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NHL handicapper Pete Truszkowski looks to continue his winning ways with his picks for Sunday's games

Boston Bruins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

BET: Lightning Moneyline @ -115

The two best teams in the East from the regular season are facing off against each other here in round two. Boston was on track to win the President’s Trophy as the league’s best team during the season. Tampa Bay was rounding into form as one of the top teams in the league.

In this past round, both of these teams made quick work of their opponents, needing only five games to eliminate them. Boston proved that their sweep of Carolina in 2019 wasn’t a fluke. The Hurricanes are a very good team that Boston has proven they have no issues handling.

While Boston was proving their past playoff results weren’t a fluke, Tampa Bay was avenging their playoff result from last year. They eliminated the Columbus Blue Jackets after Columbus embarrassingly swept the Lightning in 2019. It’s a sign of the growth of the Lightning year to year.

These teams actually played each other earlier this month during the round robin portion of the return to play. Tampa Bay pulled out a 3-2 win, but the game was not as close as the score would make you think. Tampa dominated the game basically from every vantage point.

To be fair, Boston showed a tremendous improvement in the first round of the playoffs compared to their form in the round-robin games. One can easily make the argument the Bruins did not care much for the early tournament games that impacted seeding.

In these playoffs thus far, Boston’s been good but Tampa Bay has been a little better. Boston has 53% of expected goals while the Lightning had 57.5% share. Tampa Bay had 57.7% of shot attempts while the Bruins had 52.3%. All of these marks are very strong, but as can be seen, the Lightning have been slightly more dominant.

I think the biggest edge in this game comes down to goaltending. As we all know by now, Boston is relying on their usual backup goalie Jaroslav Halak after Tuukka Rask left the bubble to deal with some family issues. Andrei Vasilevskiy is a perennial Vezina trophy candidate. Halak is a solid backup but I think Vasilevskiy is the better goalie.

I do think the line is about right in this game. Both these teams are awesome, this series is going to be great, but Tampa Bay excites me slightly more. At such a short line, I’ll take the small favorite to win game One.

Vancouver Canucks vs. Vegas Golden Knights

BET: Over 5.5 @ -117

Vancouver is fresh off a series win against the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues. They are riding the momentum and have to be high on confidence heading into their second round series against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Vegas is arguably the best team left in this tournament. During the regular season, they were a top two team across the board in all four of the major analytics: shot attempts, scoring chances, high danger chances and expected goals. On the flipside, Vancouver was below average in all of these metrics and usually spent a lot of time defending in their own zone.

Vegas is led by their top line of Mark Stone, William Karlsson and Max Pacioretty. The trio didn’t light up the scoreboard against Chicago, but when they were on the ice, Vegas had over 70% of the expected goals. If the trio continues to tilt the ice the way that they have, the points will start to come.

Speaking of top lines, Vancouver has a great one as well. Elias Pettersson might be the best under the radar star in this league. He won the Rookie of the Year in 2019 and hasn’t stopped developing. He might be the most valuable forward to his team in this tournament currently. He is joined on a line with J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser. Both of these guys have done well putting up points in this tournament and have the talent to support Pettersson.

How do I think these games will go? I think it’s simple. Vegas will have the puck a lot in Vancouver’s zone. Vancouver is not very good defensively, but they have a great goaltender in Jacob Markstrom. Markstrom will need to be very good for Vancouver to have any chance.

However, Vegas having the puck a  lot is not a death sentence for the Vancouver Canucks. This is a young, fast, skilled team that thrives by playing off the rush and in transition. They are not much of a grinding, half-court team.

I think that Vegas will obviously get their goals because of the amount of time they will spend in Vancouver’s zone. However, I think that Vancouver should be able to get some chances off the rush. I can see this being a very high scoring series, and I would lean towards betting that way.

Vancouver is an underdog for a reason, but I do think there is value on them at +160. I understand the reasoning behind not running to bet against Vegas. I can’t in good faith recommend laying -186 on Vegas in this game. Therefore, my pick will not be on a side but rather the total.


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