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NHL 'capper Pete Truszkowski has three picks on Wednesday's slate

New York Islanders vs Florida Panthers

The Isles have come out and taken a commanding 2-0 lead over the Florida Panthers in their best of 5 series. This is an elimination game for the Florida Panthers, and it’ll be played 24 hours after game two.

When teams are tired, their commitment to detail and their defensive effort is the first thing to go. Nobody is ever too tired to play offense and try and score a goal. These teams are playing their third game in less than 5 days as well as their second game in 24 hours.

In addition, when a team plays an elimination game, you always have to account for the likelihood that they are forced to take bigger risks, being more aggressive, which could result in more scoring opportunities for both themselves and their opponent. Goalies are pulled earlier, forechecks are harder, and the desperation sets in quicker. Florida will not have the opportunity to wait. This is a team that is already prone to defensive mistakes, and they’ll have to open it up even more.

Sergei Bobrovsky has looked better in this series than he did during the regular season, but he did get beat four times by the Islanders on Tuesday afternoon. Goalies are always statistically worse in the second half of a back-to-back game. Usually, NHL teams play their backup goalie in back-to-back situations, but the playoffs are a different animal. Florida will not leave their 70 million dollar goalie on the bench in an elimination game.

On the flip-side for the Islanders, they have a decision to make in goal. Semyon Varlamov has been very solid for the Isles through two games. The Islanders have the luxury of being able to use their back-up goalie, Thomas Greiss. Like I said earlier, most teams do use their backup goalie in back-to-back games. Will Coach Trotz risk changing what’s working? The Islanders will have three opportunities to close out Florida, does Greiss get the first crack in order to keep Varlamov fresh?

Either way, Greiss is a solid goalie, but he is a touch worse than Varlamov. Varlamov has stopped 1.33 goals above expectation this season, while Greiss has allowed 2.76 more than expected according to Evolving-Hockey. If Greiss gets the start, that’s a goaltending downgrade for NY. If Varlamov starts in net, there’s also a downgrade due to the expected dip in performance from playing twice in 24 hours.

Combine all these factors, as well as a depleted total of a flat five goals, and I think we have the recipe for an over here. Note: Look for a flat 5. There are plenty of 5.5’s out there at +140, but 3-2 and 4-1 are two of the most common scores in hockey. Protect ourselves with a push if the score falls there.

The pick: Over 5 goals @ -115

Nashville Predators vs. Arizona Coyotes

We’ve picked Nashville twice. We’ve gone 1-1. We’re going back to the well.

Believe it or not, a lot of what I just said about goaltending in back-to-back situations applies here in our logic for this pick.

Nashville’s backup goalie is Pekka Rinne. Rinne is an accomplished NHL veteran who struggled at points this year but has a long track record of being a top-level NHL goalie. If Nashville decides to split the workload in net on this back-to-back, Rinne is a fine choice.

Arizona’s backup goalie WAS Antti Raanta. Raanta is also an accomplished NHL veteran who is a solid goalie. The issue is that Raanta got hurt warming up for a game he wasn’t even playing in on Tuesday. He took a shot to the head and has been deemed unfit to play.

That leaves Arizona with the option of going back to a tired Darcy Kuemper, who was beaten four times on Wednesday. Or, they can go with Adin Hill, who has started only 24 games in his career and 0 playoff games.

In addition to the goalie situation, I’ve already gone over in the past why I’m a fan of Nashville’s offense and can easily see them taking advantage of either a tired Kuemper or a raw Hill.

The pick: Nashville ML @ -128

Chicago Blackhawks vs Edmonton Oilers

Both games in this series have gone easily over. In two games, we’ve gotten a combined 19 goals. Goals are scored early. They are scored often.

A goaltending change didn’t do much to change things for Edmonton.

You still have Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl facing off against Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. You still have two elite offenses facing off against two porous defenses.

You can try and predict that the series will tighten up and the goals will stop flowing. You might be right.

But I’ll believe it when I see it.

Going into this series, I predicted a back and forth, high scoring series. The total is the highest total on the NHL board so far these playoffs, but that’s not scaring us off.

For a third straight time, we’re going over.

The pick: Over 6.5 @ +100

Tampa Bay Lightning vs Boston Bruins

Tampa is the best team in the league in my opinion, as I wrote about in my chalk futures article. They scored the most goals per game during the regular season. According to Natural Stat Trick, they were the 4th best team in terms of expected goals against.

Boston is coming off a disappointing showing against the Philadelphia Flyers, losing 4-1. The Bruins chances of claiming the one-seed in the East have taken a huge hit. On the other hand, if Tampa wins, they control their own destiny in regards to the seeding.

Tuukka Rask returns to the Bruins net. Rask has been in and out of training camp and practice, dealing with a myriad of issues including a minor injury on his glove hand. In addition, he came down with a cough that required him to quarantine for a few days and test negative for Covid-19. He played half of the Bruins’ exhibition game and got beat three times by the Blue Jackets. Tampa’s offense is infinitely more dangerous than Columbus.

This is a battle of the beasts in the East, but I’ll tell you this right now; I will take Tampa Bay at plus-money any day of the week. That includes today.

The pick: Tampa Bay Lightning ML @ +100

Other Leans:

Nashville vs Arizona - Over 5 @ -130

Colorado vs Dallas - Under 5.5 @ -125


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