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

Vancouver Canucks vs Minnesota Wild

These teams are playing the third game of their series, and the first two games couldn’t have been different. In game one, Minnesota played a clean solid defensive game and looked like a team that was going to play their style of shutdown hockey. In game two, Vancouver came out with their heads on fire and turned the game into more of a track meet.

Which game will we see in game 3? I think we’re going back to a lower-scoring game.

Throughout the course of the regular season, Minnesota was a much better team in terms of controlling play, controlling possession, controlling the quality of chances and playing games at their pace. Vancouver was a team that struggled to keep the puck out of their zone and was constantly defending. Minnesota doesn’t have the offensive firepower to take advantage like other teams do, but if Minnesota has the puck then Vancouver can’t score.

There is no team in the league that had lower expected goals against per 60 minutes than Minnesota. Their expected goals against was 1.95 goals a game at 5on5. Vancouver came out in game 2 with more desperation since they were trailing in the series. Now that the series is even and the levels of desperation are relatively even, I think we go back to a game more similar to what we saw in game one.

The pick: Minnesota Wild ML @ -109

If you’re feeling crazy, sprinkle some on a parlay between those two as I believe the total amount of goals scored will be correlated to who wins. That parlay is +252.

The pick: Under 5.5 Goals @ -120

Vegas Golden Knights vs St. Louis Blues

St. Louis won the Stanley Cup last year. And they’re an underdog in this game. Dare I say it….rightfully so.

Vegas was the NHL’s best team when it comes to the underlying metrics. They led the league in expected goal percentage. They led the league in shot attempts and they were 2nd in high danger chances.

On the other hand, St. Louis was barely over 50% in shot attempts and they were under 50% in high danger chances and expected goals. Anyone who watches hockey knows that St. Louis plays a more old-school style; a style that doesn’t really lend itself to analytics. Nevertheless, I will maintain that it’s better to have the puck than it is to not have the puck.

One area of concern is that Vegas is expected to go with Marc-Andre Fleury between the pipes. Fleury is a lesser option compared to Vegas’ other goalie, Robin Lehner. Fleury was the face of the expansion Golden Knights and he’s on the verge of losing his job. I don’t expect him to give up his job that easily. Remember, this is a guy that lost his job in Pittsburgh before coming to Vegas and reinvigorating his career.

At such a short number, I’ll fade the Stanley Cup champions and I’ll take the league’s best possession team.

The pick: Vegas Golden Knights ML @ -110

Washington Capitals vs Philadelphia Flyers

Brian Elliott will receive the start in net for Philadelphia which is a clear downgrade for the Flyers compared to Carter Hart.

Braden Holtby has had the worst year of his career this season, posting a save percentage under 90%. Youngster Ilya Samsonov hurt himself during the NHL pause, so Washington no longer has a reliable backup to fall back on.

Alex Ovechkin didn’t score in Washington’s first game against Tampa Bay, which means you can pencil him in for a goal today. No, seriously. The Great 8 scores well over 0.5 goals per game and you gotta expect Ovechkin won’t go long without getting on the board.

John Carlson practiced with Washington on Wednesday, but his status is still uncertain. If Carlson plays, he is the best offensive defenseman in the NHL. He would be a welcome addition to Washington’s defensive unit and their powerplay.

Lars Eller, a defensive center and penalty killer, has left the NHL bubble to be with his wife who gave birth to the couple’s 2nd child.

I know that goal scoring has been at a premium in this tournament, and that unders are cashing at a historic rate, but I do think we get some goals in this game.

The pick: Over 6 Goals @ -110


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