The division-only scheduling format of the regular season has had a profound effect on the playoffs thus far. Teams are extremely familiar with one another, as evident by the six one-goal games of the 10 played so far, four of which needed overtime to decide a winner. And, of course, tensions are boiling over on the ice, seeing as these teams are doing battle for the ninth or 10th time already this year.
Tonight’s slate of NHL playoff games is a bit uninspiring from a betting perspective. Four heavy favorites are on the board, as the Hurricanes and Avalanche look to take 2-0 series leads before hitting the road, while the Bruins are seeking back-to-back wins as they return to home ice against the Capitals. The North Division playoffs kick off tonight as well, as the Jets head to Edmonton to try and slow down the two-headed nightmare of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
After a profitable final week of the regular season (3-0-1, +2.1u), let’s see if we can carry over our mini hot-streak into postseason play.
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Boston Bruins vs. Washington Capitals: Game 3 (Series Tied 1-1)
You wouldn’t know it just by looking at the scoreboard — both games went to overtime — but the Bruins have been the far better team in this series, especially in Game 2.
Boston has the second-highest xGF% (percent of expected goals vs. opponent) of any playoff team to have played multiple games at 64.2%, meaning nearly two-thirds of the expected goals in this series belong to the Bruins. And yet, both teams have scored six apiece through the first two games. Washington has benefited from some fortunate bounces and adrenaline-aided stops by goalie Craig Anderson.
The high-danger chances are also quite lopsided in Boston’s favor. They’ve accumulated 25 high-danger shot attempts through two games and have allowed just 12 from the Capitals. For context, the Hurricanes had 11 high-danger chances in Game 1 of their series, and the Capitals have totaled just 12 through two games.
I’m going to continue to fade Anderson against a strong Bruins team. He’s been good this series, especially in Game 1, but he started to show a few cracks in the armor in Game 2. I’m not sure how much longer a 40-year-old goaltender who began this season on the taxi squad can continue to hold the fort in place.
Heading into a notoriously hostile environment in Boston, this may be the game the floodgates break open.
The Pick: Bruins ML -155 (Good to -165)
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Nashville Predators: Game 2 (CAR Leads 1-0)
Game 1 was a bit dicey at times for Hurricanes’ backers. They finally took control in the third period, but the first two were neck-and-neck. That likely has scared some people off them in Game 2. They’re heavy favorites on the moneyline, but I like Carolina on the puck line and on the 60-minute line tonight.
The scoreboard was knotted at two in the second period of the series’ opening game, but the Hurricanes dominated the underlying metrics. Their CF% as a team was 56.3%, and they controlled 60.5% of the shots on goal, 63.2% of the scoring chances, and 68.8% of the high-danger chances. This team is just too much for Nashville. It just took them a little while to get going in Game 1 while the Predators fed off playoff adrenaline.
I’m also encouraged by Alex Nedeljkovic. Game 1 was his playoff debut, so the butterflies were a factor early on. Once he settled in, he looked like the Nedeljkovic who led the NHL in goals-against average during the regular season (1.90).
Carolina is a legitimate Cup contender, and Nashville barely squeaked into the playoffs. It’ll be a tough hill to climb for the Predators to reverse the momentum the Hurricanes gained with their third-period onslaught in Game 1, all while dealing with an electric home crowd in Carolina.
The Pick: Hurricanes in Regulation -110 & Hurricanes -1.5 +140 (Half Unit Each)
Edmonton Oilers vs. Winnipeg Jets: Game 1 (Series Tied 0-0)
The Oilers are somehow the shortest favorite (-150) in any game Wednesday night, so we’ll have to lay a little bit of extra juice as we did with the Bruins. But it’s worth it.
This handicap has three simple pillars. First is head-to-head success for Edmonton. I know the adage is to throw away what happened in the regular season come playoff time, but this is hard to ignore. The Oilers posted a 7-2-0 record against the Jets this season, including closing the series by winning six straight. Winnipeg hasn’t beaten Edmonton since February 15 and got outscored 21-7 over that span.
Second, the Jets are banged up. Andrew Copp is inching toward playing, but he was still wearing a non-contact jersey in practice as of yesterday. Nikolaj Ehlers and Pierre-Luc Dubois are listed as “game-time decisions,” but per Ken Wiebe of SportsNet, both are looking “doubtful”.
#NHLJets HC Paul Maurice says that both Nikolaj Ehlers and Pierre-Luc Dubois will be on the trip and he’s calling them “game-time decisions” then added they would more likely be “game-time announcements.” Personally, I would put both players in the “doubtful” category for Game 1.
— Ken Wiebe (@WiebesWorld) May 18, 2021
Losing either would be an enormous blow to Winnipeg. Ehlers has been the Jets’ best player this year, leading the team in average GameScore by a wide margin. He also had the most points against the Oilers this season and was tied with the aforementioned Copp for second on the team in power-play goals.
Third, and this one is obvious, I’m going to back the two best players on the ice. McDavid and Draisaitl have been unstoppable this season, finishing one and two in points. McDavid somehow managed to eclipse the 100-point mark in the shortened season and was particularly dominant against the Jets. He tallied a multi-point game in all nine meetings with Winnipeg this season, totaling seven goals and 15 assists.
These two are also lethal on the power play, and although Winnipeg isn’t bad on the penalty kill (13th in the NHL), it certainly isn’t its strong suit. It will need to be if the Jets want to have any success in this series. Considering they racked up the 16th-most penalty minutes of any team this year, I like the Oilers’ tandem to exploit their kill and come away with a Game 1 win.
The Pick: Oilers ML -150 (Good to -165)
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