After a big victory last night in overtime with the San Jose Sharks, we’ll look to continue our run of solid picks on what will be a busy Sunday in the NHL. Two pivotal contests go today, with the Rangers needing a win in Beantown, and the Sens hosting the Penguins in a crucial Game 3. I liked both the Rangers and Penguins to progress from these second round series, and nothing I’ve seen thus far has done anything to change my views. Read on below for detailed thoughts on today’s games and our featured selection between the Rangers and Bruins.
New York Rangers (+115) @ Boston Bruins (-135)
New York played nowhere near their best in Game 12 of this series and still managed to take Boston to an overtime period. As has been mentioned before on this site, the Bruins seem like a dead tired group with an extremely thin defensive group. The Rangers do have the talent to exploit these deficiencies, and expect a much better Game 2 effort from the Blueshirts with regard to execution. The Rangers had a wealth of prime scoring opportunities but couldn’t finish their chances. That will have to change if they want to make this a series.
Much of Toronto’s success against Boston’s inexperienced defense, was their ferocious forecheck. New York noted this as well but couldn’t take advantage of it in the opening game. Their forwards were lackluster at entering the zone with speed, but head coach John Tortorella has vowed for a more disciplined approach. Expect New York to be tenacious on the forecheck Sunday afternoon. Boston’s D struggles to move the puck and are not familiar with the rigors of playoff hockey. Look for New York to force turnovers and capitalize on these mistakes. Boston’s a team that has played a ton of hockey in the recent weeks and if you wear them down physically, opportunities will arise.
Expect yet another defense-first game from both of these teams. The Rangers and Bruins both employ similar styles of hockey and you’ll see that today. In Game 1, Boston was the much smarter team with getting pucks in deep and taking away time and space through the neutral zone. Now it’s the Rangers turn to do the same. They have learned from their Game 1 experience and should be better equipped to put the pressure on a fading Boston group.
Boston will still likely be without their three key defensemen on the back-end as Wade Redden, Dennis Seidenberg, and Andrew Ference are all still out injured. New York is aware of this and will take advantage of it. The Rangers are a fresher group with loads of speed to tire out an already fatigued Bruins squad. New York will be much better in the middle of the ice this time around, clogging up the neutral zone and not allowing some of Boston’s more skilled forwards to roam freely. Three rookies on the back-end for Boston will eventually catch up to them, and expect the Rangers to make them pay for it today. My prediction was Rangers in 6 at the beginning of the series, and I’m sticking to it. Expect a workmanlike effort from New York, en route to a big Game 2 victory.
PICK = New York (+110)
There’s one other game that goes a bit later in the day today as the Pittsburgh Penguins head north to play Game 3 of their series vs. the Ottawa Senators. The Sens haven’t shown much in the opening two games, but for the first time this season their line-up is at full strength as star centre Jason Spezza returns to the fold. Read below for some bonus thoughts on this game tonight.
Bonus Pick #1: Pittsburgh (-125) It seems as if the betting market has over-compensated for the return of Jason Spezza and the return of Ottawa to their home building. Both are favourable for the Sens certainly, but after seeing both of the opening two games of the series, Ottawa is still going to have great difficulty containing the far more explosive Penguins. Sidney Crosby is playing out of this world currently and a rusty Jason Spezza will be no match. While I did initially think this series had the potential to go six games, the Sens were abysmal in Pittsburgh. Craig Anderson got pulled, Erik Karlsson was a pylon on Sidney Crosby’s first goal, and Ottawa isn’t doing the little things that made them successful in the first round. Pittsburgh was a tad over-exerted in their first round against the Islanders and know the value of a bit of a break before the Conference Finals. Finishing this series off in four or five games would be crucial to their Stanley Cup aspirations and expect them to seize that opportunity. This is a group that knows how to win, and despite the transition to Ottawa and Spezza’s emotional return, it won’t phase Crosby and company. At a generous road favourite price, take the Pens to grab a stranglehold on this series.