Kicking off the Cup Playoffs
Pittsburgh Penguins v. Columbus Blue Jackets (@PPG Paints Arena; Pittsburgh, PA)
The Pittsburgh Penguins coming off of a cup win last year show no signs of slowing down as they continued their dominance this season, especially at home. Posting a (31-6-4) home record this season they trailed the Caps by one game in terms of best team at home. With Columbus winning 16 straight games this season it is clear to see how good (but not great) they are as a team. With a 16 game win streak there is no reason to not win the Presidents cup. Coming into the playoffs Columbus has been shaky looking (3-5-2) in their last 10 and that is something that will not suffice when facing arguably the strongest offense in the league. This Pittsburgh side will pump in goals. Backed by 22 year old Matt Murray – who stepped up big time in the cup last year – the Penguins will come out hot and win this one for the home town crowd. With a line like this its incredibly easy to double down on game 2 in worst case scenario.
PICK: Pittsburgh Penguins to win in regulation. (+105)
1….2….3 in a row I say?
Toronto Maple Leafs v. Tampa Bay Lightning (@Air Canada Centre; Toronto, Ontario)
Toronto is looking hotter than ever and is looking at this one as a must win to clinch a playoff berth and target the last 2 games as a way to move up to a potential 2 seed in the Atlantic division. With the young talent of Nylander, Matthews and Marner this team looks fresh and energetic every game. The Leafs are (7-2-1) in their last 10 while the lightning have been (5-4-1) in their last 10. The last time these two met on March 16th the Leafs won 5-0; Vasilevskiy was yanked after allowing 4 goals on 15 shots while Andersen posted a 33 save shutout. Vasilevskiy will be in net for the Lightning and he has been all but good on the road with a (7-8-3) record. On the other end of the ice Frederik Andersen has been red hot since the beginning of March posting a (9-1-2) record with a .923 save percentage. Playoff atmosphere will be intense for a Toronto home town who hasn’t seen their beloved Leafs in the playoffs since 2013. Roll with the young guns with their first taste of serious playoff atmosphere to pull ahead of Tampa Bay and win this one.
PICK: Toronto Maple Leafs to win in regulation. (+110)
Let’s get a streak going here heading into playoffs.
Washington Capitals v. New York Rangers (@Verizon Center; Washington, D.C.)
With 3 games left on the schedule for each team and playoffs on the horizon the Caps see themselves in a very familiar situation they were last year. Caps get the chance to Clinch the President’s Trophy tonight at home for a second year in a row. Vigneault’s recent announcement that the Rags will be resting players to fix some health issues heading into the post-season leaves the New York side without McDonagh, Nash, Zuccarello, Fast and “other defensemen”. The Caps being the best team in the NHL, captained by Ovechkin (who I would consider the most competitive minded player in the NHL) see blood here. Lundqvist will start tonight and has been (1-1-2) since his hip injury. Caps are (8-1-1) in their last 10 comparing to the Rags abysmal (3-3-4). Look for a strong minded and incredibly talented Capitals team backed by last years’ Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby to clinch tonight.
PICK: Washington Capitals to win in regulation. (-120)
Boston Bruins v. Tampa Bay Lightning (@TD Garden; Boston, MA)
With the season winding down quickly and the playoff race in full effect the Bruins have answered the call pulling off 5 straight wins and letting up an impressive (1.20 GA/G) while averaging (3.20 GF/G) in that stretch. With the Biggest game of the season on their schedule tonight they could solidify their second spot in the wild card tonight by making the point gap between themselves and the Lightning 6 points which would leave Tampa 6 points out with 3 games left (only a tie would be possible with Boston). Tampa is a mediocre road team (17-15-6 road record) and have ridden on the back of Kucherov to help their playoff hopes even exist. This game will host a playoff atmosphere in a what is sure to be absolutely wild TD Garden lined with Bruins fans. I see a tenured Bruins team toppling over Vasilevskiy and the Lightning and Rask (expected to start) has allowed just three goals in his last three games, all of them wins, and has stopped 75 of 78 shots for a .962 save percentage.
PICK: Boston Bruins to win in regulation. (-105)
Brief Hiatus, pick it back up here with a very familiar team.
Carolina Hurricanes v. Dallas Stars (@PNC Arena; Raleigh, NC)
The Dallas Stars are now officially eliminated from the playoffs, not only does this bring an extremely discouraged team, but also allows us to target the 3rd worst team in the NHL on the road (11-23-5) on a current downward trend (4-5-1 in their last 10 and losing their last 2 in a row). With Carolina making a very strong case lately as to the legitimacy of their playoff contention going (7-0-3) in their last 10 I see no reason as to why they can not absolutely dominate this spineless Dallas side. I may sound like a broken record here but the Canes are once again, phenomenal at home (23-10-5) and in my mind deserve to be in the playoffs based on their play lately. I wouldn’t hesitate to throw the house on the Canes as they look to extend their current win streak to 3 in a row, they have held teams to one goal in 4 of their last 5 games and are having no issue putting the puck in the net.
PICK: Carolina Hurricanes to win in regulation. (Even)
Doubling down on the Canes in another great spot.
Carolina Hurricanes v. Detroit Red Wings (@PNC Arena; Raleigh, NC)
There has not been a team that has played 3 games in 3 nights in the past 14 YEARS of the NHL, and this is the exact situation we see the Red Wings in tonight. This write up is going to be brief because a-lot of the reasons to take the Canes tonight are the same as last night. Re-touching on last nights game the red wings wound up potting 3 of their 4 goals on breakaways and the other one came on the powerplay. The overly eager Canes will tighten it up on D tonight and not allow that, they were lucky to move closer to playoff contention with that point but will not allow another 2 to slip away tonight. They were able to outshoot the Wings 42-27 last night and will absolutely lay it on an even more tired Red Wings team tonight, as previously mentioned they are playing their 3rd game in 3 nights but this will also be their 4th game in 5 nights. Wings looked sluggish last night but ran into some luck, double down on this canes side tonight.
PICK: Carolina Hurricanes to win in regulation. (-120)
USA v. Panama (Estadio Rommel Fernández, Panama City, Panama)
After watching the USA romp a Honduras team 6-0 in new coach Bruce Arena’s first competition of his second stint as head coach of the US side it is apparent that the US has gained some momentum in the change. With Dempsey back and putting up a break out 3 goal game since the heart issue we have a ton of attacking power to look forward to with the accompanying magic of Christian Pulisic. Pulisic has been a wizard in the midfield linking perfectly timed and touched passes. With Dempsey and Altidore up front as a perfect balance of power and finesse backed by the extremely solid midfield of Nagbe, Pulisic, Jones and Bradley there should be no reason why the USA’s talents can shine here in what will be a statement game for the American side. Feel great about the Red, White and Blue here as they are much more solid than this Panama side and backed by the great Tim Howard.
PICK: USA to win. (+130)
Keeping the streak alive tonight with the Canes.
Carolina Hurricanes v. Detroit Red Wings (@PNC Arena; Raleigh, NC)
Coming into this game the Hurricanes have proven red hot (7-0-3) in their last 10 and riding a 3 game win streak. Not only have they been hot lately, but all season they have dominated teams at home (21-10-4). With Detroit playing their 3rd game in 4 days and barely squeaking out a 3-2 win last night racking up 13 giveaways and only 19 SOG v. Minnesota (who has been struggling tremendously lately and Dubnyk has looked awful). In the Wings last 10 theyve been (5-4-1) and have a (15-16-6) road record on the season. Carolina still has playoff hopes and NEEDS wins like these at home to keep that hope alive and well. Also, tired teams take more penalties, which is a great thing when facing a Detroit team who is letting up an astronomical (3.24 GA/G) away from the Joe. Now for goaltending – Lack allowed one goal on 27 shots in the Hurricanes’ win in New Jersey on Saturday. Lack has been great recently, winning four straight starts with a 1.25 GAA and .954 SV%. He will look to extend his winning streak to five tonight vs. the Red Wings (Via. Chip Alexander – newsobserver.com). The Red Wings goalie rotation will continue with Mrazek going tonight in Carolina. He has lost his last two starts despite stopping 58 of 62 shots (.935 SV%) (Via. Ansar Khan – MLive.com).
PICK: Carolina Hurricanes to win in regulation. (-115)