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Picks for today's NHL games from expert 'capper Pete Truszkowski

New York Islanders vs Philadelphia Flyers Predictions

In the first round of the playoffs, both these teams won their series. That’s about where the similarities between the two end. New York got here by dominating the Washington Capitals throughout almost the whole series. Philadelphia on the other hand was clearly outplayed by the Montreal Canadiens and advanced due to a higher talent level and goaltending.

During this postseason, the Islanders have had 48.9% of shot attempts while Philadelphia has had 43.7%. In terms of scoring chances, the Isles are at 49.9% while Philadelphia comes in at 44.1%. Expected goals paint a similar picture: 55.8% for NY and 44.2% for Philly. Finally, the high danger chances show 60.7% for the Isles and 42.9% for the Flyers.

Philadelphia has relied a lot on goaltender Carter Hart in these playoffs. The second-year goalie has been nothing short of phenomenal. He has posted a .943 save percentage thus far through eight games. He has 5.34 goals saved above expectation according to Evolving-Hockey.

However, despite Hart’s shining numbers the goaltending advantage for the Flyers is minimal. Semyon Varlamov has been spectacular for the Isles posting a .934 save percentage through nine starts. He’s also posted a 4.38 goals saved above expectations number. 

Philadelphia’s biggest potential problem arises with their star players. Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny and James van Reimsdyk have combined for a grand total of zero goals in these playoffs. Kevin Hayes has one goal. Not only are they not producing, but most of these players are playing well under 50% in terms of expected goals and possession numbers. If the star players for Philadelphia can’t get going, the Islanders will shut them down.

Speaking of top players, the Isles forwards are playing extremely well. Captain Anders Lee has posted an expected goal number near 60%. His line with Mat Barzal and Jordan Eberle has been playing well, however the Isles best line has been their second line consisting of Josh Bailey, Anthony Beauvillier and Brock Nelson. Beauvillier is tied for the league lead in goals in these playoffs and Bailey has ten points in nine games.

The Islanders third and fourth line centers might be the best bottom six center duo in hockey. Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Casey Cizikas can play both ends of the ice while driving play in a positive direction. All four lines being defensively responsible has led the Isles to being one of the most stingy teams in the bubble, allowing just 1.71 expected goals against per 60 minutes.

In game one of a series, I think coaching matters a lot. Coaching helps create a gameplan and scout the tendencies of the opponent. Alain Vigneault might be a good coach, but it’s becoming clear that Barry Trotz is the best coach in the NHL. Trotz should have the Isles in position to succeed, and with the current form of both of these teams, I like the Islanders to win game one.

PICK: NY Islanders (+100)

Dallas Stars vs Colorado Avalanche Predictions

The hard part of judging this tournament is trying to determine when the sample size is large enough. Dallas has been known as a defense first team that tries to grind its way to 2-1 wins thanks to great goaltending and awesome defensive zone play.

However, in their last four games in this tournament, they have scored 19 goals and allowed 11. This is a team that we are used to scoring just over 2.5 goals a game putting on an offensive clinic. Dallas did underperform offensively based on their underlying metrics during the regular season, so if this is regression for them then the timing is immaculate.

Another change has been the play of Anton Khudobin. Khudobin has been solid in this series but his .917 save percentage is over ten points lower than his season average. A lot of goalies do well in a backup role, but once they are made the starter, their holes become exposed. Ben Bishop has been unfit to play for most of this tournament so does Khudobin have what it takes to take over the crease on a full-time basis?

On the plus side for Dallas, their top line finally got going in game one. The Stars couldn’t get anything from the trio of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Alex Radulov. In game one, finally, Benn contributed three points, Radulov scored twice and Seguin added a goal. If the top line gets going, Dallas becomes that much more dangerous.

We’ve discussed Colorado’s offense at length in this space. This team can score. Even in their game one loss, they still potted three goals past the second best defensive team in the league. Colorado is scoring over 3.75 goals a game in this postseason.

They are obviously led by Nathan MacKinnon, who even in defeat scored two goals and added an assist. MacKinnon is probably the best player left in these playoffs and his performances continue to dazzle.

Unfortunately for the Avalanche, they lost top pairing defenseman Erik Johnson and starting goalie Philipp Grubauer to injury in the first game of this series. The Avalanche defense consists of young puck movers like Cale Makar and Samuel Girard, but in terms of playing in their own zone and defending, Erik Johnson might be their strongest. Grubauer had a painful looking muscle/soft tissue injury and almost certainly will not play. Colorado will have to turn to backup goaltender Pavel Francouz.

I can’t see Colorado falling down two games to zero despite this. However, they are too big of favorites to lay that kind of juice. We got a high scoring game in the first game and I can see another one in game two.

PICK: Over 5.5 goals (-105)


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