NHL Playoffs Picks Game 5, Saturday 4/21: Devils Panthers, Caps Bruins
NHL Playoffs Picks and Predictions for Game Five, Saturday 4/21: New Jersey Devils at Florida Panthers, Caps Bruins, Sens Rangers, Sharks Blues, Blackhawks Coyotes
Saturday is a full day of playoff hockey. The Washington Capitals visit the Boston Bruins with the series tied to kick off action in the afternoon. The Devils and Panthers also play a crucial Game Five in Florida (and I’ll be there), and the Rangers and Sens are also tied 2-2. In the late games, the Coyotes can put the Blackhawks out of their misery and the Blues can do the same to the Sharks. It’s another exciting day of the NHL playoffs, which blow away all other sports with a similar series format in intensity and drama. I can’t wait.
Washington Capitals at Boston Bruins (-185)
In a series tied at two, it’s hard to find value in the line for the Bruins. They could easily lose to the surging Capitals and the game will likely be very close again.
I still think the Bruins have a few advantages on the Caps, most of which have nothing to do with physical hockey. They have the drive to repeat and a battle-tested roster that stayed mostly intact through the offseason. Their goalie, though old and occasionally inconsistent, carried this team to the Stanley Cup last season and can surely do it again. Veteran leadership carries this team when all else is falling apart. From a hockey perspective they can grind out victories with four solid lines and good defense.
On the other side there are simply too many questions and too much inexperience – Can Holtby hold up for the Caps? Will Ovechkin ever come through in the playoffs? I think this gives the Bruins an edge to win the series, and it all starts on home ice. Small bet on the moneyline.
Bruins 3 – Caps 2
New Jersey Devils (-115) at Florida Panthers
Someone threw an autographed Martin Brodeur jersey on the ice at the Rock after Game Three. Yes, he blew a three-goal lead, but if anything just go home and sell that sucker on eBay. The Devils have some volatile fans that are new to hockey and only know the playoffs. The new generation still doesn’t know real playoff success, and many don’t remember the three cups, particularly 1995. It’s interesting times in Jersey to say the least.
On the flip side, the Panthers are playing free and fun hockey. Well, they were until Game Four, but that relaxed team on home ice is dangerous because of how poorly the Devils are playing. If you didn’t know it beforehand, you’d think the Panthers were the team that’s won eight of their last ten games.
The Devils finally showed their dominance in Game Four. Martin Brodeur had a shutout, the offense produced, and after a timid first half of the game the Devils erupted in every way and sustained their play for more than six minutes. Hopefully, that’s enough to carry them through the next two games and win this sucker in home ice. Perhaps their highfalutin, huckster owner told the team to drop a couple games so that Game Six could sell out at home to help resign Zach Parise. Is there any other explanation for why the Devils can be so dominant at times and so sloppy at others?
My complaints about my team, as a fan who never lost faith in them:
As someone who has yet to bet against the New Jersey Devils this season, I think I’m more than qualified to say that Peter DeBoer is not a good coach. Yes, it’s the new NHL, but I don’t think there are many systems in the league capable of blowing a late lead quite like my New Jersey Devils. Additionally, I think everyone except Martin Brodeur is really tired, which is also DeBoer’s fault by playing his best players on the power play, penalty kill, and excessive top-line minutes all year. Hopefully the Devils can overcome their fatigue and inconsistency to have a nice run this postseason. Still, DeBoer found a way to play the fourth line in crucial situations, which led to several losses and bad penalties all season (but was not the only cause for those losses blah blah blah). He was also able to still have his top players on the ice for more than 20 minutes in those games. Parise and Kovalchuk have played a ton of hockey, which might be responsible for Kovalchuk lazily skating in circles around the blue line hoping for a breakaway while down a goal. Additionally, I don’t think you pull Brodeur after a few power play goals in a tie game, but I guess it made sense at the time to Pete. I view DeBoer with the same eyes I do Joe Girardi and hope both teams continue to win DESPITE their coaching.
That isn’t Devils hockey, but that was Devils Game Three hockey – a lazy display of collapsing disaster. Game Four was the team I grew up with and loved reincarnate. It was a pleasure to watch Marty Brodeur dominate with another shutout, silencing his critics and to some degree his coach. The offense clicked, Parise took over the game and broke it open, and the Devils looked sharp for the final half of the game. If it carries over they’ll win, I only hope that they stay out of their own way enough to win the next two games against a team that is obviously inferior.
There’s a ton of value in the line, especially coming off the dominance of Game Four. I think the Devils are simply much better than the Florida Panthers. I like them to steal Game Five on the road and close this bad boy up in six at The Rock.
Devils 4 – Panthers 2
Confidence: 5/6 – Blinded, as always, by my heart.
Ottawa Senators at New York Rangers (-175)
I think the Senators, as much as their fans would disagree with me, are only in this series as a result of the sloppy officiating all series. At one point there were two pucks on the ice. There have been countless missed calls and the Rangers were at the bad end of a few calls and disciplinary rulings that to me made absolutely no sense. The Sens are in their heads, the refs are inconsistent, and the play has been very uncontrolled and sloppy. That favors a team with nothing to lose.
Still, the Rangers are so much better than Ottawa and on home ice at the Garden I think they’ll dominate play. It’s a must win game for the better team. Henrik Lundqvist is better than Craig Anderson, the Rangers have the better skaters, and all offense aside they have the better defense. Look for total domination in this one.
Rangers 3 – Senators 1
San Jose Sharks at St. Louis Blues (-185)
I see this game in almost the same way I see the Bruins Caps game, but for different reasons. This series should be over, since I truly believe the Sharks stole Game One because of blown calls and good fortune. The winning goal was sprung on an obvious pick play where the Blues failed to clear and no interference was called. Additionally, a clear delay of game penalty (I was a few rows away from the play) was called incorrectly, costing the Blues a power play. That’s as close to “momentum” as the Sharks have gotten in this series.
The Blues have been pretty dominant all series, shutting down the veteran scorers of the Sharks and capitalizing on inconsistent goaltending. Niemi stood on his head in Game One, but has yet to take over a game since. I think the Blues can close out the series at home, but easily see the experience of the Sharks shining through on the road. No real value in the line, so I’ll parlay it for small money with the Bruins and sit back and hope my series wager on the Blues comes through sooner rather than later.
Blues 3 – Sharks 0
Chicago Blackhawks at Phoenix Coyotes (-135)
When all four of the first games have gone to overtime, it’s hard to be confident one way or the other. I think without Marian Hossa and deflated by three overtime losses the Blackhawks have their work cut out for them. I like the Coyotes to finish this off at home, but with the limited confidence that comes from four tight games. Small bet because I’m already happy about how profitable this series has been and don’t want to piss away my winnings trying to figure out which game will be the last one of the series.
Coyotes 3 – Blackhawks 2 – final, in a shootout.
Playoffs: 19-13, Penguins and Preds pending
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