Burke: Handicapping before the All-Star Break


There are five games in the NHL tonight and then the league’s best players will head to Las Vegas for the All-Star festivities. We’ll have a similar situation in the NBA on Feb. 17 in advance of the ASG in Cleveland. As a native Clevelander, I love my city, but I think I’d be a lot more excited about going to Las Vegas for the exhibition game.

In any event, betting on a team’s last game prior to the Break can be tricky. Some teams have completely checked out, as the prospects of a few days off are extremely important during a long season. Other teams, typically veteran teams, will use this opportunity to try and steal two points or a win.


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Long breaks are hard to find in these daily winter sports. Of course, COVID has sort of changed that, but, in the case of the NHL, specifically, those games will be made up during what was supposed to be the Olympic Break.

I generally tread lightly before All-Star festivities in the NBA, NHL and MLB, simply because it’s hard to know which teams will still be invested and engaged and which players will be halfway to the beach.

Tonight in the NHL, for example, you have an Arizona team that ended Colorado’s winning streak last night. The Coyotes face the Flames tonight, a veteran team in the thick of the playoff hunt. Arizona, meanwhile, has won just 11 games. My read on the situation would be that Calgary wants two “gimme” points against a terrible team and Arizona will feel satisfied with a feel-good win over Colorado.

Minnesota has won five in a row and eight of 10 going into the game against the Blackhawks. The idea of riding a league-high six-game winning streak into the Break has to be a motivating factor for the Wild. The Blackhawks, meanwhile, have had a tumultuous season both on and off the ice. They’ve also lost six of seven. I’d expect Minnesota to get the victory tonight.

A team like Edmonton, that has had so many ups and downs this season, should be plenty engaged against the Capitals. Whether or not the Oilers win, we should get a pretty strong effort.

These situational angles are pretty rare, given that the All-Star Break only happens once per season, but give it some serious thought for the upcoming NBA game and future events.