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After yesterday's 2-0 performance, NHL handicapper Pete Truszkowski is back with Sunday's picks

The NHL wraps up the first round of their postseason tournament on Sunday with a triple-header of action. Seeding in both conferences is yet to be determined as the Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders, Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks all anxiously await to see who they’ll be facing off in the first round of the playoffs.

Boston Bruins vs. Washington Capitals

BET: Alexander Ovechkin to Score a Goal @ +125

The winner of this game will move on to face-off against the New York Islanders. The loser draws the Carolina Hurricanes. Both of those teams are pesky teams that are extremely hard to play against, but Carolina possesses more offensive firepower and therefore is a team that should be avoided if possible.

Boston was the best team in hockey before the pandemic and it wasn’t particularly close. The fact that the best seed they can get is a three seed is actually pretty nonsensical. This is a team that had an eight point lead over the second place team in the conference with barely double digit games remaining. There was almost no chance they weren’t going to be the number one seed.

There’s no use crying over spilled milk for Boston fans, as they need to see their team figure out their game as soon as possible. Boston was outplayed by Philadelphia and then thoroughly dominated by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Their top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak hasn’t found the scoresheet yet. This is surprising as this line of players is literally nicknamed “The Perfection Line.” This trio will receive help as Ondrej Kase will be making his postseason debut for the Bruins after returning from injury.

On the other side of the puck, Washington generated almost nothing against Philadelphia in their last game. They only had 18 shots on goal, beating Brian Elliott only once.

Alex Ovechkin hasn’t scored yet in this postseason. As “The Great 8” goes, the Capitals go. Expect the league’s best goal scorer to use this final tune-up before the playoffs to get his game right and get back into the swing of things.

Throughout his career, Ovechkin scores 0.6 goals per game. That means if he goes two games without a goal, he’s performing below his career average and he’s due. That’s the exact situation we find ourselves in today.

Ovechkin in the calendar year of 2020 has only gone three games without scoring a goal one time. This guy does not go long periods of time without scoring goals.

I don’t love picking a side as both teams are struggling to find their game. The total is iffy due to the early start and the fact that both team’s star players aren’t lighting the lamp.

Dallas Stars vs. St. Louis Blues

BET: Stars Moneyline @ +123

Two teams that are absolutely struggling to start this postseason. Both of these teams were outplayed handily by Colorado and Vegas in their first two matchups.

St. Louis has developed a positive reputation due to winning the Stanley Cup last season, and deservedly so. However, their play this season has been slightly underwhelming. Their record is fine, but their underlying metrics paint a slightly bleak picture. The Blues have under 50% of the expected goals as well as high danger scoring chances.

Dallas on the other hand was a top five team in both expected goals and high danger scoring chances. Dallas is one of the league’s elite teams defensively due to the combination of being a top 7 team in their expected goals against per 60 minutes and the fact that Ben Bishop is a top five goalie all-time in terms of save percentage.

Scoring against Dallas isn’t easy as they control the puck, keep high danger chances low and have an elite goalie. St. Louis was a bottom 5 team in the NHL in terms of expected goals scored per 60 minutes at even strength.

To me, the line here makes little to no sense. The Blues should be a small favorite, if they even deserve to be favorites. The fact that the line is -143 is appalling. There is a ton of value on the Stars at +123.

In addition, I expect a low scoring game. I don’t like the fact that the line currently sits at 5. They took the hook away from us, so we’ll avoid a play. If you can find under 5.5 goals anywhere with the juice lower than -125, I think it’s a worthy play. At the current number, the value is diminished.

Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

BET: Under 5.5 Goals @ -120

I cannot believe Columbus lost game 4 of this series. If you read my preview on Friday, I said that Columbus was going to win outright as decently sized underdogs. Toronto was done. Their morale was shot. Columbus smells blood in the water.

Well 56 minutes into a 60 minute game, the score was 3-0 Columbus. Note: this isn’t football. Getting three points in hockey is tough. I’m thinking about moving my pending bet into the win column.

Toronto scored 3 goals in the last 4 minutes to tie the game. They won it in overtime on a soft penalty call. This is basically the exact opposite of what happened in game 3 where Toronto blew a three goal lead (albeit not as quickly and a lot less dramatically) before losing the game in overtime.

You can make the case that Columbus lost control of the game when their star defenseman Zach Werenski went out in the third period. His status for this deciding game 5 is unknown. If he’s unable to suit up, it's a tough road for Columbus.

Knowing the style of hockey Columbus plays, the amount of pressure on Toronto to advance, and the coaching of John Tortorella, I have a feeling this game is played mostly in the Columbus zone.

Columbus will put on a defensive clinic, frustrate Toronto all game and it’ll come down to who can get a lucky bounce to win a low scoring game. Coach Tortorella knows his team doesn’t have the offensive firepower to keep up with the Leafs, so they will sell out to play a near perfect game defensively.


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