HNIC Coast To Coast: Slafkovsky Heating Up As Habs Take On Capitals

Welcome back to HNIC Coast To Coast, as, like we do every Friday, we take a glance at all of the Canadian National Hockey League action on the schedule for the weekend. While it’ll be a quiet Sunday, all seven teams are in action on Saturday, with several fun matchups. Let’s zoom in on the games at hand!

7:00 p.m. ET HNIC Matchup: Washington Capitals @ Montreal Canadiens

If you were hovering around social media at the early stages of this season, and you weren’t from Montreal, the name Juraj Slafkovsky probably drove you pretty mad for a stretch. The polarizing 2022 first-overall pick has taken a somewhat slow burn to NHL acclimation, and the debates about his long-term future led to a lot of over-justification. Too many times would you see him in the news cycle, and it would be along the lines of “look at this nice pass in a 0 point, 0 shot effort”.

Well, that time is no more, as Slafkovsky is starting to genuinely deliver in a big way. The 19-year-old has found his groove on the Canadiens top line, and since December 16th he’s put together 10 goals and 12 assists in 25 games. Part of this is Montreal loading him up with Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki on their top line, but it still takes talent to keep up in those situations, especially on a weaker team where a loaded line becomes the main matchup. Suzuki and Caufield are also on nice runs, and they’ve kept things exciting in a building year. A loss against the Rangers on Thursday puts them at two games under 0.500, leaving their streak of never going above or below two games of the middle line in danger in this game.

On the other side, the Capitals continue to be middling themselves, and eight losses in their past nine haven’t helped. What has been positive for them is that Alex Ovechkin seems to have rediscovered his touch, finding the back of the net in six consecutive games. The Great 8 had what was easily his worst first half of a season in his career, leaving some wondering about his pursuit of goal #895, but if what he’s cooked up lately is any indication, he might find a gear just yet. The Habs will have to keep an eye on his spot on Saturday.

Bet on Capitals vs. Canadiens

WSH -120
MTL +100

10:00 p.m. ET HNIC Headliner: Winnipeg Jets @ Vancouver Canucks

Our lone Canada-on-Canada matchup of the weekend includes two teams that seemingly loaded up against each other in the past couple of weeks, with the Jets acquiring Sean Monahan from Montreal on February 2nd, a day after Vancouver acquired Elias Lindholm from Calgary.

The two teams have seen pretty different results out of the players so far. Monahan, who appeared to be having a slight resurgence in Montreal over the past season and change, is currently pointless through four games, though his underlying shot shares give more reason for optimism. Lindholm, who was having the coldest finishing season of his career in Calgary, has learned the magic of being a Vancouver Canuck and has scored four goals in six games, converting on 31% of his shots.

Winnipeg enters this game with back-to-back wins but an anemic offence – since December 20th they’ve scored just nine goals in eight games and gone 3-4-1 along the way. Vancouver has won three in a row, including a 4-1 win over Detroit last night where Nikita Zadorov was the star. While he was pointless on the stat sheet, Zadorov won a lot of people’s hearts earlier in the day by admitting he messed up and deserved his suspension for his hit on Lucas Raymond in the two teams’ previous game, and then won the rest of the crowd over by responding to Jake Walman’s “Griddy” celebration in that same game in the best way- by hitting him back with one, albeit crudely.

Bet on Canucks vs. Oilers

WPG +105
VAN -125

Other Canadian NHL Games On Saturday

There are four other games in Canadian NHL action on Saturday:

Ottawa Senators @ Chicago Blackhawks, 3:00 p.m. ET – This is a tale of two lower-standings teams looking to shake off rough nights. On Ottawa’s end, they had a terrible night at the office against the Anaheim Ducks, who scored their first goal ten minutes in and kept the Senators quiet until the third period. While the Sens would press and Claude Giroux would get them on the board, the game was never really in doubt and Ottawa’s four-game win streak was snapped.

For Chicago, they got some great news earlier on Thursday when they found out that Connor Bedard was ready to return from a jaw injury that kept him out for over a month, but the rookie phenom wasn’t enough against the Penguins, who bounced them for an easy 4-1 result. This should be a good response opportunity for Ottawa, but given that Chicago swept them in their season series last year, nothing is guaranteed.

Edmonton Oilers @ Dallas Stars, 3:00 p.m. ET – After a run of being unbeatable, the Oilers have proven to be somewhat human in the past week or so, trading wins and losses with their opponents. On Saturday, they’ll be trying to shake off defeat, following a stinger of a 6-3 defeat to the St. Louis Blues, who put Thursday’s game out of reach with four unanswered goals in the second period. Dallas comes in as victors of seven of their last eight, including a 9-2 thrashing of the Predators on Thursday.

Detroit Red Wings @ Calgary Flames, 4:00 p.m. ET – Similar to Ottawa/Chicago, this game features two teams licking the wounds of recent losing spells. For Detroit, their Northwest road trip has not gone as hoped, with the Oilers routing them on Tuesday and the Canucks comfortably beating them on Thursday. With this game and a finale against Seattle on Monday ahead of them, they’d like to pull as many points as possible.

Calgary is coming off a reasonable loss to the Rangers and a less reasonable one to the Sharks, as we wait to see if Jacob Markstrom might be the next big Flames piece on the trade list. On the plus side, Andrei Kuzmenko scored his third goal in five games last night, adding some value to their end of the Lindholm trade.

Anaheim Ducks @ Toronto Maple Leafs, 7:00 p.m. ET – Both of these teams had a good time in Ontario on Thursday night, with the Ducks blowing out the Senators in their aforementioned 5-1 effort, while the Leafs rode an Auston Matthews natural hat trick to a 4-3 overtime victory over the Flyers. Head back to CSB on Saturday for our extended preview of this game!

Away TeamHome TeamTime (ET)
Ottawa Senators-185+165Chicago Blackhawks3:00 PM
Edmonton Oilers-105-115Dallas Stars3:00 PM
Detroit Red Wings+105-125Calgary Flames4:00 PM
Anaheim Ducks+270+340Toronto Maple Leafs7:00 PM
Washington Capitals-120+100Montreal Canadiens7:00 PM
Winnipeg Jets+105-125Vancouver Canucks10:00 PM
All Odds Courtesy of bet365 Sportsbook Ontario

Sunday Canadian NHL Action

There is just no Canadian NHL action on the NHL schedule this Sunday. What might interest you, if you still want something to tune into, is Rangers and Islanders on Sportsnet at 3:00 PM. They’ll be playing one of two Stadium Series games at MetLife stadium (the other being Philadelphia/New Jersey on Saturday), and Sportsnet will be broadcasting it nationally in Canada.

Away TeamHome TeamTime (ET)
New York RangersTBDTBDNew York Islanders7:00 PM
All Odds Courtesy of bet365 Sportsbook Ontario