There are four games on tap for tonight. Let’s take a look at the top NHL playoff predictions.
|Senators vs Bruins
ML +145 / -165
|Capitals vs Maple Leafs
ML -145 / +125
|Blackhawks vs Predators
ML -110 / -110
|Ducks vs Flames
ML +105 / -135
Here are tonight’s starting goaltenders, courtesy of LeftWingLock.
Senators vs Bruins: Ottawa had one of the most admirable turnarounds in the playoffs so far Saturday afternoon. Clarke MacArthur scored to get things rocking and rolling. But the Bruins struck back hard and took a 3-1 lead in the second period. The building was dead. The NBC broadcasting crew commented that the Senators’ bench looked deflated. The intermission arrived, and things seemed generally lifeless.
But 5:28 into the third period, Chris Wideman got Ottawa back in the game. Two minutes later, Erik Karlsson weaved magic in the offensive zone and found a wide-open Derick Brassard. Just like that, the game was tied.
Overtime lasted less than two minutes. Dion Phaneuf blasted home a one-timer from the blueline. Game over, series tied. Phaneuf made up for him and Cody Ceci being pretty terrible through 40 minutes of regulation.
Traffic in front of Tuukka Rask was the plan in Game 2 for the Sens. On the game-winner, Alex Burrows has planted himself right in front of Rask, and has drawn Brad Marchand to him for good measure. Rask still is able to read the shot trajectory a bit, but is never truly squared to the shot.
On Wideman’s goal that got the Senators back in the game, it is rookie Charlie McAvoy who cuts in front of Rask. Zack Smith is in the vicinity, but is not lined up to obscure Rask’s vision. McAvoy, in his eagerness to clear the crease, completely screens his own goaltender and the shot finds twine.
Steve Valiquette mentioned during his Clear Sight Analytics conference that whenever a goalie’s own defenseman screens him, he likely shoots his teammate a death glare. Is that what we can call this look from Rask?
Yeah, yeah it is.
Ottawa has had a lot of success against the Bruins at the TD Garden. They have won five of their last six in Boston and now seven of their last eight against the Bruins overall. Boston has lost their last four home games against teams with a winning road record. They have not beaten the Senators at home since December of 2015.
The Sens have lost six of their last seven road games, however.
Boston may be even more shorthanded at the blueline than before. Brandon Carlo and Torey Krug were already ruled out at the start of the series, but they lost Colin Miller after Game 1 and Adam McQuaid left Game 2 early with an upper-body injury.
At this point, Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and Charlie McAvoy are all alone. Chara played a half hour of ice time. McAvoy and Miller both played over 27 minutes.
The defense is not the only thing Boston has adjusted. With the absence of David Krecji, David Backes has been bounced down to the second line with Ryan Spooner and Drew Stafford. David Pastrnak will be riding shotgun with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, adding more offense but breaking up what was the best defensive line in hockey. Dom Moore has been added to the third line, bumping down Matt Belesky.
If Ottawa wants to take the series lead, they will need to be a different team. Boston ran roughshod over them in Game 1 and for the majority of Game 2. It was not until the second intermission when Guy Boucher gave his team Mike’s Secret Stuff from “Space Jam” that the Sens started agitating the netminder and making noise with the puck.
Boston will need to capitalize on the home ice. The longer they prolong this series, the worse off they’ll be with their lineup woes. But Ottawa has all the momentum. The high-danger chances have been dead even all series. Eventually, something will give on the blueline.
Prediction: Take the Senators to win. Play the under.
Capitals vs Maple Leafs: When I wrote that the Maple Leafs would force this series to seven games, a few of my friends gave me grief for it. And looking around the NHL mediascape, not many people believed that the Maple Leafs would put up much of a fight in this series. But after holding their own in two games in D.C., it’s clear they came to play.
And a win in Game 3 would make things very interesting indeed.
Toronto holds a narrow edge in the high-danger scoring chance department through two games, 32-27. Though they gave the Capitals ample opportunity to walk away with a win in overtime with their lack of discipline, the Maple Leafs’ fourth line went for work. Kasperi Kapanen, who played in eight regular season games this year, netted two goals including the overtime winner with Matt Martin and Brian Boyle grabbing assists on both goals.
The game winner was an incredible sequence for Brian Boyle. Boyle nearly shot his team in the foot by taking a crucial penalty earlier in overtime, but turned it all around with a no-look behind-the-back pass across the trapezoid onto Kapanen’s stick. What incredible chemistry for a group that spent so little time together.
— ⚠️Guy On The Couch⚠️ (@6SportsGod1) April 16, 2017
Firstly, the Air Canada Centre is going to be electric. Playoff atmospheres are always incredibly cool, but Canadian arenas are unlike any other. Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto…there’s a reason people lamented that hockey is better with Canada in the playoffs last postseason.
And if the Leafs manage to walk away with a win, this series takes a very interesting turn.
Washington has won six of their last seven road games. Toronto has lost their last seven to teams with a winning road record.
But the Maple Leafs have been able to keep up with the Capitals’ skill. In fact, they have done a surprisingly good job of keeping the top lines at bay in 5-on-5. While Frederik Andersen has played a big part in that, it is Jake Gardiner who has been the most impressive player on the ice for the Leafs. Gardiner leads the team in scoring chances for while on the ice (32) and high-danger chances (16).
Leading for the Capitals is amazingly enough Brooks Orpik (30 scoring chances, 12 high-danger).
Can Toronto pull off the improbable? Absolutely. And the line being so against them is very enticing.
Prediction: Take the Maple Leafs to shock the Capitals tonight. Play the over.
Blackhawks vs Predators: Things have not gone well for the Chicago Blackhawks. With 120 minutes having come and gone, the Hawks have scored exactly zero goals. Nashville has cut off access to the high-percentage areas on ice, and are willing to sacrifice shot quantity to do so.
Chicago is third in the postseason in Corsi-for percentage at 53.7%, yet they are tied for fourth-worst in total high-danger chances generated. Jonathan Toews was held shotless in Game 1. Patrick Kane led the way with six shots in the first game, but was held to just three in Game 2. Duncan Keith has one shot per game.
Also, Ryan Hartman did this.
— Cristiano Simonetta (@CMS_74_) April 16, 2017
It was made clear when Matt Calvert only received one game for his mugging of Tom Kuhnhackl that supplemental discipline is out the window this postseason.
Their losing streak is now up to six games.
So it’s been disappointing for the boys in red. The boys in yellow? They’re ecstatic.
Nashville is returning home as conquering heroes, besting the Hawks 5-0 in Game 2. Five different players found the back of the net, but Ryan Johansen had himself a three point night.
There are so many adjustments that the Blackhawks need to make in order to even up the score. They need to get more out of their second pairing on defense, as Johnny Oduya and Brent Seabrook had lead in their skates all game. The powerplay is 0-for-4 and not looking great. Creativity is being sacrificed in the name of “playoff hockey.”
The Hawks have lost five of their last six on the road, but own the second-best visiting record in hockey. Maybe they are just the Western Conference New York Rangers where they can only only win on the road.
At the end of the day, scoring wins hockey games. Chicago will need to find ways to score and score fast. Because they’re the Blackhawks and I simply cannot believe that they will go down 3-0 in the opening round, I’ll be taking them to win. But the line is cheap enough on the Predators to where it is an enticing play.
Prediction: The law of averages says this has to end at some point. Take the Blackhawks to snap the skid tonight. Play the under.
Ducks vs Flames: The Ducks can sleep well at night knowing that even if they lose one of the next two games in Calgary, they are still invincible at the Honda Center.
The Calgary Flames are winless in their last 29 trips to Anaheim. Twenty-nine!
And what’s worse, the Ducks have won five of their last six in Calgary.
Anaheim took the lead with under five minutes remaining in regulation thanks to a Ryan Getzlaf powerplay goal. Dougie Hamilton took the holding the stick penalty that led to the goal. It’s safe to say that many were unhappy with Hamilton’s ill-timed penalty…even those in the broadcast (WARNING: the clip embedded in the tweet is NSFW).
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) April 16, 2017
It’s unclear who exactly is speaking in the audio, but they were picked up by microphones on Sportsnet. At least one person in the conversation sounds like they could be a broadcaster judging by their voice.
The good news is for Calgary that they have played well enough to be optimistic for their first home playoff game. Their losses have been heartbreaking, but they will have lots of life tonight. Even though the Ducks have been the better team, the Flames have enough going for them.
Sam Bennett and Sean Monahan have been two of the best forwards on the ice for the Flames.
Prediction: Take the Flames to win tonight. Play the over.
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