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Picks and predictions for Sunday's NHL slate from our expert handicapper

Colorado Avalanche vs Dallas Stars

Now that each team has played at least 10 games in the bubble postseason tournament, it’s becoming safer to make judgements and draw conclusions from what we’ve seen thus far.

During the regular season, Dallas earned a reputation as a team that struggled to score goals. Some called them boring, defensive minded, offensively challenged. However, the truth was always that Dallas was underperforming offensively based on their underlying metrics.

Dallas had the 2nd lowest amount of actual goals scored per 60 minutes at even strength, averaging 1.97 goals per hour. However, their expected goals scored per 60 was actually 2.35, which is good for a top ten number in the league. They were relatively unlucky with their issues scoring.

However in these playoffs, it seems things are starting to turn around. Dallas has 21 goals in their last 4 games, including 14 in the first three games of their series against Colorado. No longer is Dallas winning 2-1 games, now they are coming out victorious in 5-3 contests.

The biggest recent change for the Stars has to be the play of their top line. The trio of Alexander Radulov, Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn struggled mightily through the first portion of this tournament. However, they’ve stepped up when needed here in the series against the Avalanche. The three players have combined for 15 points in just three games.The second line with Joe Pavelski and Denis Gurianov continues to control play and chip in clutch goals.

On the other side of the matchup, Nathan MacKinnon continues to do Nathan MacKinnon things. He has seven points in just three games thus far in this series. He is single-handedly carrying the Avalanche offense and he’s dangerous every time he steps on the ice.

Goaltending in this series has left a little to be desired. Both Anton Khudobin and Pavel Francouz are not their teams’ respective number one choices to be in between the pipes. Despite this, both of these goalies had very good regular seasons and their presence wasn’t expected to be an issue. Khudobin struggled in Game Three, getting beat five times. Francouz has been beaten eight times on just 63 shots in the two games he’s started in this series.

The first three games in this series have gone over the total of 5.5 goals pretty easily for the most part. People might be expecting the old Dallas Stars to return and put the clamps on the goals, but for at least one more game I expect the goals to keep flowing.

The pick: Over 5.5 goals (+100)

New York Islanders vs Philadelphia Flyers

If you don’t know by now, I think it’s time for me to come clean and put it in writing: I am a diehard fan of the New York Islanders. And I don’t know how to handle this. I’m used to fading my team. I’m the definition of a pessimistic fan.

The New York Islanders are absolutely kicking the butts of the Philadelphia Flyers in this series.

Outside of a fifteen minute stretch in the first period of Game Two where Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov couldn’t make a save for his team, the Isles have been in control. Philadelphia’s offense has shown very limited signs of life. The Isles have given them absolutely nothing. Star players like Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek have been invisible.

The Islanders on the other hand are getting scoring from up and down their line-up. Fourth line winger Matt Martin kicked off the scoring in Game Three. Leo Komarov, the defensive minded third liner, gave the Isles a lead with five seconds remaining in the second period. Captain Anders Lee provided insurance in the third period.

With this write-up, you probably think I’m going back to the Islanders again and trying our luck. Unfortunately, Philadelphia hasn’t lost back-to-back games since January. You might say, “hey, you’re cheating. There was a pandemic in between. That’s not as impressive as it sounds.” Well, consider the fact that the NHL season paused in mid-March and you’ll realize this is an impressive streak the Flyers are on.

I’m not much of a believer in streaks, but when you factor in the internal pessimism and caution I feel as an Islanders fan, I believe this one.

No, I will not pick the Flyers. They’ve shown me absolutely nothing in this series and even through my unbiased eyes, I can’t recommend betting on this team. They didn’t play good hockey against Montreal in the prior round either. This team isn’t on top of their game.

We need to look towards the total here, and the total is low. We have a flat five here.

This is the second half of a back-to-back set, so the usual questions and concerns about goaltending come up. Will the Flyers turn to Brian Elliott while trailing in the series? Almost no chance. Will the Isles give Thomas Greiss his first start of the playoffs? This one is far more likely but definitely not certain.

Either way, you’ll either be getting a back-up goalie or a tired goalie. Both are conducive to more goals being scored. The Islanders have had no issues scoring goals, potting ten goals in the three games thus far. With Hart more tired in the second half of a back-to-back, I expect the Isles to be able to score.

Will Philadelphia be able to score? Semyon Varlamov has only been asked to play a back-to-back set once in these playoffs thus far. In the qualifying round against Florida, he was beaten three times on just 22 shots in the Isles lone loss of the series. This was one of his worse performances in these playoffs, so it’s something to note.

I lean towards the over here, especially at the low number. A 2-2 game is an automatic push, and I can see both teams scoring twice here.

The pick: Over 5 Goals (-107)

Vancouver Canucks vs. Vegas Golden Knights

A series with a huge favorite is no fun to bet. I’m not laying the juice on Vegas and I have no confidence in the underdog Canucks after they were shut-out for the second time in three games.

There is definitely value on the Canucks at +190 in this spot, so if you want to grind out a long-term profit, then I recommend the Canucks. However, it's late August and we’re watching playoff hockey. Let’s bet on something fun.

Player Props.

With the second half of a back-to-back in play, Vegas is one team that will almost certainly use their backup goalie. Marc-Andre Fleury is still probably the face of the franchise and will probably get the crease despite Robin Lehner posting a shutout on Saturday night. This is a goaltending downgrade for the Knights in my opinion.

Quinn Hughes might be the Rookie of the Year in the NHL this season. He is a dynamic young defenseman that is arguably their most talented player. He quarterbacks their powerplay. He plays a ton of minutes.

In this series, he only has one point in three games. That’s probably because his team has only scored in one of three games. In the playoffs, prior to this series he had 10 points in 10 games. He’s a point per game player in the postseason after notching 53 points in 68 games during the regular season.

I certainly don’t expect Vancouver to get shut-out again in Game Four. When they score, there’s a good chance Quinn Hughes is involved. If the goal is on the powerplay, where they get a lot of their offense, the odds are even higher that Quinn was on the ice.

At +100, I like the odds for the young defenseman to notch a goal or an assist.

The Pick: Quinn Hughes Over 0.5 Points (+100)


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