A tight contest between the Red Wings and Lightning last night concluded an exciting first round of action in the NHL. The Lightning were able to edge the Red Wings out by a score of 2-0. An admiral effort from the Red Wings in this series. They were a team that a lot of people didn’t see competing here, but Babcock had the Wings playing good hockey for the majority of the series. Speaking of Babcock, is that going to be the last we see of him standing behind the bench in Detroit? All indications are that he won’t be around in the future. We have to assume that he takes a big contract from another team and he departs from Detroit. That is not set in stone. We can’t come to that conclusion yet, but I am just going to speculate here.
With the Lightning win, they will now advance to the second round against the Montreal Canadiens. What a heck of a series that promises to be. I could make an argument for either team winning it. At the moment I give the small lean to the Canadiens. Need to go with defense over offense in the playoffs. Stamkos was invisible in round 1, he’s going to need to be more active against the Canadiens. Other matchups of round 2 begin tonight, including the Capitals vs. Rangers and Flames vs. Ducks. The Flames are the surprise team there, and considering how sporadic the Ducks are capable of being in the playoffs, we can’t discount the Flames in that series.
Tonight we’re going to handicap an east coast battle between the Capitals and Rangers. The Rangers are on a lot of peoples lists as being the favorite to hoist Lord Stanley. They are also on the radar of Las Vegas, who are expecting them to win it all as well. The Capitals have been in this position before in the second round of the NHL playoffs, but have often come up short in advancing. Time is going to be running out on Alexander Ovechkin soon to match Sidney Crosby and get himself a championship of his own. They’re going to need for Ovechkin to come up big to help solve Henrik Lunqvist. He say out for a big portion of the season with an injury, giving way to Cam Talbot providing excellent relief with Lundqvist on the shelf. It is the King Henrik show again in New York, however. We’ll see if he can lead the Rangers back to the promise land, only this time, winning it all and not just being participants in the finals. It all starts tonight at Madison Square Gardens in downtown New York.
Washington Capitals @ N.Y. Rangers
This series will come down to the goaltenders. Holtby vs. Lundqvist are going to be on center stage and are going to look to steal the show to bring their team to an additional round in the NHL playoffs. I have confidence in Henrik most certainly, but is Holtby going to be able to play well enough to keep up? In any case, I see it being a low scoring game with a couple of players here and there deciding the outcome. The Caps are just going to need to take advantage of the chances they have around the net. They aren’t going to come around often and Lundqvist isn’t going to let any soft ones in, presumably. In the first round vs the Penguins, he let in only 1.6 goals per game. And note, there was the one game in the loss he allowed 4 goals, so other than that outing, Henrik was quite solid. In the four other games he surrendered only 1 per game. The Rangers finished 1st in the NHL in goals against per game, allowing only 2.24 goals per game.
We expect the Capitals to be proficient defensively as well in this series. Holtby got off to a bit of a slow start against the Islanders, but settled down immensely and is a big reason for why the Caps are playing tonight. In their past five games Holtby allowed in an average of 1.6 goals. In other words, the same mark as Henrik who only played five games in the series win over the Penguins. The UNDER is 15-5-8 their last twenty-eight matchups. I expect a feeling out process between two pretty good teams, resulting in a low final score in game 1.
PICK: UNDER 5 GOALS (-119) 5DIMES – BEST ODDS