There are four games on the schedule for tonight. Let’s take a look at the NHL playoff predictions.
|Rangers vs Canadiens
ML +125 / -150
|Blue Jackets vs Penguins
ML +163 / -200
|Blackhawks vs Predators
ML +115 / -125
|Sharks vs Oilers
ML +110 / -133
Here are tonight’s starting goaltenders, courtesy of LeftWingLock.
Rangers vs Canadiens: New York finally won a playoff game at home. You know what they say, seventh time’s the charm.
While they still did not light the lamp as they were hoping to do, they did take steps in the right direction. They won the shot battle 32-24, they drove to the net and they capitalized on a few fortunate bounces.
Sometimes a lucky bounce is all you need to get going. With less than nine minutes to play in the first period, Andrei Markov went into the corner of his own zone to field a dumped puck wrapping around the boards. Markov underestimated the puck’s velocity, and it wound up ricocheting off his skates to open space. Jesper Fast fortuitously pounced on the puck and tucked a backhander under Carey Price’s leg pads. For a second, no one knew the Rangers had scored, not even Fast. But once the red light came on, the Garden erupted.
Montreal would strike back before the period’s end, however. Alexander Radulov won a board battle along the Ranger bench, while the Rangers were slow getting a change. This opened up space for Torrey Mitchell and Shea Weber to break into the zone on a two-on-one.
Nick Holden attempted to break up the passing lane by keeping his footing and angling his stick so that hahaha just kidding he flopped around like a dead fish.
— Peter Alper (@peteralper99) April 18, 2017
Passes that cross the slot once are among the most dangerous scoring chances in the game. Shots that follow two passes that cross the slot are all but guarantees to find twine. This is one of those shots.
The Rangers would find their answer early in the second period, though. Rick Nash, who was an animal all game, fielded a pass right in front of Price, and like Fast slipped a backhander through the five-hole to give the Rangers a lead they would never relinquish.
New York even out-shot Montreal in the third period 10-6 while holding a lead, which is an incredible break from the norm.
The script was completely flipped from Game 3 to Game 4. It was the Rangers who were able to make adjustments from game to game and adjust their offensive attack while the Canadiens played on their heels for most of the game. Other than Shea Weber ringing the iron with minutes remaining in regulation, the Canadiens were held at bay for most of the game. New York went from the “all hitz all the time” strategy to what they actually do best, which is pounce on pucks in the neutral zone and use their strength and speed to get to the blue paint.
Rick Nash in particular had two net drives that were saved, one that was a goal waved off for goaltender interference and one that resulted in the game-winner. Something that was very interesting to see after the game was Rick Nash’s reaction at center ice following his salute to the crowd. Nash is normally a pretty subdued, quiet guy. This series he has looked fired up, and has celebrated more than usual following his goals. At center ice, he and Mats Zuccarello locked eyes, and Zuccarello pushed his chest and pumped him up. They looked like they were ready to play again, or challenge the Habs to a rap battle, or something. The playoffs change things.
Rick Nash when he's at his best…all shot attempts in Game 4 coming from inside top of the circle, all shots on net coming from inner slot. pic.twitter.com/jUipHEetTb
— Mike Kelly (@MikeKellyNHL) April 19, 2017
There is still all the reason in the world to be confident in Montreal, however. Two of the next three games are at the Bell Centre. Shea Weber, Alexander Radulov and Phillip Danault are still playing great. Carey Price is Carey Price. Plus, Alexi Emelin participated in morning skate and may return for Game 5.
Since I called Habs in six, I am sticking with my gameplan and taking the Canadiens to win tonight. Even with the adjustments made by New York, they still have a tough task ahead. The play that is interesting, however, is the over/under. This is the first time this postseason that the mark has been set below 5. Even though scoring has come at a premium this series, this could be one of those instances where an empty net goal could make all the difference. Five is absolutely reachable, as it was in Game 2 at the Bell Centre.
Prediction: Take the Canadiens to win. Play the over.
Blue Jackets vs Penguins: Columbus staved off the sweep on home ice Tuesday night. They still find themselves in a 3-1 hole heading back to the second-toughest place to play in the NHL this season.
If you are a Jackets fan who missed the cardiac arrest of Game 4, count yourself lucky. Columbus leapt out to a 3-0 lead, only to watch it evaporate by the end of the second period to 3-2. The Jackets got one back 27 seconds into the third period fortunately, and even though Pittsburgh cut the lead down to one goal twice in the third, Columbus managed to hang on 5-4.
Pittsburgh’s offense is a thing of beauty. Jake Guentzel tallied his fifth goal of the series in Game 4, which leads the NHL. Evgeni Malkin leads all NHL skaters in playoff assists with six and points with eight. Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel have 11 more points on top of that as well.
It would take a miracle effort from the Blue Jackets to survive once again. They should have the mentality of the 2004 Boston Red Sox. Don’t let them win Game 5, because Game 6 is back in Ohio and in Game 7, anything can happen. Where’s Kevin Millar when you need him?
Reaching that point would be catastrophic for the Penguins, of course. They have done a fine job of limiting scoring chances in their own building. But if the Pens lose tonight? There’s not a doubt in my mind the series goes seven.
And while that would make my series prediction right, I simply don’t see it happening.
Prediction: Take the Penguins to win tonight. Play the over.
Blackhawks vs Predators: There is simply no way that the Chicago Blackhawks get swept in the opening round of the postseason. It’s just not possible. No way.
Chicago finally scored in Game 3, which is a positive sign after getting shut out the previous two. Dennis Rasmussen, of all people, opened up the scoring . Rasmussen had four goals and eight points in 68 games this season. Patrick Kane added his first of the series later in the second period on a powerplay goal.
Nashville kept fighting, however. Filip Forsberg netted a pair in the third period to even up the score. Deep into an overtime period where Nashville dominated puck possession time, the Preds executed a picture-perfect zone entry. Calle Jarnkrok dumped the puck in where it was fielded in the left-side corner by Kevin Fiala. Fiala dropped it back for James Neal then cut sharply to the net, where Neal hit him in stride. He stuffed a backhander past a diving Corey Crawford and the game was over.
The Predators outshot the Blackhawks 49-36, though Patrick Kane had nine shots on his own.
Johnny Oduya will be pulled from the Blackhawks’ lineup in Game 4. He has been brutal. No other way to put it. But it’s not just him. The Preds’ top line has abused even Jonathan Toews, the NHL’s perennial Selke golden boy.
But Nashville has been able to…well, do this.
— Cristiano Simonetta (@CMS_74_) April 18, 2017
Things need to change fast for the Hawks, who have now lost seven in a row dating back to the regular season. They need to force the Predators to the outside and keep their skates moving. Defensive rebounds need to be pounced on.
I refuse to believe the Blackhawks die without so much as a win in the series. I see tonight as a way to profit on Chicago’s ability to stay alive. Nashville has never held a 3-0 series lead in their franchise’s history. What are the odds they sit on it?
Prediction: Take the Blackhawks to win, barely. Play the over.
Sharks vs Oilers: Sometimes in hockey, you need a good kick in the pants to make sure you don’t get a big head.
Well if Edmonton needed a kick, then the San Jose Sharks are Adam Vinatieri.
Everything that could have gone wrong for the Oilers did go wrong in Game 4. They allowed San Jose to successfully set up an offensive zone face-off play 15 seconds into play. Logan Couture and Joe Thornton were immediate boosts to morale. And the penalties…woof, the penalties. Edmonton gift-wrapped the Sharks four powerplay goals off of seven penalties taken. Amazingly, each penalty was taken for a different infraction. Leon Draisaitl was even handed a game misconduct and a maximum fine for spearing Chris Tierney.
The argument can be made that Draisaitl could have been suspended, but it’s been well established at this point that the NHL does not suspend spearers unless they are named Brad Marchand.
Cam Talbot was pulled after five goals and 32:52 of ice time. His replacement Laurent Brossoit
Narratives have shifted now. Edmonton has gone from the team with back-to-back shutouts to the team with three goals in their last three games. They needed this game to wake them up and let them know that they were not going to be able to squeak out four shutout victories. Not against this team.
Returning home after a beating like that could be just the sort of wake-up call the Oilers needed. Connor McDavid has been held to just one goal and one assist through four games, but anticipate a rejuvenated attack tonight.
For some reason, I anticipate Milan Lucic to be more of a factor tonight. Lucic had a goal and an assist in the series opener but has not found the scoresheet since. He has seen his ice time steadily decrease down to just 10 minutes in Game 4 and has not registered a shot on goal since Game 2. That has to be reason for motivation for the veteran winger who spent much of the year on the Oilers’ top line.
Once more, I will bend to the pre-series prediction I made of Oilers in six. Coming back home with the series tied is still a favorable position to be in.
Prediction: Take the Oilers to win tonight. Play the under.
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