NHL Playoffs Hockey

The Columbus Blue Jackets are on the cusp of a surprise sweep, as the wild-card team takes on preseason Stanley Cup favorite Tampa Bay in Game 4 on Tuesday night.

The Blue Jackets edged Tampa Bay 4-3 in the first game of the series before decimating the Lightning 5-1 in Game 2. Now, in their second home game of the series, the Blue Jackets hope to notch one final victory to secure their first playoff series win in franchise history.

(1) Tampa Bay Lightning -140 at (WC2) Columbus Blue Jackets +115

Tampa Bay took the Presidents’ Trophy by a landslide, earning 128 points on the year—21 more than the next-closest team. Up until the playoffs, the Lightning hadn’t lost more than two straight the entire season.

Down two games Sunday, Tampa Bay battled Columbus without the help of leading scorer Nikita Kucherov, who served a one-game suspension for boarding the Blue Jackets’ Markus Nutivaara in Game 2. The Lightning’s star defenseman Victor Hedman also sat out Game 3 with an undisclosed injury and is doubtful in Game 4.

As for the Blue Jackets, the play of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has been key. He stopped 30 of 31 shots in Game 3 and has a .940 save percentage through the first three games.

It’s hard to believe a team as dominant as Tampa Bay could let a wild-card team dismantle them in the first round. The Lightning head into Tuesday’s matchup as road favorites, but they will need to fight for every inch to surge past the fifth-place Metropolitan Division squad. They may have dug too deep a hole to advance, but they should grab at least one win in the series Tuesday night.

Pick: Tampa Bay Lightning

(4) New York Islanders +140 at (6) Pittsburgh Penguins -175

Tuesday night may see a second series sweep if the Islanders take down the Penguins. Pittsburgh, the back-to-back winner of the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017, can’t seem to get much offense going against the Islanders. That includes one of the NHL’s scoring leaders, Sidney Crosby, who was held without a point for the third straight game Sunday (he tied for the fifth-most points at 100 this season).

The Islanders have outscored Pittsburgh 11-5 in the series so far. They’ve also trailed for less than four minutes through nine periods and an overtime session. If New York can win Tuesday, it’ll be just the second time the team has advanced past the first round since 1993.

The Islanders depth and defense should continue to make the difference. Look for the Penguins to get swept for the first time since the 2013 Eastern Conference finals against Boston.

Pick: New York Islanders

(4) Winnipeg Jets +130 at (5) St. Louis Blues -160

The Blues host Winnipeg on Tuesday possessing a 2-1 series lead. Winnipeg dropped the first two games, 2-1 and 4-3, at home but grabbed a 6-3 road win in Game 3.

The Jets are 4-0 in their last four meetings in St. Louis and 12-5 in the last 17 against the Blues. The road team is also 5-0 in the last five meetings between the two.

Expect the Jets to continue their reign at Enterprise Center and even the series at 2-2.

Pick: Winnipeg Jets

(3) San Jose Sharks +130 at (6) Vegas Golden Knights -160

The Golden Knights look to extend their 2-1 lead over San Jose in Game 4 at T-Mobile Arena. Last year’s Stanley Cup runner-up defeated the Sharks 6-3 at home Sunday, as right winger Mark Stone scored his first NHL hat trick. Paul Stastny scored another two goals, along with assists on three others, and Max Pacioretty added to the offensive collective with a goal and an assist. The linemates have combined for 10 goals in the series.

The Sharks, meanwhile, were short-handed, missing defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic with an injury. In the second period of Game 3, San Jose also lost forward Micheal Haley. It’s unclear if either will be back for Game 4, as both are currently listed as day-to-day.

As for the last eight meetings in Vegas, the Sharks are just 2-6 SU at T-Mobile Arena. San Jose is also 1-4 in its last five road games, while the Golden Knights are 8-3 in their last 11 home games.

Since losing the first game of the series at San Jose, Vegas has outhit the Sharks 46-31 and 56-42 in Games 2 and 3, respectively. The Golden Knights also set the tone quickly in each period Sunday, scoring a goal inside the first minute of each.

The Golden Knights should continue to do the same Tuesday and stretch their lead to 3-1 before heading back to San Jose.

Pick: Las Vegas Golden Knights


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