Only two games to cover in Wednesday NHL free picks as the league continues its weird (but smart), mid-season break centered around All-Star weekend. Although only a couple of games might seem to make for a light wagering night, both are intriguing.
In the first match, the Tampa Bay Lightning battle the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Lightning boasts the best record in NHL. Tampa’s only lost 10 games this season. Two of the 10 losses were in overtime. They battle the Penguins in their first match since the NHL All-Star Game, meaning it will have been 11 days since the Lightning last stepped onto the ice.
On Jan. 28, Pittsburgh lost 3-6 to New Jersey at home as a -230 favorite. The Pens might have suffered the after effects of a crazy long layoff. They’ll look to rebound with a win over Tampa on Wednesday night.
In the second match, the Dallas Stars host the Buffalo Sabres. Like Tampa, Dallas hasn’t played a game since Jan. 19. The Stars were fantastic on that day, beating top Central Division team Winnipeg 4-2 as a +100 home dog.
Buffalo gets back onto the ice on Tuesday night, which means their match with Dallas will be the second of a back-to-back. The Sabres have a winning record. They’ve also played well in most of their away games.
Let’s dive deeper into the the two major matchups for Wednesday NHL free picks with Lightning-Penguins and Sabres-Stars.
[Wednesday, Jan. 30]
Tampa Bay Lightning -125 Pittsburgh Penguins +105
Nothing says Tampa Bay can’t have the same success in the second half of the NHL Season as they did in the first. The Lightning are 37-10-2-0 SU heading into their match with Pittsburgh.
Tampa leaned on the best offense in the league in the first half. The Lightning average 4 goals per. That ranks first. They also rank first on the power play. Tampa converts 29.5% of their power plays. The Lightning’s aggressive play sometimes leaves them open to counter attacks, and that’s where the Penguins might find some success.
As long as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin play on the first line, the Pens will score goals. Pittsburgh averages 3.5 per game. Crosby’s scored 21 with 36 assists and Malkin’s scored 14 with 39 assists. Both will look to counter after Tampa misfires.
The trends give neither squad an edge. Tampa is 4-1 SU in their last 5 versus a team with a winning home record and 10-2 SU in their last 12 after scoring 5 goals or more in their previous. Pittsburgh is 7-1 SU in their last 8 after playing on 1 day of rest and 7-1 SU in their last 8 versus the Eastern Conference.
Tampa’s the overall better team, but Pittsburgh had the benefit of a match already this week. That could mean something. The Pens will bounce back as a slight home dog and beat the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday.
Wednesday NHL Free Picks: Penguins +105
Buffalo Sabres +165 Dallas Stars -190
Buffalo does have a winning record, 24-18-5-1, but the Sabres weren’t great before the All-Star break. Buffalo went 1-4 SU in their final 5 matches. That appears to set them up for failure against the Stars on Wednesday night. Taking into account that the Sabres must battle Columbus on the road on Tuesday night, and a loss appears imminent.
Then again, Buffalo’s lone victory before the break was on the road against Calgary. The Flames lead the Pacific Division, proving that at times, the Sabres can step it up and beat a more talented team on the road.
Dallas hopes Wednesday night won’t be one of those times. The Stars beat Winnipeg, but that was the only positive in their last 4 before the break. Dallas had been on a 5-match losing streak before beating the Jets.
The trends aren’t much help. Dallas is 5-13 SU in their last 18 versus the Atlantic, and 10-21 in their last 31 versus the Eastern Conference. In the head-to-head, the Stars have dominated, but it’s hard to value the head-to-head trends because these two play in different conferences.
Buffalo doesn’t have a single positive trend, while the Stars are 7-3 SU in their last 10 home games versus a team with a losing road record. That positive trend along with this being Buffalo’s second in a back-to-back makes the Stars the play.
Wednesday NHL Free Picks: Stars -182