Jeff Hochman of JH-Sportsline is a four-time documented NHL Handicapping Champion. Jeff has just released his 2012-13 NHL Western Conference Spotlight team along with his Spotlight Game. Sign up for Jeff's NHL Full-Season Package at this website for a huge discount due to the shortened season.
2012-13 NHL Western Conference Spotlight Team
(2011-12 record: 35-36-11, 81 points)
The Minnesota Wild had the league's best record after 30 games last season. The Wild ultimately succumbed to numerous injures causing their lack of depth to catch up with them. That should not be a problem in this shortened season. With the notable off-season signings of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, the Wild made the biggest splash of the Summer in the free agency market. The two talented players will provide much-needed offense to the goal-starved Wild. Minnesota was ranked dead last in goals scored last season (177), but the defending Stanley Cup Champions LA Kings only scored 194 goals, which ranked 29th. Defense wins Hockey games and the Wild should be much improved on the blue-line. Ryan Suter’s presence will solidify a young defense including Tom Gilbert, Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella. In net, Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding are one of the best goalie tandems in the league. Backstrom has a solid 160-109-42 record with a 2.42 GAA and .918 save percentage in his career. Harding started 30 of the 82 games last season and produced a respectable 13-12-4 W/L/OL record with a 2.62 GAA, and .917 save percentage. Both Goalies will benefit from a much-improved team playing in front of them.
I would also expect a big improvement on special teams as the Wild ranked 27th in Power Play percentage and a respectable 15th in Penalty Kill. The arrival of talented prospect Mikael Granlund to the existing group of Mikko Koivu, Matt Cullen, and Devin Setoguchi will give the Wild two good scoring lines. Granlund will begin the season on the second line with Matt Cullen and Devin Setoguchi. It looks like the ninth overall pick in the 2010 draft will get power play time right away in his rookie season. Don't forget about Dany Heatley, who played in all 82 games last season. Heatley had 24 goals, 29 helpers, good for 53 points. He has played 80 or more games in 6 out of the past 7 years and is primed for huge season. This team will more than likely start a bit slow as the new players get familiar with one another. Mike Yeo is a great coach for this team and should have them dialed-IN by the end of February. I am higher on this team than most and will predict a playoff spot from the 7th seed out West. There is a tremendous vibe in the Twin Cities about this team. If they can stay healthy, the Wild might do better than the 7th seed. The Wild have a plethora of young talent in the farm system and the future seems bright for seasons to come.
Spotlight Game: Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild (Saturday, Jan. 19th, 2013)
Take Minnesota Wild @ -140 or less on Opening Night
The last time the Wild played the Avs, Minny allowed 7 goals near the end of the 2011-12 regular season. I think the Wild will come out strong in this first game at home against a talented, but hobbled Avs team.
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