There are three games on the schedule tonight. Let’s take a look at our NHL playoff predictions.
|Canadiens vs Rangers
ML -116 / -105
|Penguins vs Blue Jackets
ML -120 / +100
|Oilers vs Sharks
ML +106 / -125
Here are tonight’s starting goaltenders, courtesy of LeftWingLock.
Canadiens vs Rangers: What a difference 17 seconds can make.
The New York Rangers were 17 seconds away from taking a 2-0 lead in the series. Instead, they sat on their hands and allowed the Canadiens to tie things up in regulation. Montreal then carried that momentum to an overtime victory. That energy was then translated into a 3-1 triumph over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden Sunday night. The score may not indicate it, but the game was a blowout by the third period.
So many things have gone wrong for the Rangers. Nick Holden was abysmal in Game 2 being pretty much responsible for all three goals in regulation, so he was benched for Kevin Klein. Klein upped the ante. Within five minutes of play, Klein had three turnovers off botched zone exits. Anyone not named Ryan McDonagh or Brady Skjei has had an abysmal postseason. Brendan Smith was paired with Marc Staal, with whom he had played exactly zero even strength minutes with in the regular season. It showed.
Utilization of the defense has been atrocious. On the MSG Networks postgame show, Steve Valiquette said, “I would play Ryan McDonagh and Brady Skjei 27 to 30 minutes a night, then let the rest of the defense figure it out. Whoever wants to play can play.”
Rick Nash played under 10 minutes after two periods, then doubled his total ice time in the third, finishing with over 18. The lack of balance is nonsensical.
The offense has gone bone-dry, largely because of the defense’s inability to move the puck forward. With forwards having to constantly drop back into defensive coverage and constantly getting pinned for marathon shifts, they need to go for a change by the time they can finally break out. It is as though they have taken a time-warp back to 2013 and become the John Tortorella Rangers.
Creativity has been sacrificed in the name of physicality. Risk-taking has been neutered because of a fear of making a mistake in “playoff hockey.” And the lines and powerplay units are being juggled like a clown at a child’s birthday party.
Pavel Buchnevich skated with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider in practice. That trio dominated the first three games of the regular season before Buchnevich encountered back issues. Nick Holden will re-enter for Kevin Klein.
Montreal has kept a level head on their shoulders and stuck to their gameplan. By overtly taking the body in the first two games of the series, they have scared the Rangers into thinking that is the only way to beat them. This has opened up space for Alex Radulov, Max Pacioretty and Phillip Danault, who evade oncoming checkers with ease then breeze into the zone with the Rangers’ attacker out of position.
Radulov in particular has been a godsend. He has used his remarkable lower-body strength to reek havoc in the attacking zone, and has performed admirably on the backcheck as well.
The Canadiens have poise, tact and coaching on their side. New York has every reason to panic, and they will be in front of an antsy Garden crowd tonight. They have scored three goals in their last six home games in the playoffs. They have allowed 20.
Montreal has to smell blood in the water.
Prediction: Take the Canadiens to win. Play the under.
Penguins vs Blue Jackets: Columbus has persisted, endured, fought, and battled. They have come all this way…
…just to get swept in the postseason.
Yes, I’m calling a sweep tonight. I had previously thought the series would go to seven games. It ends tonight.
And it’s such a shame, because the Blue Jackets really were fun to watch this year. Cam Atkinson emerged as one of the league’s elite goal scorers. Sergei Bobrovsky is going to win his second Vezina Trophy. Zach Werenski had a year worthy of Calder consideration.
But one week against the Pittsburgh Penguins can do real damage. Atkinson had an explosive Game 3 but it was not enough. Bobrovsky has let in some egregiously soft goals and made careless mistakes fielding the puck. Werenski has been ruled out for the season after taking a puck to the face, leaving a grotesque mark (don’t look it up. Seriously).
After a historic year, Columbus will still not have earned a postseason series victory after tonight. And that is criminal.
So long as Pittsburgh keeps up their battle level and stomps on the throat, they will be fine. Believing that they have a sufficient cushion would be suicide against a team as hungry and fiery as the Blue Jackets.
Game 3 began with such promise in Ohio. Atkinson scored just 11 seconds into play. But for every tally the Jackets put up, the Penguins had an answer. And yes, the Jackets did blow a 3-1 lead. Make your Indians/Warriors jokes here.
The first period has been problematic for the Penguins. It’s almost like they feel the need to spot the Jackets a goal or a dozen shots before they decide they should bring the heat. They will need a better start tonight to get the crowd out of the game early.
Sometimes it’s about getting hot or going cold at the right time. The Jackets have now lost nine of their last 10 overall.
Much like his old team in Manhattan, Tortorella is getting badly outcoached and his deployment is mystifying. The injury to Werenski will force him to bring back one of his usual third-pairing defensemen who for whatever reason have spent the series in the press box.
But Kyle Quincy will not make a difference in getting the Penguins out of the low slot, nor will he bring the Jackets to the high-danger areas in the other end.
It’s just a bad time all around.
Prediction: Take the Penguins to complete the sweep tonight. Play the over. The Jackets are not going down without a fight.
Oilers vs Sharks: Cam Talbot has posted back-to-back playoff shutouts, and the Edmonton Oilers own a 2-1 series lead over the San Jose Sharks.
In my series preview, I made note that Joe Thornton would most assuredly play through his injury and that it would not be terribly consequential. I enjoy being right. Thornton played 16:27 in Game 3 and had two shots on goal. He usually was trotted out against the Oilers’ bottom six and was almost exclusively started in the offensive zone.
Thornton’s all-directional movement is part of what makes him effective. His mobility being this hindered neuters the offense. That said, he was generally successful at finding open chances. The problem is that they will likely have to employ a similar strategy with Logan Couture.
Jumbo Joe re-entered the lineup forcing out Mikkel Boedker. Boedker had a hat trick against the Oilers earlier this season. Perhaps finding an opening for him in the lineup will help matters?
San Jose apparently threw 32 hits in the first period. That seems almost impossible, especially since the Sharks outshot the Oilers 13-6 in the opening frame.
Zack Kassian is having the series of his life, having scored two game-winning goals in two Edmonton victories.
The Sharks losing both games at home would be catastrophic. Solely because I said that the series would go six games and I see no way they stave off elimination in Edmonton in Game 5 down 3-1, I’m taking the Sharks to win.
Prediction: Take the Sharks to win. Play the stone-cold under.
To make a play on these predictions, or any other NHL bets, visit our sports book at https://www.betdsi.eu/gms-hockey.
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