Washington Capitals @ Carolina Hurricanes Free NHL Pick 2/20/12
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There is no doubt that the Capitals have a very talented team that should be in the playoffs without a struggle in the Eastern Conference. Things just haven’t worked really from the get go this year though, and the team is still in the rears of the Florida Panthers atop the very weak Southeast Division. If the playoffs were to start this week, Washington would be a point outside of the second season. With Nicklas Backstrom still nursing a concussion that has kept him out of the fold for quite some time, the Caps really have struggled offensively. They rank just No. 13 in total offense at 2.7 goals per game, and a lot of that is because Alexander Ovechkin only has 45 points, leaving him nowhere near the leaderboard for the top point men in the league. The team has really struggled scoring goals on the road. Three straight road encounters have ended with two goals or fewer, and Washington hasn’t netted more than three goals in a road game since New Year’s Eve (and that came against the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets).
The Hurricanes are still battling in the gutter of the Eastern Conference, but all hope certainly isn’t lost. They are only nine points outside of the playoffs, and though there are plenty of teams that are in front of them before getting to the Toronto Maple Leafs, one good run of 10 games or so could really change the course of the whole season. Carolina has been iffy at home, winning 15 of its 30 games this year and taking 33 of a possible 60 points, but it would be in a lot better shape if it didn’t have to play on the road. The Canes are tied for the fewest road wins in the entire league. Fortunately, this one will play out at the RBC Center in Raleigh, where the Hurricanes have won two straight games. Eric Staal is the obvious leader of this team with his 16 goals and 30 assists, though we do have to mention that he has been behind his own personal curve from recent years as well. A streak of six straight seasons with at least 20 points is in danger. However, Staal has picked up at least one point in five straight games and seven out of eight, and he is playing well during the team’s 4-1-2 mark of late.
Washington Capitals @ Carolina Hurricanes Pick: We just don’t like what the Caps are up to right now, especially on the road. The offense was baffled by the defense of the Tampa Bay Lightning over the weekend, and the Bolts have the worst defense and goaltending in the league bar none. That 10-16-3 mark for Washington this year is going to once again rear its ugly head on Monday night.
Free Hockey Pick: Carolina Hurricanes