I’m looking at some great matchups in NHL in the first week of 2017! On Thursday, can the tough Buffalo Sabres take down the Stanley Cup favorite Chicago Blackhawks? Then, on Sunday, Anaheim hosts Minnesota. Will the Wild go wild over the Ducks in a road game? Also on Sunday is a game that’s becoming a classic when Tampa Bay tackles Pittsburgh on the ice. Who wins when it’s Lightning versus Pens?
New Year NHL Picks
Buffalo at Chicago
When: Thursday, Jan. 5 at 8:30 pm ET
Where: United Center, Chicago, IL
Analysis: Chicago goes into the New Year off arguably their worst week of the season. The Blackhawks had won 5 in a row before ending the week going 1 and 4 straight up. They’ve lost 2 in a row going into the week of Monday, Jan. 2.
Does that make the vaunted Blackhawks vulnerable to a tough Buffalo squad? Probably not. The Sabres have some talent, but they haven’t stepped it up yet this season. Their goalies, Anders Nilsson and Robin Lehner, haven’t showed up in recent games.
That’s bad news for the Sabres. Chicago can score against any team in NHL. Buffalo, who is in last place in the Atlantic to start the week, could be in for a tough match.
I like Chicago by at least 2 on Thursday.
Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh
When: Sunday, Jan. 8 at 1:00 pm ET
Where: PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, PA
Analysis: Pittsburgh remains a few games behind Columbus in the Metropolitan Standings. Not that it matters. The Pens are hot to start the week after winning their last 4. One of the wins was a terrific 4 to 3 over time “W” versus Montreal on New Year’s Eve.
But, Pitt is off until this battle on Jan. 8. That’s a long time to only play against your teammates without hitting the ice for a competitive game. Tampa Bay faces the Pens after battling Winnipeg, Nashville, and Philly this week.
I expect Tampa to be the sharper team in this match up. Pitt only beat Tampa 4 to 3 the last time that they faced each other back on Dec. 10. I’m going with Tampa to upset the Pens on Jan. 8.
Pick: Tampa Bay
Minnesota at Anaheim
When: Sunday, Jan. 8 at 8:00 pm ET
Where: Honda Center, Anaheim, CA
Analysis: No team in NHL has been hotter than Minnesota. The Wild had won 12 in a row before losing 2 to 4 to Columbus on New Year’s Eve. That’s an incredible 12 wins in a row.
The Wild hasn’t faced Anaheim since Jan. 20, 2016. This week, Minnesota runs through the West Coast Gauntlet of Death. They battle San Jose on Jan. 5. On Jan.7, they take on L.A. then on Jan. 8 they take on Anaheim.
No worries. Minnesota is so hot that they could win all three. I think they show up big time against the Ducks on Sunday.