NHL Playoffs – Round 2 Weekend Games
So far, the second round of the NHL playoffs has delivered in a big way, despite the fact that every game has been all chalk. The Kings pulled out a regulation win in game 2, despite being behind by one in the final two minutes. A questionable delay-of-game call led to a 5-on-3 power play and the Kings converted both chances. My Boston Bruins gutted out an important overtime win in game 1, getting contributions all over the board, from captain Zdeno Chara, rookie Torey Krug, and a recently-revived Brad Marchand.
The Pittsburgh Penguins withstood a rally from Ottawa in game 2 as Sidney Crosby put the team on his back with a hat trick, securing a 2-0 series lead as the series turns to Ottawa, and the Blackhawks proved why they’re still the class of the Western Conference with a 4-1 win over the Red Wings.
Heading into the weekend, here’s what you can look forward to.
Detroit Red Wings at Chicago Blackhawks
Don’t let the game 1 score or the number of goals fool you, Detroit did have their chances in game 1 in a fast-paced, end to end contest. That said, I still don’t see Chicago losing at home. Neither Patrick Kane nor Jonathan Toews have scored yet in these playoffs despite contributing 9 total assists. Look for one or both of them to get on the board in this one. In the meantime, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa have been the driving force of the Chicago offense, combining for four points in game 1. Corey Crawford has been nothing short of spectacular, allowing 8 goals in 6 playoff games so far, including three one-goal games and a shutout to go with a .950 save percentage.
The Red Wings have talent and the ability to score, but they’re going to need more than 1 goal per game to beat Chicago. The big story in this series has been and will be special teams. The Red Wings allowed a Power Play Goal early in game 1, bringing their total to 6 PPG allowed on 19 chances in 5 road playoff games. The numbers are slightly better at home, but Detroit is still second-to-last among remaining teams with a 71.4% Penalty Kill success rate. Compare to Chicago, a perfect 20/20 on the kill with a short-handed goal.
It’s not like 5-on-5 is much better for Detroit, as Chicago is 2nd overall in goals per game in the playoffs, including the best 5-on-5 goal ratio (1.88) in the league. If Corey Crawford continues playing even at 80% of the level of play he’s shown so far, Chicago should have this wrapped up in 5.
For today, the regulation line is -124 for Chicago. I can’t stomach the puck line even at +150. Game 1 was 3-1 with a very good chance for a late Detroit goal that ended up a Blackhawks empty-netter. I’m not touching the over/under; I think 5 is the right number for this whole series, and a bounce of the puck here or there could cost you some units. If pushed, I’ll take the over on 5 today; I think Detroit gets more than 1. Regulation line should be solid for a couple units. I have Chicago winning 3-2.
Los Angeles Kings at San Jose Sharks
I like this LA Kings team, and not just because they’ve been making me money. This series, as I said on Wednesday, is all about home ice. There’s a reason the Sharks are -135 despite being down 2-0. They should have won game 2 had it not been for some questionable officiating and an incredibly solid Kings power play. This series should go 7 based on how heavy the splits are in favor of the home team. San Jose lost only 2 of 24 games in regulation all year at home, while the Kings only won 8 of 24 games on the road.
The power play that propelled San Jose to a sweep of the Canucks in round 1 hasn’t scored yet, 0-7 in two games against Jonathan Quick. Look for Logan Couture or Joe Pavelski to get on the board with the man advantage in this one, as the Sharks scored on 6 of 15 opportunities at home in the first round. The Kings’ penalty kill numbers are good; however, they did have the benefit of facing a poor St. Louis power play in round 1.
Not a whole lot to say about a series that’s going to be about blue collar, grinder-type hockey with two exceptional goaltenders. You can get the Sharks at -135 on the money line and the under at -140. I think both are solid plays tonight. The Sharks will get revenge for the late collapse in game 2.
As a side note, 5dimes is offering the Sharks at +400 for the series. This is not an official pick of mine, but if you’re looking for action with good odds, I think San Jose can take this to 7 games. Anything can happen in a game 7, if it gets there. Proceed with caution, but the odds are the same for this series as for Chicago/Detroit, which is a mistake.
Quick Hits for Sunday May 19th
The Bruins are -125 favorites at home against the Rangers. I really can’t see anything other than a 1-goal game that may or may not involve OT. I think -125 is a little steep for a game that is basically 50/50, but the X-factor going forward in this series is Lundqvist. He looked incredibly rattled on Thursday night, which is odd for a team that’s won 5 of their last 7 games in Boston. If he’s letting in soft goals, the Rangers are sunk. The Bruins struck the iron multiple times in the 3rd period and OT in game 1, and many pucks were sitting out in the crease waiting to be punched in. I don’t think you can count on goals from Chara and Krug every game, but if guys like Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin can find the net more, and they should, I like the Bruins to pull it out.
The Penguins are a machine. What else is there to say? Again, you won’t be able to get a hat trick from Crosby every game, and Ottawa may play better on home ice, but they’re not winning the series. If they can slow down Pittsburgh in either game 3 or game 4, they should live to see a game 5 back in Pittsburgh, but no further. I like the Penguins and the under in game 3 on Sunday, at -130 and -110 under 5.5 respectively.