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)
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)
Nashville Predators v. San Jose Sharks (@Bridgestone Arena; Nashville, TN)
With San Jose on the end of a really long road-trip and riding a 5 game losing streak, this seems like a very winnable game for the Predators. Nashville is (22-8-7) at home, (5-3-2) in their last 10 while on a 2 game home winning streak and holding a hot Calgary side to one goal in their last competition. The Sharks haven’t only looked bad, but have been out-shot horribly in their last 2 and I just find it hard to see them getting it together and finding an answer tonight. San Jose has been (4-6-0) in their last 10 with a previously mentioned 5 game losing streak hindering them right now. In the last meeting with San Jose at home the Predators were able to stick it to them 3-1. Pekka Rinne is 3-0-0 with a 0.99 GAA and .959 SV% in his past three starts (Via. Adam Vingan – Tennessean) and has looked near impossible to put one past lately. With Nashville tied in points with St. Louis they are eyeing down this game as a way to get themselves out of the wild card and in the 3 spot of the Central Division. Not to forget, Martin Jones posted a sub .900 save percentage last game. This Sharks team is lost. Roll Preds.
PICK: Nashville Predators to win in regulation. (+115)
Ottawa Senators v. Boston Bruins (@TD Garden; Boston, MA)
Being able to target the Senators in regulation with a line as incredible as this one (+215) v. a team on a back-to-back using the SAME goalie as they did last night is a great position. Both teams haven’t been playing well, Boston has dropped their last 2 while being 6-4-0 in their last 10 while Ottawa has been 6-2-2 in their last tine while dropping their last 4 in a row. Despite that small piece, Ottawa has been great away this year (5th best in NHL and have more road wins – 20 – compared to home – 19-). After watching the Bruins struggle to score v. Toronto last night, I doubt they’ll have an easier time putting up numbers against a much better Ottawa defense that is known to play the trap when they get a lead. Boston will have to travel from Toronto and be ready to play tonight while Ottawa is looking at this great opportunity to distance themselves from Boston while putting themselves within 2 points of Montreal’s number 1 spot in the Atlantic Division. And now the goaltending match-up – Rask is 3-4-0 with a 2.68 GAA and .904 SV% in March. The 30-year-old is 0-2-0 with a 3.07 GAA and .889 SV% in his first two starts against Ottawa. (via. Joe Haggerty – CSN). Anderson for Ottawa has gone 2-0-0 with a 1.50 GAA and .936 SV% in two starts vs. Boston this season (via. Bruce Garrioch – TSN).
PICK: Ottawa Senators win in regulation. (+215)
*POTENTIAL LATER WRITE UP DEPENDING ON GOALTENDING MATCH-UP IN WILD/SHARKS GAME*