After a heartbreaking double overtime loss on Wednesday evening, the Penguins’ backs are truly against the wall now as they enter Game 4. Nobody in hockey figured the almighty Pens would be in this spot heading into this series against Boston, but a combination of bad luck and ill-timed defensive lapses have them in this unenviable position. Though Pittsburgh has had some convincing stretches of hockey, their inability to put together sixty straight minutes of quality hockey will ultimately be their demise. Entering Game 4 things are looking bleak for the Penguins, and winning four straight games against this red-hot Boston team seems next to impossible. For the Pens, pride is left to play for, and read on below for which team shows up tonight in Beantown.
Pittsburgh Penguins (+100) @ Boston Bruins (-120)
Personally I’ve never been a big fan of playing on a team down 3-0 in a best-of-7 series and I’m not about to change that philosophy. When teams trail by that wide of a margin, the psychology behind the comeback is so daunting teams likely begin thinking about the off-season and summers that lie ahead. While the Pens remain one of, if not the best team in hockey on paper, it’s not enough against this stifling Boston squad. And even though the Bruins do have a very recent history of squandering a 3-0 series lead back in 2010 against the other Pennsylvania team, don’t bank on this version of the Bruins doing that.
Right now Tuukka Rask remains the best goalie alive in the post-season, and that will continue through the end of the Cup Finals. He was elite at times when he had to be against Toronto and New York, but has truly shone against the big guns of the Penguins. Crosby and Malkin have been held off of the scoresheet, and the Finnish netminder is a huge contributor in that.
While the Pens still possess a vast array of firepower, it looks good on the lineup card, but has yet to truly mesh this post-season. Their acquisitions of Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow seemed like good ideas, but in hindsight those pick-ups seemed to have really messed with team chemistry. Their defense is getting expose, and alleged Team Canada-lock Kris Letang looks quite poor on the blue-line. In goal, both Tomas Vokoun and Marc-Andre Fleury aren’t giving their team the required goaltending to win a Cup and changes are definitely looming in the off-season. This team is out of sync, and though we’ve loyal to the Pens for much of the post-season, it’s time to cut our losses and hop on the Bruins bandwagon from here on out.
This Boston team possesses unreal character, as was displayed in Round 1 in their epic comeback against the Leafs, and as was displayed in Game 3 off a heroic penalty killing effort from Gregory Campbell. If you missed it, Campbell broke his leg blocking a shot in Game 3, but stayed on the ice for a good minute after disrupting Pittsburgh’s powerplay. That kind of effort has Boston where they are right now, and that’s the kind of effort that will allow them to close this series out tonight. Campbell is expected to miss the rest of the post-season for the Bruins, but talented youngster Jordan Caron should be able to adequately replace him.
As has been stated many times, it’s well known the Bruins have had some difficulties of late in closing out opponents. While the Pens will be a tough challenge to finish off, this Boston team has gotten in their heads. Their physicality and ferocious puck pursuit is a troubling match-up for Pittsburgh, and if they remain focused and hungry, this series should conclude in four straight games. Many underrated the chances of Boston heading into this match-up, but the job they’ve done on Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin has been remarkable. Look for another solid performance from the Bruins’ defense on those stars en route to a quick sweep of the Pens. Boston knows their reputation as chokers in elimination games still lingers, and they’ll want to get this series over with as quick as possible, securing even more rest before their upcoming games chasing Lord Stanley’s Cup.
PICK = Boston (-120)
Bonus Pick #1 – Over 5.5 Goals (+110) We haven’t given out many bonus plays as the play-offs progress simply because of the fact there are now fewer games. However tonight provides another intriguing offer on the totals market. While I foresee Boston progressing and finishing off the series tonight, the Pens have too much pride, talent, and firepower from going down quietly. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and James Neal haven’t done much of anything offensively and count on them making things happen in their desperate bids to prolong this series. The Pens will score tonight because they’ll be in an all-out attack mode for much of the game. They’ll need to be desperate and take chances, and as a result I see a higher scoring affair. Pittsburgh’s proven it can’t keep the puck out, and Boston will burn them once again. Something along the lines of a 4-3 or 5-3 (with an empty-netter) B’s victory seems likely, and at plus money the Over 5.5 Goals provides some solid value in this elimination game.