goaltending will determine just how far they go.
The Bruins have an aging, slow of foot Zdeno Chara anchoring the blue line and a bunch of newcomers and youngsters on the back end. Adam McQuaid and Torrey Krug are solid defenders but this unit is still a work in progress.
The Nashville Predators have underachieved at times this season but have played their best stretch of hockey this season with three straight wins. Their offense has been on fire of late with at least four goals in five straight games. Filip Forsberg has led them in a big way with multiple games with a hat trick last week and 11 points overall in his last five contests.
Ryan Johansen is finally climbing out of his slump as he has seven points in his last four games. The Predators also seem to be giving more and more starts to backup goalie Juuse Saros. Veteran Pekka Rinne is showing signs of yet another one of his patented rough patches that have plagued him over the last couple years. If Rinne can eventually break out of his funk and the offense can continue to roll, this is a team worth backing as they try to continue their ascent in the Western Conference.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, there are two teams that stand out in the Eastern Conference as “bet against.” The New Jersey Devils are 2-5 in their last seven games and failed to come out of their extended break with any sort of momentum with back-to-back defeats. New Jersey has not been able to consistently score goals despite the addition of Taylor Hall in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers. New Jersey is ranked 28th in the NHL at a paltry 2.3 gpg.
There’s also been a decline on the blue line and with goaltender Cory Schneider. This is a team that appears headed for “sell” mode at the trade deadline. We could see the departure of veterans like Mike Cammalleri, PA Parenteau, Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri up front along with perhaps someone like defenseman Kyle Quincey, who would be a solid upgrade for a team in the playoff hunt.
The Carolina Hurricanes are the other team ’ll be looking to fade in the weeks ahead. Much like the Devils, the Hurricanes are slowly fading out of the playoff picture with a 1-6 current slide. They’ve been held to eight goals combined during that span; another offensively challenged hockey team.
Carolina has a very young and inexperienced blue line and the number of minutes are piling up, which suggests we aren’t going to witness resurgence.