PHT Oddsmaker: Let’s gamble on the NHL


PHT Oddsmaker will be a regular feature where we set pretend odds and pretend to gamble on them. If you’d like to bet real money, meet us in the alley and we’ll talk.

Odds the Maple Leafs make the playoffs (-125)

It’s rather amazing when you think about it. The richest team in the NHL, playing in the world’s largest hockey market, and it hasn’t hosted a postseason game since May 4, 2004. Will the drought finally end this spring? The Leafs got off to a great start, compiling a record of 9-3-1 in their first 13 games. Since then, however, they’ve gone 7-8-2. To be fair, James Reimer’s concussion (or whatever he had) didn’t help. But Toronto’s still sunk considerably in the standings. Today the Leafs are just two points clear of eighth place in the Eastern Conference. If Philly, Boston, Pittsburgh and NY Rangers are locks to make the playoffs, it leaves Toronto, Florida, Buffalo, Washington, New Jersey, Montreal, Winnipeg and Ottawa to battle for the last four spots. (Prove me wrong, Tampa Bay.) I like the Panthers, Sabres, Capitals and Devils out of that group, so I’ll pass on this one.

Odds Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard wins the Vezina (+200)

He’s got to be the current favorite. Howard is 18-6-1 with a 1.82 goals-against average and .932 save percentage. The reason I didn’t make his odds shorter is the competition he’s facing. Tim Thomas, Henrik Lundqvist, Marc-Andre Fleury, Pekka Rinne, Niklas Backstrom, Nikolai Khabibulin and Jonathan Quick are all in the mix. Still, I like this bet. Howard should play over 60 games if he stays healthy, he’s got a good team in front of him, and being left off the all-star ballot is textbook bulletin-board material.

Total Drew Doughty points this season (Over/under 35.5)

He only has eight points now, so to hit the over he’d have to score 28 in the Kings’ remaining 52 games. Which really doesn’t sound too hard for a guy with his sort of talent. Except Doughty’s production has been trending downward since 2009-10 when he finished with 59 points. From the beginning of last season to now, he’s averaged .48 points per game, a pace that would leave him with 33 at the end of 2011-12. Put me down for the over though. I’ve got faith he’ll pick it up. A defenseman’s point total is highly dependent on the production of the forwards, and the Kings can only improve offensively.

Video: Ryan Suter doesn’t seem very happy with his coach


As you can see in the video, apparently Ryan Suter doesn’t like being paired with fellow lefty Jonas Brodin.

The Wild defenseman rather openly questioned the coaching staff’s decision-making today after practice.

“Yeah, I don’t know what they’re thinking,” said Suter. “I need to play with a right-handed defenseman. To give me more options. Neutral zone. Offensively. And even coming out of the D zone, it’s not fair to put a guy on his off side.”

Suter didn’t know if the pairings were just for practice or not. The Wild play tomorrow in Chicago. Minnesota has just one win in its last seven games.

Suter also had something to say about that.

“It does no good to pout and get pissed off at each other,” said Suter. “You’ve got to come together and dig out of this. Now’s when you need leadership more than ever. It’s easy to be a coach and a leader when things are going good.”

Yeo, by the way, has not been very happy with the Wild lately.  In fact, one could go so far as to say he’s been acting pretty “pissed off.”

For example, at today’s practice:

The Star Tribune has more on what went down today.

Yeo, you may recall, went a little “nuts” during a Wild practice last season.

Goalie nods: Sparks to make NHL debut for Leafs

Garett Sparks
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We already knew this yesterday, but in case you missed it, Garret Sparks will make his NHL debut in goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight against Edmonton.

Sparks, 22, has been excellent in the AHL this season, going 8-2-1 with a .938 save percentage. He spent most of last season in the ECHL, where he also posted good numbers.

Sparks is getting the nod tonight because James Reimer is hurt and Jonathan Bernier has been struggling badly.

“He’s got an opportunity like lots of kids have had before him and it’s up to him to grab it,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said, per NHL.com. “He’s got the [second-best] save percentage in the AHL and he’s winning all the time down there. Obviously we’re in need of some saves and we’ll have to play well in front of him for sure. But it’s an opportunity for him.”

Bernier, meanwhile, will have to sit and watch. The 27-year-old has allowed at least four goals in four of his last five starts. His save percentage has fallen all the way to .888.

Anders Nilsson will be in net for the Oilers.


Cam Ward for the Hurricanes. Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers, who will try not to rely on him so much.

Semyon Varlamov for the Avs. Thomas Greiss for the Isles.

— The Canucks aren’t saying if it’ll be Ryan Miller of Jacob Markstrom. For the Ducks, it’ll be John Gibson.

Vigneault: ‘After three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention’

Alain Vigneault
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Alain Vigneault has maintained for much of the season that the New York Rangers needed to play better.

The head coach said it a week ago, after the Blueshirts had beaten the Predators, 3-0, despite getting outshot, 31-19.

He’d said it a couple of weeks before that, after they’d beaten the Hurricanes in very similar fashion. (Final score: 3-0. Shots: 33-23 for Carolina.)

But as long as the Rangers kept winning, it was tough, according to Vigneault, to get the message across.

“Sometimes, the results might be going your way, so when you’re pointing out certain things, it might be a little bit more challenging for them to understand because the results are so positive,” Vigneault said, per the New York Post.

“But after three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention.”

Derek Stepan‘s injury — he’ll miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs — has no doubt captured their attention as well. (Oscar Lindberg will center Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast tonight at home to Carolina.)

The Rangers also play Wednesday, in Brooklyn against the Islanders (on NBCSN).

Benn, Holtby and Galchenyuk are NHL’s three stars of the week

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Stars winger Jamie Benn, Capitals goalie Braden Holtby and Canadiens center Alex Galchenyuk have been named the NHL’s three stars for the past week.

From NHL.com:

Benn shared the League lead in goals (4) and points (6) as the Stars (19-5-0, 38 points) won two of three games to continue their best start to a season in the franchise’s 48-year history.

Holtby posted a 4-0-0 record with a 1.75 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and one shutout to backstop the Capitals (17-5-1, 35 points) to the top of the Metropolitan Division standings.

Galchenyuk tied for first in the NHL with four goals and added one assist to help the Canadiens (18-4-3, 39 points) earn five of a possible six points and reclaim first place in the League standings.

As much as the injuries to Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher have been frustrating for the Canadiens, those are short-term issues that should be forgotten soon enough. Galchenyuk’s play, in contrast, is reason for long-term optimism. The 21-year-old is trending towards becoming the elite No. 1 center the Habs have needed so badly. He’s not there yet, but when’s all said and done, he could turn out to be the best forward (or player, period) taken in the 2012 draft.