Up until this point in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, fans of the sport have learned to expect anything.
The fact the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins—two of the most dominating teams over the past few years—are at danger of being swept makes anything possible.
Underdogs have become quite the trend in the NHL early on in this postseason. Four more games will be played on Monday with a few more intriguing odds to break down. And some of these dogs can’t really be considered as such over the course of a whole series.
The Boston Bruins, who dominated the latter stages of their Game 2 with Toronto, are still underdogs (for now). That’s despite the fact Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri will be suspended for multiple games.
Defending champion Washington will also be slight underdogs as they travel to Carolina, despite being up 2-0 in the series. The Capitals’ hype still seems to be rather subdued despite their early success and fight to retain the Cup.
Nashville’s is simmering for now as well, especially since they had to fight to win just one of their first two playoff games. They now travel to Dallas in what should offer us a tight, low-scoring affair between two great defensive teams. But despite their Central Division crown, the Preds will also be underdogs.
And lastly, there’s Colorado. They will be at home after delivering a little surprise of their own with a Game 2 win over Calgary.
So which one of these teams will take their respective Game 3’s tonight? I look at the odds on MyBookie and break down which underdogs have the best chance at pulling out a win.
Boston Bruins (+100) vs Toronto Maple Leafs
The Bruins were at +105 last night and maybe close favorites by game time. But for now, they’re slight underdogs, with the Maple Leafs at -120 on the money line.
They will undoubtedly be without Kadri, as he will be suspended, probably as this is being written. His check to the head/neck area of Jake DeBrusk was egregious and Kadri has already been suspended before. The NHL isn’t kind to repeat offenders.
That takes a lot of toughness, experience, and production out of Toronto’s offense. The team that looked set after Game 1 saw a tidal wave of the momentum shift the other way in a 4-1 Game 2 loss.
Now they must move around their lineup, possibly putting William Nylander or Patrick Marleau at the third-line center.
This will be a test for Toronto, as staying true to their identity will be tougher than ever. Boston would love nothing more than for them to get overaggressive and lose their cool again.
The Bruins will continue to play more and more physical. They will test the boundaries of an officiating crew that was extremely inconsistent—at times for both teams—in Game 2. If the Bruins continue to coax Toronto into playing at their pace and style, they will take the lead in this series.
Getting Charlie Coyle on the board again was big for the B’s, as he continues to morph into the offense since being traded to Boston in February. Another great sign is having that potent top line producing, as Patrice Bergeron has two goals already and Brad Marchand has also scored.
DeBrusk, a forward, could sit out. And his potential replacement, Marcus Johansson, might still be too ill to play. Needless to say, this team’s depth is going to be tested, especially with previous injuries on the blueline.
Washington Capitals (+110) vs Carolina Hurricanes
The defending champs are feeling pretty good right about now.
The Capitals had to hold off a late comeback in Game 1 and were taken to overtime in Game 2. But they’ve shown both fast starts and clutch finishes in this series.
Nicklas Backstrom is at the top of his game and is taking the scoring chances Carolina is inexcusably giving him. He has three goals in two games, a veteran who has generated so much offense already in the past. But he hasn’t been a premier goal-scorer in some time.
But the ways he’s scoring—redirecting a pass into the net or playing a misdirection game with the goalie—have been masterful. With Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, and Tom Wilson all on the board as well, this team has the core forwards in the zone.
Carolina has given up too many chances on breakaways and hasn’t kept Washington from crashing the net. The Hurricanes still have enough mixture of pluckiness and athleticism to win the next two games. But they’re getting swallowed up at times on bad line changes.
The one thing going for Carolina is penalty kill. But the fact they can deny four of four power-play chances for Washington and still not quite keep up is troubling. This team will need more punch and an early goal to keep the “underdogs” from going up 3-0.
Nashville Predators (+100) vs Dallas Stars
Once again, this is only a slight underdog with Dallas at -120 odds. But the numbers should be this close considering the first two games between these teams.
They’ve literally been the closest of any series so far, two defensive behemoths squaring off with goalies who have been here plenty of times before.
For Nashville, they have an interesting and crucial concoction in the works.
Pekka Rinne looks very fresh in net and has flashed a great glove several times already. He didn’t even face 30 shots in Game 1 or 2, but he has shut down his fair share of quality chances.
The Preds got plenty of those in Game 2. Rocco Grimaldi was a nice insert off the bench, scoring his first playoff goal. But the biggest asset has been the fact the defense has continued to be dangerous in the attacking zone.
P.K. Subban and Roman Josi have already shown some slick skills in scoring goals in Game 1. Mattias Ekholm had an assist in both Game 1 and 2. They’ve created several good looks for themselves and will need to keep doing so to advance.
Dallas had gotten strong play from Ben Bishop though and that’s kept them in both games. Miro Heiskanen’s big Game 1 didn’t hurt either, as the young defenseman showed a lot of poise in his inaugural playoff game.
Calgary Flames vs Colorado Avalanche (+105)
After a convincing 4-0 win in Game 1 for Calgary, it seemed this could be a landslide of a series. That all got flipped on its head in a matter of moments.
Colorado tied the score at 2 in Game 2 only after pulling their goalie with less than three minutes left. Then they won it in overtime with the speedy Nathan MacKinnon getting behind the Calgary D.
The Avalanche have to figure out Mike Smith. The goalie, who was inconsistent at best during the regular season, had been absolutely dominant for the first four and half periods of this series. He didn’t give up a goal until a perfectly placed breakaway shot by Matt Nieto.
And despite Calgary getting plenty of production on its power play, the goal by Nieto came short-handed.
Smith is still playing at a level where he would complete an otherwise stacked Flames squad. But they’ve been giving up way too many prime chances to the Avalanche through two games. And the fact the Aves have gotten some depth scoring is crucial.
When it mattered in Game 2, Phillip Grubauer matched Smith in net, delivering a pair of gorgeous saves at the end of regulation. After that scrum near the net, he also denied a shot close-in that directly led to MacKinnon’s goal.
His intensity and focus will be a huge key with Smith doing his thing at the other end of the ice. Colorado has had plenty of prime scoring opportunities. So the question is whether Smith will eventually show the regular season cracks in Game 3.
Who to Bet On
Despite being at home, I’m not that confident with Colorado still. They had to pull out all the stops just to get past the Flames once. Expecting them to do the same a second time in a row is asking for too much.
That 4-0 game was a lot closer than the final score looked. But it seemed like a mountainous climb just to get the goals they did, and I think eventually the Calgary defense is going to shore up some of their issues with the top-line of Colorado.
With the Avalanche still being blanked on the power play and Smith playing the way he has, I think Calgary pulls away late.
As for the first contest, between Boston and Toronto, it seems to be a crapshoot at this point. The injuries on the Boston side actually outweigh the Kadri loss for the Maple Leafs. Krug, DeBrusk, and Clifton could all play, but they’re not all going to be at full speed if they do.
I wouldn’t necessarily tie myself to Toronto right now either though. They looked out of focus in Game 2 and at times betrayed their identity. This one is a wash for me.
As for Washington, their +110 is a nice little value. They’re clearly feeling themselves right now and have pushed Carolina around in the first two games.
Though the ‘Canes have been known to take a punch and return one, the Caps are at a clear advantage 5-on-5 and Petr Mrazek doesn’t look like he’ll be able to close that gap in net.
Lastly, Nashville in Dallas should be another low-scoring affair. But the Predators, against a great defensive unit, were pesky in getting 42 shots on Bishop in Game 2. Peppering him enough will work if they’re able to control the puck down low.
It may be another 2-1 or 3-2 game. But it comes down to putting more faith in Bishop or the six Nashville defenders and a fresh Pekka Rinne. And I’m taking the latter no matter how inspirational Bishop’s return to form has been.
Prediction: Nashville (+100) and Washington (+110)