While Round 2 hasn’t been all that profitable thus far for us, there’ s still a long way to go the way certain series are unfolding. Home teams and favourites seem to be rolling on a nightly basis, two things that traditionally haven’t happened in the post-seasons of previous years. Tonight, we vow to get back on track with two very important match-ups on the NHL slate. We’ve been a big proponent of the Rangers here at The Sports Geek and as they return home for a crucial Game 3, it will be interesting to see if they can get back in their series against the Bruins. Meanwhile, in the West Game 4 of the Battle of California goes in San Jose. The Sharks scored an emotional win Saturday night and will look to even up the series against the defending champion, L.A. Kings. Read on below for detailed thoughts on both games, including a featured and bonus selection.
Los Angeles Kings (+115) @ San Jose Sharks (-135)
Home ice dominance has been a real trend throughout the first week of Round 2, and we’ll hope that continues on Tuesday night. The Sharks and Kings are two of the best teams remaining in the NHL playoffs, and it truly is a shame one will have to be knocked out at the end of this series. At the outset of their match-up, we predicted a Sharks victory in 6 or 7 games and really see no reason to deter from that. The Sharks have exuded flashes of dominance throughout the first three games, and really should have gotten the Game 2 victory in Los Angeles. Now, they face another must-win scenario tonight. The Sharks have been great on home ice in 2013, but they’ll need another premium effort to send this series back to L.A. all squared. Despite the fact that the Sharks have endured years of playoff failures, and are currently battling key injuries and suspensions, this is a matured group ready for a lengthy post-season run. They look the part of a Cup contender, and expect them to send their series back to SoCal knotted at two games apiece.
In Game 3 it was more of the same from Todd McLellan’s Sharks squad. They were the hungrier group and their depth on the attack really wreaked havoc in the Kings’ zone. The Sharks are playing with a grittier edge to their game and it’s giving the Kings some trouble. Expect San Jose to maintain that pressure since they are well aware their backs remain against the wall. If they are to even this series, they must keep that sense of urgency and look for that to happen in front of the rabid fans at the HP Pavilion. San Jose plays exceptionally well in front of the home crowd, going 17-2-5 at the HP Pavilion during the regular season. Much of their success can be attributed to a potent powerplay on home ice, as it went 28.4% in that building. That’s a staggering number and look for that to again be a key difference in this tight series.
On the injury front, the Sharks will likely again be without often-hurt forward Martin Havlat. Havlat just returned for Game 3 but was then promptly injured. His absence leaves a hole in the line-up but this Sharks team has played much of the season without Havlat and will be able to cope. Raffi Torres remains suspended for his questionable hit, while the Kings may get a boost with physical forward Kyle Clifford returning to the line-up.
Expect this game to be played very similarly to the way the previous two games unfolded. The Sharks have proven they can dominate at times, and if Antii Niemi can keep his team in the game, look for the Sharks to prevail. This is a dominant team on home ice, and their powerplay clicks in front of the home crowd. Expect that to once again be the difference, and look for the Sharks to send this series back to L.A. knotted at two’s.
PICK = San Jose (-135)
Bonus Pick #1: NY Rangers (-130) One series we haven’t really had a firm grasp on has been the Bruins/Rangers match-up. We figured the Rags would at least get a split in Beantown but that has not materialized. To me, New York remains a solid team with legitimate Cup aspirations. For whatever reason they have struggled away from home ice thus far in the playoffs, but expect this series to go the distance. Climbing out of 0-2 deficits is becoming the norm for John Tortorella’s squad and after doing it last series against the Capitals, this group knows they’re capable of doing it again. Henrik Lundqvist hasn’t been all that great thus far for the Blueshirts and expect a heroic effort in Game 3. Boston has shown so many signs of weakness throughout this post-season, and eventually playing with three rookie d-men and overplaying Zdeno Chara will catch up with this aged group. New York has shown the ability to dominate at key stretches, and look for a much more complete effort tonight. There is too much pride in the New York locker room to bow out easily and expect them to fight in Game 3. Look for an inspired Rangers effort en route to a big victory in front of the Garden faithful. We still have a series, folks!