March 20, 2023
Three suggestions for early-in-the-week action
Florida Panthers at Detroit Red Wings
Little Caesars Arena – Detroit, MI
7:00 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Florida -190
Florida is 6-1-1 over its last eight games, as the Panthers try to scratch and claw for a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Last year’s Presidents’ Trophy winner sits with 77 points on the season with just 13 games to go, one point back of the Penguins for the final playoff spot.
But they’re playing good hockey of late, as they make a run toward the postseason. The Panthers’ current hot streak includes a nine-goal outburst against the Canadiens and wins over Tampa Bay, Vegas and New Jersey, all Stanley Cup contenders this year.
Plus, they’ve had Detroit’s number this season, taking care of the Red Wings 5-1 in their first meeting and 3-2 in their second. They’ll look for the season sweep against a Detroit team that has completely fallen out of the playoff picture thanks to a brutal stretch.
The Red Wings are just 2-8-1 over their last 11 games, including losses by scores of 3-0, 6-2, 6-1, 4-1 and 5-1. Not only are they getting beat, they’re getting blown out.
This is a complete no-brainer, as one team is playing with supreme confidence and the other is eyeing their April tee times. You can pick Florida with confidence.
Norm LaChatlier’s pick: Florida M/L (-190)
Chicago Blackhawks at Colorado Avalanche
Ball Arena – Denver, CO
9:00 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Colorado -455
It appears a sleeping giant has woken up. As a result, the rest of the Western Conference should be very afraid of Colorado.
The defending champions have battled injuries most of the season, but having Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar and Mikko Rantanen still makes them a massive threat. That’s what happens when you have three of the 10 best players in the world on your team.
The Avs are on a five-game winning streak, returning to Ball Arena after a perfect 4-0-0 road trip where they captured all eight points. Colorado scored 20 goals on the swing to Canada and then Detroit, including eight in Montreal and five each against the Senators and Red Wings.
They’re just three points back of Dallas for the lead in the Central Division and have two games in hand. If the Avalanche keep winning, they control their own destiny for another division title.
There’s no reason to think they’ll not only beat the Blackhawks, but they’ll beat them big. Chicago has just 54 points, which is second to last in the West, ahead of only the hapless Sharks. They’ve skated off losers in eight of their last 11 games, dropping six of those by at least two goals.
In the two teams only meeting in Denver so far this year, back on opening night, the Avs won 5-2. Expect a similar result and -1.5 cover on Monday.
Norm LaChatlier’s pick: Colorado -1.5 (-175)
Chicago Bulls at Philadelphia 76ers
Wells Fargo Center – Philadelphia, PA
7:00 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Philadelphia -8.0
Philadelphia is on fire right now. They’re clearly the hottest team in the NBA as they surge up the Eastern Conference standings.
The 76ers have won eight games in a row, passing the Celtics for the No. 2 seed in the East. They’re right on the heels of the Bucks for the No. 1 seed and best record in the NBA.
Philly’s gone from 40-22 to 48-22 during this stretch, and while the first four victories were mostly close games, the last four have been anything but. They’re not just beating teams, they’re blowing them out of the building, hence why a single-digit spread is tempting.
They defeated the Pacers by 20, the Hornets by 39 and the Wizards by 19 over the last eight days. Joel Embiid is playing like a man possessed, scoring at least 30 points in nine straight games. There’s a reason he’s passed Nuggets center Nikola Jokic as the NBA MVP favorite, as his team excels, and he’s raised his individual play to a ridiculous level.
Meanwhile, Chicago is just 13-21 on the road this season as they battle like crazy to secure a spot in the play-in tournament. They’re currently the No. 10 seed in the East, trying to hold off the likes of Indiana and Washington.
They won’t be able to pad their lead on Monday night, as the Bulls become the latest victims of the 76ers not only winning but winning big. Philadelphia covers this spread with no issues.
Jason Schlefsky’s pick: Philadelphia -8.0 (-110)
Today’s best packaged deal
- Golden State Warriors M/L -500
- New York Knicks M/L -330
- Philadelphia 76ers M/L -280
Jason Schlefsky’s Three-Leg Parlay = +112
It’s not a swing-for-the-fences move, but it’s a good, conservative way to start off the week. Take the three biggest favorites in the NBA tonight, bundle them together as moneyline winners. The result is a positive number, which is the perfect way to get things rolling on a good note on a Monday night.
Three Things We Learned…
Takeaways from a weekend full of great games and performances
Tom Izzo owns March
It certainly didn’t feel like Michigan State had anything special brewing this season. They entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 7 seed, with many expecting the Spartans to lose their opening-round game to USC. But here they are, once again in the Sweet 16. This is the 15th time Tom Izzo has led his team to the second weekend of the tourney. And they have a great chance to continue their march through March. MSU plays No. 3-seeded Kansas State in the next round, with the Tennessee-FAU winner looming in the Elite Eight. Not a No. 1 seed in sight for the Spartans to overcome.
For the third-consecutive year, a No. 15 seed has advanced to the Sweet 16. This time around, it’s Princeton, as the Tigers upset No. 2 Arizona and No. 7 Missouri to keep their season alive. Can they continue their run? They play No. 6 Creighton next, which is a winnable game. But on the horizon, a showdown with No. 1 Alabama looms. The clock is going to strike midnight soon, but the Tigers have been a fun story, nonetheless.
The Next Domino to Fall?
Wide receiver has been a fascinating position to watch during free agency. Teams have been jockeying for pass catchers, as it’s been a wideout brand of musical chairs this offseason. The latest move saw Brandin Cooks being traded from the Texans to the Cowboys. That could lay the groundwork for the next big move, as DeAndre Hopkins getting shipped out of Arizona seems like a logical follow up to that transaction. The 30-year-old receiver will be a hot commodity, but will he fetch more than the fifth- and sixth-round picks that Houston got for Cooks?