NHL betting tips: 4 picks and predictions for Saturday
Our expert has picked out four teams to back on the money line as the first round of the NHL playoffs continues on Saturday.
Tampa Bay Lightning to beat Florida Panthers
In what has been the most entertaining series to date in these Stanley Cup Playoffs, the home team has yet to win. The Panthers capped off their best offensive effort in Game 3 with a 6-5 OT win, with Ryan Lomberg playing the role of unlikely hero in a game full of stars. Who will step up in Game 4?
Though the trend has favored the road team in this series for some reason, I don’t think we’re going to see Andrei Vasilevskiy give up six goals in a game too often. In fact, he hadn’t given up more than five all season - that was also against the Florida Panthers. If there is any team that can do it, it’s them, but it’s hard to imagine the defending Stanley Cup champions not having a push-back in Game 4.
The Panthers were the only team to beat the Lightning in consecutive games all season, but their situation in net remains unsettled. You’d think Sergei Bobrovsky gets the nod after coming in to relieve Chris Driedger, who gave up five goals before being replaced. Bobrovsky hasn’t been particularly sharp this season and had a rough Game 1 performance.
Without the goaltending against a team as deep and talented as Tampa, it’s going to be awfully hard to win and it’s hard to have faith in either of Florida’s netminders at this point.
New York Islanders to beat Pittsburgh Penguins
One of the best home teams in the NHL this season, the Isles had a back-and-forth battle with the Penguins in Game 3 but ultimately lost on a late goal from Brandon Tanev. It’s been a rare occurrence for the Isles to lose two in a row at home - it only happened once this season.
The Penguins, however, got a boost from Evgeni Malkin who returned to the lineup for the first time in Game 3 and promptly recorded two assists in the win. The Penguins are certainly better when they have all their offensive weapons in the lineup, but the Islanders proved in Game 3 that they can hang with them for the most part in a high-scoring affair.
The Isles obviously would prefer the game not be so goal happy. That’s not usually the style that benefits them. The high-scoring affair also has to give New York coach Barry Trotz something to think about since Varlamov has lost each of his first two games in this series, while rookie Ilya Sorokin was in net for the team’s only win so far. Either goalie is capable, but I might be a little more comfortable with Sorokin at home where he was 9-1-0 this season.
No matter who starts, I like the Islanders to bounce back at home.
Toronto Maple Leafs to beat Montreal Canadiens
In an emotional Game 1 that featured a scary injury to Maple Leafs captain John Tavares, Montreal prevailed on a late shorthanded goal by Paul Byron. It was clear the Maple Leafs were shaken during and after the game, but the prognosis on Tavares is a good one.
While the captain is out indefinitely, the Maple Leafs still have a litany of offensive weapons that need to have a bigger game after being held to one goal in Game 1. The team also can regroup after that tough loss on home ice and should be motivated.
Carey Price will be motivated, too. The Canadiens goalie was spectacular, as he has been so often in his postseason career, stopping 35 of 36 shots. It was a departure from how he played against the Maple Leafs throughout the season, posting an .868 save percentage in four appearances against Toronto this season.
While it’s difficult to bet against Price in the postseason, it’s hard to see Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner going quiet once again, especially when they have to step up as the team weathers the loss of Tavares.
Vegas Golden Knights to beat Minnesota Wild
Minnesota’s collapse in Game 3 was the kind of deflating loss that can linger for a team. Starting with a 2-0 lead, the Wild suffered a 5-2 loss as the Golden Knights took the game over and took control of the series with that victory, now up 2-1.
That game felt less like the Wild struggled and more like the Golden Knights rediscovered the game that made them one of the top teams in the NHL this season. Marc-Andre Fleury continued his postseason brilliance after giving up a couple of early goals. Through three games this postseason, he has a .951 save percentage. Goals are going to be hard to come by for Minnesota.
The Golden Knights got goals from Mark Stone and Reilly Smith in the game, getting two of their best offensive players more involved. With those two guys breaking the seal offensively, that only makes Vegas more dangerous.
Unless Cam Talbot has a perfect game, it’s hard to see the Wild scoring enough to outlast the Golden Knights, if Game 3 was in fact a sign of things to come for the Vegas scoring attack.