After a very tough pill to swallow on last night’s featured selection, we look to bounce back on Wednesday evening with a big winner. The Habs were simply screwed out of a victory last night. Though they were dismal in the the third period, the Senators opening goal clearly appeared to be kicked in and how that call was not overturned is beyond me. As a Leafs fan, personally I wish both of these teams would lose and lose embarrassingly, but to see one team be robbed of victory is wrong. The NHL’s officiating has been inconsistent and incomprehensible at times this post-season, but that’s enough about that. We’ve got money to earn and we’ll return to the team I follow the most, the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Boston Bruins in what is a pivotal Game 4 tonight.
Boston Bruins (-135) @ Toronto Maple Leafs (+115)
Through the firs three games of this series, it’s been tough to get a read on how each game will go. Boston has looked dominant at times, though for portions of Game 2 and much of the third period of Game 3, the Bruins appeared unable to handle Toronto’s speed. While I wouldn’t read too much into those temporary lapses, it does show you that this series has been much closer than many expected, and the lines being set are reflecting this. Though the Leafs are a young, upstart group, Boston is just too much to handle right now. They’re as focused and determined a group as there is in the NHL and look for the Bruins to keep hammering a young Leafs squad into submission tonight.
Toronto has played admirably for many portions of the opening three games, and had they been matched up against any other opponent in the East, they’d have a legitimate shot at advancing. But Boston is just a difficult opponent for the Buds. As was seen in Game 3, the Bruins’ veteran experience, poise, size, and strength is just overwhelming for the Leafs. Whenever Toronto had momentum going in Game 3, Boston simply wrestled it away. This Bruins team has won a recent Cup and can easily draw from those experiences to pound their opponent sinto the ground. They’ve played in many hostile atmospheres, and as loud as the Air Canada Centre crowd was on Monday evening, Boston fed off of this and set home the loyal fans of Leafs Nation in a foul mood.
Boston is well-aware of the opportunity they have in Game 4 tonight. To head home with a controlling 3-1 series lead is an opportunity they need to seize. When teams return home up 3-1, they win that series 93% of the time. Safe to assume that if Boston wins tonight, the Leafs’ storybook season is likely on thin ice. Moreover, it’s no secret that this has been a very intense and physical series. If the Bruins are to embarak on yet another lengthy playoff run, they’d like to dispose of the Leafs as quick as possible to give themselves additional rest for the latter rounds. I expect a veteran-laden team like Boston to realize this opportunity and grasp it away from an inexperienced Leafs squad. Toronto has a bright future, but right now they’re no match for Boston.
Boston has drawn up the blueprint and knows if they play their game, they can beat Toronto as much as they want. The Bruins have the depth right now that Toronto simply does not. Jaromir Jagr was one of the best players on the ice for Game 3 and he features on Boston’s third unit. Toronto has no answer for this, and it is becoming painfully obvious. Toronto’s defense is capable, but certainly not good enough to handle the potent attack of the Boston Bruins. They roll four lines as well as any team in the league and their big and bruising forwards have produced countless turnovers and scoring chances as a result of Toronto’s defensive deficiencies. Toronto gave the game away in Game 3, but much of that had to do with the tenacity of Boston’s forecheck. Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton simply cannot be stopped right now. The Leafs are running out of answers at the moment, and expect these glaring issues to arise again tonight.
Look for a fast start for Toronto knowing their season is likely on the line. The home crowd will surely be energized, but ultimately the methodical and calculated Bruins approach will win out. This is too deep and too disciplined a group to lose to a Leafs team that seems in over its head at the moment. Boston are legitimate Cup contenders and they’ll prove that once again tonight in Toronto. This line isn’t steep enough, take the Bruins as rightful road favourites.
PICK = Boston (-135)
With three other games going tonight there are definitely some intriguing betting options on the NHL board. Our bonus selections have been erratic at best throughout the post-season, though this evening should be different with some very solid value on the card. Read on below for some further thoughts on the other games.
Bonus Pick #1: N.Y. Rangers (-135) Truly a must-win situation for the Rangers tonight, especially when you consider how well Washington plays on their home ice. The Rags did well to fight back in Game 3 but will need a much better effort tonight. Star goalie Henrik Lundqvist has been remarkable thus far and expect him to turn in another stellar outing. The Rangers have finally gotten healthy and I still give them a shot in this series. Their defense is deep, they’ve got capable scoring, and they remain backed up by the best goaltender in the world. Expect a lively outing from the Blueshirts and this series will head back to Washington all square at 2 games apiece.
Bonus Pick #2: St. Louis (-130) I figured this would be a homer series at the outset and it’s appearing to unfold just like that. Both L.A. and St. Louis play so well on their home ice and this one looks to be going to a Game 7. The Blues feed off the excellent energy their home crowd provides and should ride that to a key win tonight. Their depth is particularly effective with the last change they get on home ice, and look for coach Ken Hitchcock to perfectly deploy the right personnel in every situation. St. Louis remains a darkhorse selection for the Stanley Cup and though they’ve lost two straight, they played well enough to win both games. Expect a perfect outing from the Blues, and look for this series to head back to Cali with St. Louis leading three games to two.
Bonus Pick #3: Detroit (+125) If I’ve learned one thing from this series, it has to be take the underdog, regardless of the situation. This has been a hack-and-forth affair through the first four games, and don’t expect the final few to be any different. Detroit is hungrier than I first anticipated and the play of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg has been remarkable. Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf both need to step up following the signing of their huge new contracts, but it remains to be seen if they can. Detroit’s defense has rounded into form in the post-season and the Wings look dangerous once again. They’re as well-coached as any team in the league, and even without Justin Abdelkader tonight, this team can and will cause damage tonight. Take the road value with the Wings.