We finally got back in the win column yesterday with a huge Kings victory over the Blackhawks. Los Angeles looks primed to even up that series tomorrow night, especially with a rumored suspension looming to Chicago’s top defenseman, Duncan Keith. Again, as emphasized yesterday, this Kings squad knows how to win and they are simply dominant on home ice. This will be a long series, and for them, losing the first two games on the road is meaningless.
Tonight however our attention focuses on a situation that is a tad more dire. The highly-touted Pittsburgh Penguins take their act to the road to take on the Bruins. And to the surprise of many, it’s the Bruins that have a 2-0 series lead headed into Game 3. Boston has been ferocious with their checking, and opportunistic when on the attack. Pittsburgh is playing far too loose defensively and look out of sync on the attack. Whether they’re trying to do too much or not familiar enough with their trade deadline acquisitions, it’s simply not working for the Pens right now. But Game 3 is a new opportunity, and it’s a must-win spot for Pittsburgh, testing the team’s character. We’ll find out a lot about both teams tonight, and read on below for the winner of tonight’s match-up.
Boston Bruins (-120) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (+100)
In my wildest dreams I couldn’t foresee a scenario where Pittsburgh trailed in this series two games to zero. Boston has looked vulnerable this entire post-season, but have seemingly regained their Stanley Cup-form against a Pittsburgh squad that is looking lost at the moment. The Pens are having huge defensive issues, and when they’re blue-line gets beat, Tomas Vokoun or Marc-Andre Fleury aren’t doing anything to help the team out. That said, getting away from the pressures of the home crowd I feel will breathe new life into this group. Like Boston, this is a team loaded with character possessing a desire and knowledge of winning. Expect Pittsburgh’s most complete effort of the post-season tonight, and in a rare underdog spot, it’s time to roll with them one last time.
The Pens have been profitable for us thus far in the play-offs. Despite their hiccups, they’ve done well when their backs have been against the wall. This team can and will respond to adversity if they play to their strengths. Above all else, Pittsburgh still possesses the top two players in this series and the world for that matter, in Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. This elite duo has spoken out in the days leading up to Game 3 about their frustrations and how they need to be better. Holding off Crosby and Malkin for two straight games is quite the feat, but ultimately an unattainable one. Expect huge breakout performances from Sid and Geno tonight, willing their team to a key road victory.
I fully expect the Pens to be more diligent in their own zone. Their breakouts have been sloppy, their puck management has been horrid, and as a result the B’s have capitalized frequently. Pittsburgh is a smart team and know how to win games, that will show tonight. The Pens have spoken out about their awful play of late and feel they’re giving away the series to Boston, opposed to the other way around. Expect the Pens to take it back tonight. Head Coach Dan Bylsma is expected to inject some energy and enthusiasm back into his stagnant group. Gritty forwards Tyler Kennedy and Tanner Glass could be re-inserted, allowing Pittsburgh to perhaps match up physically against the powerful Bruins.
The point entering tonight’s contest is sweeps have rarely happened in recent years of the Stanley Cup Play-Offs, and Pittsburgh is not the exception to that rule. Parity runs wild in the NHL and the Penguins, like the Kings last night, will fight back in this series. Despite their problems on the back end and in goal, much of the damage has been self-inflicted and that will change. The Pens feature a team loaded with all the elements a Stanley Cup team should possess, and that will be on full display tonight. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are generational talents, and expect special outings from the two of them tonight. As road underdogs, and at plus money, the Pens are a good bet for tonight’s action.
PICK = Pittsburgh (+100)