Weekend NHL picks: Capitals win out West, Panthers thrive against elite competition

Is Connor McDavid human? I’m venturing to say that the Edmonton Oilers star may be a programmed robot after the masterful start to the season that he’s put together.

In case you missed it, McDavid scored yet another jaw-dropping goal on Thursday. In a 2-1 shootout win over the Winnipeg Jets, McDavid took the puck from his own blue line, weaved his way through the entire defense, and put the puck past goaltender Connor Hellebuyck. McDavid is staking his claim to being the best player in the world once again this season and he may finally have the team behind him for a deep playoff run.

The Oilers enter Friday with a Western Conference-best 24 points and possess one of the most dynamic duos in the entire NHL. As sensational of a season that McDavid is having, teammate Leon Draisaitl actually leads the league with 33 points (17 goals and 16 assists), which is three points ahead of McDavid (11 goalsand 19 assists) on the year. Edmonton has only made it out of the first round of the postseason once in the last 15 years. However, with a loaded roster led by Draisaitl and McDavid, the Oilers look like they’re going to be in a fantastic position to end that drought.

With only two games on the docket on Friday, all three of my picks are coming from Saturday’s slate. While I’m not taking the Oilers this time around, there are a few games that I absolutely love.

All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook

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🏒  Capitals at Sharks, Saturday, 10:30 p.m. | TV: NHL.tv
The Pick: Capitals (-125): It’s been no secret that the Capitals have been one of the best regulation teams across this league this season. In fact, Washington has just two regulation losses on their résumé entering Saturday’s contest. One of the biggest reasons for that success has been the play of Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin, who recently passed Brett Hull for fourth place on the NHL’s all-time goals list, has been playing at a torrid pace as he’s registered at least one point in all but three games this season. 

The Capitals have registered the fourth-most goals in the NHL while the Sharks are in the middle of the pack at No. 18. The Sharks have lost five out of their last seven games and have only scored nine goals in those five losses. On top of their offensive struggles, the Sharks will be facing very strong goaltending regardless of whether it’s Ilya Samsonov or Vitek Vanecek in net on Saturday. As a unit, the Capitals own a 2.29 goals-against-average, which is the fifth-best mark in the league. Side with the Capitals in a spot where you’re getting great value on the money line.

Key Trend: The Capitals are 28-9 in their last 37 games as a favorite

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🏒  Wild at Panthers, Saturday, 6 p.m. | TV: NHL.tv
The Pick: Panthers (-145):
The Panthers have only made it past the opening round of the playoffs once in the team’s 28-year history — a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1996. However, Florida appears to be ready to take the next step with a very talented core that includes Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Anthony Duclair. While Barkov is currently out of the lineup week-to-week due to a knee injury, there’s still plenty of reason to like the Panthers in this spot. 

The Panthers cruised to a 4-1 win over the Devils without Barkov in the lineup on Thursday. In that game, Huberdeau and Duclair combined to register four of the team’s nine points on the night as both players had a goal and an assist. While the Wild possess one of the more dangerous offenses in the league, the Panthers have a stellar defensive unit and a spectacular goaltender in Sergei Bobrovsky. The 33-year old netminder, who should be between the pipes on Saturday, has an impressive 7-0-2 record to go along with a 1.78 goals-against-average this season. Even if the Panthers don’t get a ton of offensive production, they’re still plenty capable of earning a one-goal victory, especially given their track record at home.

Key Trend: The Panthers are 23-4 in their last 27 home games

🏒  Red Wings at Coyotes, Saturday, 8 p.m. | TV: NHL.tv
The Pick: Under 5.5 goals (-120)
: Unless you’re a fan of the Coyotes or Red Wings, you’re probably not all that interested in this matchup. However, there’s definitely money to be made in this interconference showdown. Both the Coyotes and Red Wings rank in the lower half of the league in terms of goals-per-game. The Red Wings average just 2.8 goals-per-game (17th in NHL) while the Coyotes rank dead last with a pedestrian 1.8 goals per contest. 

Aside from Thursday’s overtime loss to the Blue Jackets, the Coyotes have had registered just a grand total of seven goals over their past four games. In 10 of its 17 games this season, Arizona has scored one goal or fewer and have lost every one of those matchups. On the other hand, the Red Wings have lost four of their last five games and only found the back of the net on seven occasions in their four losses. Simply put, these are two struggling teams that doesn’t exactly light the lamp with regularity. 

Key Trend: The under is 7-3 in the Coyotes’ last 10 games

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