NHL playoff picks: 4 best bets for Thursday
Andrew Berkshire provides his best NHL picks and predictions for Thursday's action.
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Is there anyone who can stop the Tampa Bay Lightning? The back-to-back Stanley Cup champions sent the Maple Leafs home in the first round, and then shocked the Florida Panthers by taking Game 1 in dramatic fashion. It looked a little like last season where the Panthers dominated even strength but couldn’t figure out Tampa’s special teams, and the result was the same. Can they do it again? We’ll find out tonight.
Florida Panthers (-1.5) vs Tampa Bay Lightning (+150)
I’ll be honest, I haven’t been impressed by the Florida Panthers in these playoffs. The Washington Capitals came into the playoffs hot, but if you watched them play, they were not a great team by any stretch. The analytics said the same, and the Panthers did not look good against them at all. They did beat the Capitals eventually, but they played a volatile style.
The Panthers have been fine at even strength, but they haven’t been able to outscore teams like they did in the regular season in that game state, and on special teams they’ve been outscored 9-0 in seven games. At a certain point the fifth-best powerplay in the NHL during the regular season has to strike. They have to be better than they’ve been.
So far in these playoffs, the Panthers haven’t lost two in a row, and they absolutely need to split the first two games on home ice, or else the Lightning could end this series a lot quicker than anyone predicted. It may not be a do-or-die game for Florida, but it also sort of is.
Aleksander Barkov to score a powerplay point vs Tampa Bay Lightning (+135)
The Florida Panthers need to bust the goose egg on the powerplay as soon as possible. In order to beat the Lightning, they’re going to have to score in more than one game state, just ask the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Sam Reinhart led all Panthers in powerplay goals in the regular season with 16, while Barkov was second with 12, but I think it’s Barkov that gets it done here. He’s the best player on the Panthers, the straw that stirs the drink, and the team’s captain. If anyone can get it done, it’ll be him.
Under 6.5 total goals in Colorado Avalanche vs St. Louis Blues (+105)
With the way the regular season went, more people would have thought Jordan Binnington wouldn’t see a single minute of ice time in the playoffs than believed he could recapture the magic he had in 2018. But here we are, with Ville Husso on the bench and Binnington posting a .944 save percentage through four games played.
Fifty-one saves in Game 1 brought the St. Louis Blues into overtime after Jordan Kyrou tied it late, and if he’s going to maintain a level of play somewhat similar to that, the games are going to be a lot tighter than people expected.
That might be the closest the Blues get to winning a game in this series, but if Binnington and Darcy Kuemper continue to play excellent hockey, the scores will be low.
Cale Makar to score anytime vs St. Louis Blues (+205)
There aren’t many players who have been more impressive than Cale Makar in these playoffs so far, but he had a really tough game one against St. Louis, where he had two high profile giveaways, one of which led directly to a goal.
What’s one way Makar can feel better about himself? By doing what he does best and dominating offensively. Makar hasn’t gone two games without scoring a goal yet during these playoffs, and last game was the first of the playoffs where he was held without a point. Expect a big game from Makar in Game 2.