NHL Playoff Weekend Match-Up Picks & Brief Analysis
Find Quick Analysis on Key Match-ups for the NHL Playoffs
Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs, TD Garden Arena, Sunday 8pm ESTThe Toronto Maple Leafs did two things in their Thursday night game against the Bruins that they have not done in near decades: They won the first game in their playoff series and they scored on a penalty shot. The Leafs have not won the first game since way back in 2004, and the last time they scored a penalty in the playoffs was way back in 1999
Toronto is now Mitch Marner town. This 21-year-old showed the heck up with 2 goals and after Neylander and Tavares both picked up goals in empty nets, the Bruins folded like a cheap suit on home ice.
The Bruins we’re nothing short of a mess and heading to Toronto is not going to make Game 2 easy. With that said, The Leafs were out scored 12-4 in their last playoff series against the Bruins in 2013 and the dynamic Bruins line will likely be out for blood in Toronto. The Bruins might be hoping for weakness in Leafs goalie, Fredrik Andersen, who was 4-3-4 with a .889 save percentage in the last 12 games, but in Game 1 he was ice cold and focused.
The test will be the Saturday game. If Toronto takes this, I can’t see them slowing down. The Leafs are looking to change the narrative from “Not again” to “We’ve got this.” They’ll take game 2, 2-1.
Colorado Avalanche at Calgary Flames, Scotiabank Saddledome, Saturday 10:30 pm ESTThe Flames and Avalanche series is sort of a lopsided one. Calgary in their throwback uniforms looks tight and just dominated Colorado.
Flames goalie, Mike Smith wasn’t even a sure bet to start in Game 1 since his record is less than stellar. Going into Game 1, he was ranked 37th out of 41 goalies in the league with a .898 save rate and truthfully, he stunk. Last night he smelled like roses. This performance was vintage Mike Smith and he was positively acrobatic with his 26 saves for a shutout, 0-4.
While Smith is the big story (seriously, they’re talking more about him in Denver than their own team), so is the Flames ability to kill penalties. The Avalanche are in trouble and will spend the rest of the series just trying to keep Calgary from sweeping.
Calgary amassed 50 wins over the regular season and have the 2nd highest points total in. They are 36-4-1 when they score first, which is 2nd best in the league. It’s a fight that Colorado will not win. The Flames will take Game 2, 3-1
The New York Islanders at Pittsburgh Penguins, Sunday, PPG Paints Arena, 12pm ESTThe Penguins are headed into Game 3 down 2-0 in the series which is never a cute look for a team in the first round of playoffs. Pittsburgh started out strong and had the lead in the second period but by the third period, the Islanders pulled away and the game devolved from there.
Islanders, Jordan Eberle and Josh Bailey scored within 4 minutes of each other in the third, and for a team who struggled all season with their power play goals, it was the juice they needed to cripple the Penguins.
These are two contrasting teams, which makes for exciting playoff hockey. The Islanders we’re all but written off after marquee player, Jonathan Tavares, went to Toronto, but it seems like they took it as a challenge and with their exceptional defense and chippy style of playing they manhandled Pittsburgh in the third period.
Pittsburgh should be taking these games but they lack defensively. Relying on their strong offense will not be good enough with their 14th place ranking for goals against and 19th in the league for penalty kill.
Heading to Pittsburgh might give the Penguins an opportunity to roar back. They’ve won six of their last eight against the Islanders at the PPG Paints Arena with five of the six going over the total. The Islanders have won three of the last five games against the Penguins with four of the last six between these teams going under the total.
Barry Trotz had been a wizard with this team after leaving Stanley Cup champs, the Capitals and is the reason that even with the loss of Tavares, they are rocking this series. I would be remiss not to mention the messy brawl at the end of this game because what it showed was that both teams are ready for war. Look for an aggressive game in Pittsburgh Sunday night where Pittsburgh will come in hot and win, 3-2
Tampa Bay Lightning at Columbus Blue Jackets, Nationwide Arena, Sunday 7pm ESTThe Lightning have got themselves into a bit of a pickle after Friday nights’ Game 2 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Nikita Kucherov is looking at a one game suspension after drilling Markus Nutivaara, who was on his knees, into the boards. If this happens, it could be a nail in the Tampa Bay coffin .
Matt Duchene was absolutely key in the 5-1 win over the Lightning in Game 2. He came up with 4 points by notching up two assists and his first ever playoff goal. After their mind-blowing comeback in game one, the Blue Jackets picked up where they left off in Game 2 with 7 straight goals in the series.
Tampa, the Presidents Trophy winners do not want to add to the list of teams who’ve won the award and failed to get past the first round, but at this stage in the game it’s looking likely. Since scoring three goals in game 1 then blowing it, they’ve looked a mess and not at all like their regular season domination. They’ve been outscored 9-1 in the past five periods, including 4-0 on special teams, with three goals coming up against their PK and one against their power play
The Lightning have been here before , down 0-2 in the conference finals last year against the Capitals. They rallied to win the next three games but lost in seven in that series.
Heading to Nationwide Arena is not going to help the Lightning’s cause, and if Kucherov is out,it’s even more grim. You can take Columbus with confidence to win game 3.
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