With three weeks remaining in the regular season, I think both Drew Claussen and I have decent chances of breaking even with our picks. Drew’s chances are better than mine as I tend to fade at the end.
Drew: 5-1-0 (.833)
Paula: 5-1-0 (.833)
Drew: 71-44-14 (.605)
Paula: 72-43-14 (.612)
Four teams renew old rivalries and Penn State has a chance to make some progress. All series are single site, Friday-Saturday, and all times are local.
Michigan at No. 12 Ohio State
Drew: I’m sure both Red Berenson and Steve Rohlik hope that their teams don’t close February the same way they opened the month. These two teams split that two-game series at Yost Ice Arena and combined to score 20 goals. This series may not hit a number that high, but I doubt it’ll be a defensive struggle; neither team really operates that way. I say Ohio State sweeps on home ice.
Paula: Michigan lost two on the road to Wisconsin last weekend, giving up three third-period goals in each game. Ohio State took a pair of one-goal games from Michigan State on the road. The Buckeyes are third in the Big Ten standings, seven points behind second-place Wisconsin but an important single point ahead of Penn State. The bigger picture, though, is the PairWise Rankings. Sitting at 13th in the PWR, the Buckeyes cannot afford to drop these games to Michigan. If they do, they’ll likely have to win the B1G playoff title to get to the NCAA tournament. Friday’s game begins at 7:05 p.m. and Saturday’s at 5:05. The Big Ten Network has Saturday’s contest.
Drew’s picks: Ohio State 4-3, 5-2.
Paula’s picks: Ohio State 5-4, 5-4.
No. 11 Penn State at Michigan State
Drew: Even with home-ice advantage, I don’t like Michigan State against a team that shoots the puck as much as Penn State does. To steal a win the Spartans are probably going to need a 50-save performance from their goaltender. Could it happen? Sure. Am I going to predict it happening? No.
Paula: The Spartans have been this close in many games this season, including in their two home losses to Ohio State last weekend. I have to agree with Drew here, though; the Nittany Lions are capable of overwhelming opponents, and I don’t have any reason to believe that won’t be the case in this series. Penn State swept Michigan State handily at home in mid-January. Like the Buckeyes, the Nittany Lions cannot afford to drop two games this weekend; Penn State is a very uncomfortable No. 11 in the PairWise Rankings. Games begin at 7:05 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights. The Big Ten Network will have Friday’s game.
Drew’s picks: Penn State 5-2, 4-1.
Paula’s picks: Penn State 4-2, 4-2.
No. 19 Wisconsin at No. 4 Minnesota
Drew: Maybe I’m just being hopeful, but this series looks like it has the potential to be really good. A sweep by either team would, obviously, be huge and a split means that the title race lives on. Minnesota is the rightful favorite to capture the regular-season crown, once again, due to the fact that its three-point lead is coupled with the Gophers’ four remaining games; after the Badgers, Minnesota plays two teams that have won a combined four conference games. I’ll predict a split with Wisconsin winning on Friday and the Gophers returning the favor on Saturday.
Paula: These teams split a pair of games a month ago in Madison, with Minnesota winning in overtime the first night. With 33 points, Minnesota is three points ahead of Wisconsin in the B1G standings. The Badgers are at No. 20 in the PairWise and the Gophers at No. 4; losses to Wisconsin wouldn’t knock Minnesota out of the tournament, but the Gophers are in a good position to play themselves to a No. 1 seed. This is going to be an unpopular pick among Badgers fans, but I’m going for the Minnesota sweep. Games are at 7:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and both are carried by Fox Sports North Plus and Fox Sports Wisconsin Alternative.
Drew’s picks: Wisconsin 5-3, Minnesota 5-2.
Paula’s picks: Minnesota 4-3, 4-3.
You can follow Drew (@drewclaussen) and me (@paulacweston) on Twitter. I am not sure who’s tweeting from a Big Ten game Saturday, but I’ll be at Munn Ice Arena Friday for the Penn State-Michigan State game.