NHL playoff picks: 4 best bets for Saturday
Andrew Berkshire provides his best NHL picks and predictions for Saturday's action.
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One of the reasons that the NHL’s first round of the playoffs is so great is because it’s highly unpredictable. How many people out there who aren’t Washington Capitals fans would believe even for a moment that they would come out and win game one against the Florida Panthers? Who would guess that Ilya Sorokin would make 79 saves in a triple overtime loss against the Penguins, who had to go to their third string goaltender halfway through overtime? These are the moments that grip us and have us on the edge of our seats, and we’re certainly going to get more of them tonight.
The Capitals shocked the Panthers and the hockey world with a victory over Florida in game one of this series, keeping the Cats to just two goals. Game two however, looked a lot more like what we all expected, and I doubt the Panthers look back now.
As Dimitri Filipovic noted heading into the playoffs, the Panthers scored six or more goals in a game more often than they were kept under three goals this season. They’re flat out incredible at putting the puck in the net.
It took him until shot attempt number 23, but Cale Makar finally tickled twine on the overtime winner for the Colorado Avalanche in game two. He’s scored in both games so far, and has been an absolute shot machine so far.
If Makar is going to keep letting it rip like this, he’s going to keep scoring nearly every game.
Through two games in this series, the story really has been goaltending. Ilya Sorokin has been beyond words brilliant, while the Penguins’ goaltending has been merely competent. That’s to be expected with Pittsburgh playing their third string goaltender, but in 143:19 of 5-vs-5 hockey, the Penguins have racked up 10.74 expected goals to New York’s 5.75, and yet the actual goals so far are 5-5.
Special teams are a bit more even, but even after that, the Penguins have a five-goal advantage in expected goals, and a two-goal deficit in actual goals. Sorokin is the best goaltender in the NHL right now, but can he single-handedly overcome a situation where his opponents are out-chancing his Rangers by 1.8 expected goals every 60 minutes of play in a long series?
Unless the Rangers drastically improve their play, I think they’re in more trouble than they appear to be.
Through two games in Calgary, this series isn’t even averaging two goals per game. The Flames were far too complacent with playing the way the Stars wanted to play, and allowed them to suck the life out of them a little bit. Now on the road, Dallas will have last change, but the Flames have far superior depth, so the simplicity of not needing to play the matchup game as much may even play in their favour.
In the regular season, the Flames were the sixth-highest scoring team in the league at 3.52 goals per game, and in order to take control of this series, they’re going to need to force their style into the series. I think that starts right here.