Here are Today’s NHL Picks:
The scene shifts for the Eastern Conference Final as the Boston Bruins travel down to Carolina to face the Hurricanes in a pivotal Game 3. Boston took the first two games convincingly and as they say a series never tilts until the home team hiccups first. Though the Bruins dominated the first two games, Washington was up two games to none as well. Look at how that series turned out.
As always, the goalies are essential when it comes to making a prediction. They are the last line of defense. Games 1 and 2 showed an over-aggressive Petr Mrazek getting caught out of position too often. Meanwhile, Tuukka Rask played within himself and delivered two quality starts and two wins. It could not have been more obvious which goalie stayed within themselves and played solid, fundamental hockey.
There are some rumblings that Curtis McElhinney may start for Carolina. The backup goalie plays a bit less aggressive and within himself. He stopped 71 of 75 shots in the series against the New York Islanders. McElhinney finished off Game 2 and then won Games 3 and 4 as well. Boston tends to have a tougher time with goalie who are not as aggressive yet athletic.
Rod Brind’amour faces quite a decision considering how hot Mrazek was after the All-Star Break. This was a goalie who produced excellent numbers and a .938 save percentage to boot. Boston does have Mrazek pegged it would seem and that is an ominous sign.
Projected shots are expected to be around 30-35+ shots for Carolina and a hair less for Boston. It comes down to which goalie stops the pucks during those high-danger chances. So far, Tuukka Rask has been the best goalie in that aspect all playoffs long. Carolina must get in close and get Rask thinking at least, never mind rattled. Meanwhile, the Hurricanes just need steady goaltending and a more stabilized team defense. Both of those aspects have failed Carolina badly in the first two contests.
Strength vs Strength:
Alas, Boston found ways to get Carolina off their game by making focus on physicality which the Hurricanes cannot match the Bruins on. The result was Carolina getting out of position too often and Boston generating opportunities. Two goals resulted on the power play because Carolina got caught being a bit lax in their coverage. That killed any chance of the Hurricanes coming back in Game 2. Furthermore, it reinforced the blueprint that Washington had set up early in their series. The question is can Carolina recapture the home magic against Boston like they did against those very same Capitals?
One of the biggest problems Carolina has had early in the series is their top lines get opportunities but are either one and done or miss. Early chances must be converted against a team like Boston. Once they have control, the Bruins typically do not relent. Players like Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen must be involved early for Carolina to bounce back in Game 3.
The Hurricanes must take the last line change and use it wisely so that their top-six garners advantageous line matchups. Also, their depth must engage early and often. Play the puck not just the body! Make Boston chase the puck and most importantly, stay disciplined. Boston can often beat itself when their opposition does not retaliate as often.
Game 3 Picks:
Our betting rationale is contingent on a few realizations. For one, waiting to see who starts for Carolina is paramount. It looks like McElhinney gives Carolina a better probability of winning at this point. Now, maybe Mrazek does find his focus but again it is a decision that comes down to game day for the coach.
Expectations dictate that the teams should go over 5.5 goals again. The toughest part of this series is figuring when Carolina’s home tendencies tilt the projections. Carolina’s special teams are better at home but are abysmal on the road. At the very least, the first-unit power play must show up against Boston. Also, the penalty kill must account for players better than they did in Games 1 and 2.
Obviously, Carolina scoring first helps immensely. Involving the crowd is paramount to winning. Getting Boston to play Carolina’s game and letting Carolina play downhill must occur. The line here is intriguing enough if it slips low enough. My personal suggestion is hold off until a goalie confirmation to see if one can hit as max of value as possible.
1u – CAR Hurricanes MoneyLine @ -115
1u – Over 5.5 total goals @ +105
By Chris Wassel