Last night we split our selections here at The Sports Geek. The Rangers couldn’t come through for us and are likely done against a depleted Bruins squad, while the Sharks have clawed back in their series against the Kings and look every bit the part of the Cup contender we predicted them to be. Their progress moving forward is definitely something to watch, especially considering they were available at near 20/1 to win the Cup after going down 0-2 to the Kings.
Tonight our focus shifts back to the most intriguing series from the East, as Sidney Crosby and the Penguins will look to take a stranglehold on their series against the pesky Senators. Ottawa showed a ton of resiliency all season long and it was on display once again in Game 3 squeaking out a double-overtime victory against the Penguins. Though they weren’t necessarily the better team, they got the job done and it’ll be interesting to see if they can do so again tonight. Read on below for further details on tonight’s featured selection.
Pittsburgh Penguins (-140) @ Ottawa Senators (+120)
Despite the fact Ottawa has played well for much of this series and are now a mostly healthy group, they remain a tier below the Penguins. That showed for much of the crucial stretches of Game 3 and both overtime periods. Pittsburgh is just too much for a youthful Ottawa squad, and in a Game 4 as big as this one, I can’t see Ottawa prevailing despite the home-ice advantage. The Pens have legitimate Cup aspirations and no doubt the fact that Boston seems to be romping over the Rangers in four straight games is weighing on them. Pittsburgh too would like some rest going into what could be a very physical Conference Finals series and knows they need tonight’s contest in order to close out the Sens in a timely manner.
After shifting from Marc-Andre Fleury to Tomas Vokoun, Pittsburgh is now a much more complete team. They have very few deficiencies and when on the attack, they remain as lethal a team as there’s been in recent NHL history. Pittsburgh lost Game 3 in demoralizing fashion and bet on this veteran-laden squad bouncing back in a big way. Many of the Penguins revealed quotes expressing their dismay with how they let the game slip away, and teams this good won’t make the same mistake twice. Bank on a very professional approach to Pittsburgh’s game, and though Craig Anderson has been tough to solve all season long, Pittsburgh has the talent to beat him. The Pens should also have key forward Jussi Jokinen back in the line-up. Jokinen provides skill on all lines and can make the Sens pay in a plethora of different ways. He remains a dangerous player despite his inconsistency.
On the Ottawa front, the Sens are keeping the status quo with regard to their line-up. While they aren’t generating many prime scoring opportunities, that’s been Ottawa’s mantra for much of the year. They rely on their tight defensive system and excellent goaltending to acquire victories. However that strategy may work for one game against a potent Pens line-up but it’s unlikely to do so again tonight. Ottawa will no doubt be riding a wave of confidence, but against a team like Pittsburgh, expect the Pens to take that feeling away quickly. As good as Pittsburgh’s been for much of the post-season, many of their higher profile players have been underperforming. James Neal to name one, hasn’t been all that great, and bank on the big Canadian winger busting out in the near future. With regards to injuries, Sens agitator Chris Neil is banged up but expected to play, though his impact remains in question. He’s done well in disrupting the play of some of Pittsburgh’s top performers.
Expect a dominant Pittsburgh outing tonight in Ottawa. The Pens are a proud group with a bitter taste in their mouths following the Game 3 collapse. They’ll bounce back in a big way this evening, and bank on Sidney Crosby leading the way. The kid remains the best player in the world and when he wants to, he can simply take over any game, and look for him to do just that tonight. Pittsburgh has been the better team through the first three contests and that will carry over once again. The Pens’ powerplay will be in much better form in Game 4, and Craig Anderson cannot possibly continue to be this great against the game’s top stars. This is a huge game for both teams, but look for the Cup-bound Penguins to realize its importance, and get a much-needed victory in Canada’s capital.
PICK = Pittsburgh (-140)