We get a full slate of playoff games Friday evening, including the fourth game in Bruins-Capitals and third game in Avalanche-Blues, as well as the Oilers looking to bounce back after the Jets shocked them in Edmonton.
Let's get to the picks.
Washington Capitals (+135) at Boston Bruins (-165) — Total: 5.5
You have to imagine that the Capitals are fuming right now.
I mean, just look at Alex Ovechkin at the end of Game 3:
After the Capitals' defensive blunder in overtime, Washington is staring down the barrel of a 2-1 Bruins' series lead, and now they'll have to play a pivotal Game 4 at the TD Garden, a notoriously difficult place to play for visitors.
While it hasn't exactly been evident, the Bruins have been the better team this series, but the Capitals' offensive firepower has kept them competitive, even while the Bruins have been outplaying them 5x5.
What's interesting about this series is that every single game thus far has gone to overtime. Not even late leads in the third period have been safe. Another interesting note: The Capitals have been the team to have those late leads in every game in the series. Something's gotta give, no?
Will an emotional, flustered Capitals team come into the TD Garden and put the Bruins away emphatically for all three periods? Will we have another closely fought overtime struggle? Or will the Bruins' superior, albeit underlying play finally pay off in the form of a multi-goal victory?
This is a very tough game to pick. Even though the Bruins have been better in most, if not all, underlying metrics, we cannot ignore how close these games have been, so I can't in great confidence lay money at -165 or their -1.5 puck line. It's also not exactly profitable to take the +1.5 with the Capitals (-190).
Instead, give me the plus money on the Caps. It's not hard to imagine Washington coming into this game motivated, with Ovechkin looking to fire a billion pucks on net and Ilya Samsonov looking for retribution after his costly rookie mistake. I also wouldn't be surprised if their emotional play leads to some sloppy action, but putting a small wager to get plus money in such a hotly contested series? Sign me up.
Pick: Washington Capitals ML (+135)
Winnipeg Jets (+135) at Edmonton Oilers (-165) — Total: 5.5
Feels like everyone who had thoughts about Game 1 of this series picked the Oilers to win in easy fashion. I mean, they had beaten Winnipeg six straight times before the playoffs started, they have the best player in hockey, and a resurgent Mike Smith has helped the Oilers maintain an above-average defense.
Of course, variance matters in hockey — not to mention, everyone forgot just how dominant the Jets have been away from Winnipeg (21-8 ATS). A shining outing by elite goaltender Connor Hellebuyck resulted in a shocking 4-1 victory for the Jets.
I doubt we'll get a repeat, especially not after the high-powered Oilers were embarrassed at home. The main issue for Edmonton is that the team seems to live and die by the play of Connor McDavid; if he has a bad or subpar game, chances are the Oilers as a whole will too.
I don't like either side enough to choose a winner in this matchup; both teams know each other too well. Hellebuyck is one of the handful of goalies in the NHL who can take over a game, but the defense in front of him leaves a lot to be desired. Expect the Oilers to come out firing early and often tonight, especially McDavid. And due to the Jets' inspired play away from their home ice, I see value in the total.
Both teams are capable of putting up points in bunches (the Jets averaged 3.28 goals away from Winnipeg, while the Oilers averaged 3.24 at home), and the Jets' subpar defense combined with a motivated Oilers offense makes me lean over.
Pick: Over 5.5 (-115)
Colorado Avalanche (-225) at St. Louis Blues (+180) — Total: 5.5
Man, do I want to take the +180 juice with the Blues.
I have a policy when betting hockey: Never take a -200 or above favorite on the money line. There's just too much value in taking the dog; that's an "L" I can live with if the underdog does lose (thanks for all the coins this season, Ottawa).
I fully expect the Avalanche to sweep the Blues this series. They have looked every bit the Stanley Cup favorite so far, no matter the situation. The Blues were lucky to lose just 4-1 in Game 1. And when St. Louis came to life in Game 2, the Avalanche revealed yet another gear, ultimately winning 6-3 when the game looked like it was destined for overtime. Philipp Grubauer is capable of a shutdown performance at any moment; basically, the Avalanche have lived up to their moniker, just smothering whoever stands in their way.
So, by that logic, it would seem that the plus money with the Colorado puck line (+120) is the correct play here, right?
Well, just as I'm hesitant to take the plus money with the Blues, I'm also hesitant to take the puck line with Colorado. You mean to tell me the Avs are -225 on the ML, but somehow still +120 on the PL? I was expecting +105, maybe +110 at most. Those odds smell fishy to me.
What doesn't smell fishy to me is this total. The Blues showed real signs of life in the third period of their Game 2 loss, seemingly clicking into desperation mode and scoring two goals (one of which came 15 seconds after the Avalanche took a 4-2 lead). Of course, a couple of empty-net scores for Colorado came after that, but the Blues should be able to take some positivity away from that final period.
The recipe is simple, yet difficult to execute: You cannot hope to stop the Avalanche completely, so your best bet is to outscore them when it matters. The Avalanche will be looking to destroy the Blues' spirit this game and take a commanding 3-0 lead, so I see the Blues abandoning their usual style of play and trying to score as soon as they can — just as they did in that third period.
St. Louis averaged 2.98 goals for the season, but that number jumps to 3.07 on home ice. Colorado's usually foolproof defense (2.36 goals allowed per game) cracks a bit away from Ball Arena (2.82 goals allowed away from home), while their offense remains deadly no matter the venue.
This looks like a series where the first team to get to four goals in a matchup will win, so I like the over in Game 3.
Pick: Over 5.5 (-110)
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