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NHL handicapper Pete Truszkowski is back with three picks for Wednesday's games

Montreal Canadiens vs. Philadelphia Flyers

BET: Montreal Canadiens ML @ +125

The number one seed Philadelphia Flyers have won two straight games, pushing the Cinderella story 12 seed Montreal to the brink of elimination. This is where the powerhouse steps on their throat and finishes them, right?

Not so fast my friend.

Montreal once again was shut out on Tuesday in game four. This is the second straight game where they couldn’t solve Flyers goaltender Carter Hart. How many times did Montreal get kept off the scoresheet during the regular season? Just once in 71 contests. This is a team that usually does not struggle to find the net.

The bigger worry would be if Montreal wasn’t being their normal selves. However, one look at the stat sheet tells you that in game four, Montreal had 54.3% of shot attempts, 53.1% of scoring chances, 88.9% of high danger chances and 63.2% of expected goals. Montreal conceded one high danger chance to the Flyers.

Montreal hasn’t scored in two games, but they’ve also only conceded three times in their last three games. This series is not an example of the Flyers taking control of play and beating a lower team. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

The worse team in this series is controlling possession, getting more opportunities to score but just not being able to take advantage. Do I think Montreal will win this series? No, I think Philadelphia’s talent will win out.

However, Carter Hart cannot keep posting shutouts forever. Montreal will likely score in game five. And with how well they are limiting Flyers offense, they just need a bounce or two. Philadelphia hasn’t impressed me with their play. Their goalie has, but not the team.

I like the plus-odds on the underdog to keep their season alive. They’ve been the better team in this series and they deserve some bounces to go their way.

Colorado Avalanche vs. Arizona Coyotes

BET: Colorado Avalanche -1.5 @ +140

Stop the fight. The Arizona Coyotes are already dead.

I wrote on here prior to game four about how Arizona didn’t deserve to win game three. I also opined that they might have awoken the beast known as the Colorado Avalanche. Well, game four’s scoreline says it all. Colorado defeated Arizona by a score of 7-1, setting up an elimination game in game five.

It’s no shock that Colorado is the better team, this is a 2vs11 matchup after all. Arizona wouldn’t have made the playoffs if the season completed in April like it was supposed to. Colorado was considered a cup favorite at the start of this tournament, The talent and depth the Avalanche possess blows the Coyotes out of the water.

Arizona’s only reason for success in this postseason has been the play of Darcy Kuemper. Kuemper is actually the reason they defeated Nashville in the qualifying round to get to this point anyway. This guy faces 40 shots almost every night and he somehow still makes save after save.

Well, he got beat four times in just two periods in game four before being pulled from the net. Any confidence and good feelings he had are now gone. He has the Avalanche finishers in his nightmares.

Arizona’s coach Rick Tocchet openly speculated whether his team had quit after game four. He talked about how being quarantined in the bubble is all about whether you want to be there or not. How long do you want to stay? Do you want to just go home?

Tocchet suggested his team was ready to pack their bags and return to their families. That’s harsh criticism for a coach, who also called his team’s performance a debacle and an embarrassment. This is quite obviously a motivational tactic, but it’s not going to work.

Colorado will defeat Arizona and end their season in game five. If this team is as mentally fragile as they appeared in game four, and as their coach suggested, it has the potential to be another blowout. Even if Arizona can keep it close, I think a desperate team late in the game leaves the door open for high quality chances and empty net opportunities.

Colorado should be able to cover a 1.5 goal spread in this game. I can’t see Arizona winning this game, and I don’t want to lay -215 on the moneyline. At plus-money, the puckline is the best avenue to attack this game.

St. Louis Blues vs. Vancouver Canucks

BET: Under 5.5 Total Goals @ -135

Vancouver went from having a commanding 2-0 lead in this series, to being tied at two games a piece and being substantial underdogs in game five.

What exactly happened?

Most obviously, St. Louis made a change in net. Stanley Cup winning netminder Jordan Binnington was replaced in the crease by Jake Allen. Through the first two games in this series, Binnington stopped only 38 of 47 Canucks shots, which is an .809 save percentage. Since taking over, Jake Allen stopped 61 of 64 shots, good for a .953 save percentage.

With those numbers, it’s no shock the score went over the total in the first two games of this series, and under in the last two games.

However, that’s not all we’re working with.

Vancouver’s powerplay is most likely the strength of their team. In games one and two of this series, they scored five goals in eight opportunities which equals a 63% success rate. For comparison, a good NHL powerplay scores on 20% of their man advantage opportunities.

The Canucks were scoring at will on the man advantage, and that number was obviously unsustainable. When you couple the special teams regressing back to the mean, with the goaltending change, you have two main factors that are limiting goals in this series.

Ryan O’Reilly is the best defensive forward in the league, and in game five the Blues go back to being the “home” team. This means they control matchups and they can use O’Reilly to slow down anyone they see fit.

Vancouver’s goalie Jacob Markstrom has been tremendous in this series, stopping nearly 93% of the shots he’s faced. He is a Vezina finalist for this season which is the award given to the NHL’s top goalie. He should do his part to keep the Blues middling offense in check.

Speaking of the Blues offense, their best scorer Vladimir Tarasenko has departed the bubble to get his shoulder examined. He will miss game five as well as the remainder of the series. Tarasenko missed most of this season with injury, but in the five prior seasons he played, he scored over 30 goals in each of them. He is the Blues most dangerous weapon to score.

Better goaltending, better penalty killing for St. Louis and big name players on offense missing. The series has already been trending towards the under, and I expect it to continue in game five.


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