It was a crazy weekend on the ice once again as these playoffs are shaping up as the best display of hockey we have seen in quite some time. Saturday night saw yet another game-tying goal with the goalie pulled late in the third period as the Avalanche were able to get even with the Wild late and stun them in overtime to go up 3-2 in their first round battle. Sunday saw two more teams get eliminated with the Blues blowing a 2-0 series lead for the second straight year, while the Ducks furiously rallied back from a 4-2 deficit with two goals in the last 2 minutes of regulation, and another in overtime to knock out the Dallas Stars in heartbreaking fashion. It’s hard to believe all of the things we have witnessed so far in these Stanley Cup Playoffs, but no complaints here as this is as entertaining hockey as I have ever bared witness to. The action keeps going tonight with the Penguins, Avalanche and Sharks all having opportunities to put the finishing touches on their respective series’ and move on to round two.
Pittsburgh Penguins @ Columbus Blue Jackets
My Pick – OVER 5.5 (+120) @ 5dimes.eu (Best Odds)
This series has been anything but easy for the heavily favoured Penguins as the Blue Jackets have given Pittsburgh all they can handle over the first five games of the series. Not only did the team with a 3-1 lead lose each of the first four games, but these leads were blown in spectacular fashion. From three-goal rallies in a matter of a couple minutes to late-game goof ups by goaltenders, this has been one quirky and entertaining series despite few giving Columbus a chance out of the gate. These two teams exchanged 4-3 wins and losses through the first four games of the series as Pittsburgh’s inability to keep the puck out of their net come playoff time seems to have returned. Allowing 14 goals through the first four games of a playoff series usually doesn’t bode well for a team, however Pittsburgh’s uncanny ability to unleash their offence in response is very impressive. Pittsburgh fired 50 shots on net in game five of the series, and with all of their stars healthy it makes complete sense. One big reason for the high-octane offense on both sides in this series has to do with special teams. Columbus has scored six powerplay goals over the first five games of the series and boast a 27.3% clip with the man advantage and Pittsburgh has five powerplay tallies of their own, good for a 20% clip. The two teams combined for an average of 20 penalties minutes per game, which means around 10 powerplay opportunities will arise in this game six. The Penguins road scoring this year averaged 3 goals per game while Columbus’ home scoring averaged 3.1 goals per game. In relation to the special teams mentions above, the Penguins had the 4th best success rate with the man advantage on the road this season at 23.2% and the Blue Jackets had the 4th best success rate with the man advantage on home ice at 22.5%. The two teams settled in defensively in game five as just four goals were scored total, however that definitely does not align with the norm between these two clubs. The OVER is 4-1 over both team’s last five games, and in Columbus’ last five games at home. The OVER is also 9-2 over their last 11 meetings at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. I think we all agree that we would like to see these two squads get back to the frantic, high energy and high scoring games we saw over the course of games 1-4, so let’s go with the OVER tonight and see these two teams go to work on one another.