Washington Capitals vs. Boston Bruins Prediction
Series Tied 1-1
In this series, we have a two seed facing off with a three seed. Both of the first games have gone to overtime with each team winning one. It’s a dead heat, right? Not so fast.
Despite the first two games of this series being played in Washington, it’s the Capitals who are extremely fortunate to be tied. A quick look at the underlying metrics will point you in that direction.
In the first two games of this series, Boston has 64.2% of the expected goals. The high danger chances at 5-on-5 through two contests favors the Bruins by a count of 25-12. The Bruins have controlled puck possession as well as shot generation and shot quality.
If you’ve watched the first two games of this series, you’d notice that the Capitals have received a lot of puck luck. Many of their goals have been the result of funky deflections that have eluded Tuukka Rask in net for the Bruins. It's a hockey adage that over time, these bounces will even out.
However, the on-ice play might not even be the main reason the Capitals feel fortunate. Vitek Vanecek was injured in Game One and Ilya Samsonov has been disciplined by the team after a stint on the Covid list. It’s unknown when Samsonov will return, but in the meantime, the Caps have turned to Craig Anderson between the pipes.
Anderson is days away from his 40th birthday. He spent the majority of the season on Washington’s taxi squad as the third string goalie. He last had a good NHL season in 2017. Anderson to this point has not been an issue for the Capitals, but it feels like a ticking time bomb. If Samsonov returns for this game, it’ll be his first appearance in nearly three weeks.
Boston has done a great job of controlling play in this series and deserves a better fate. I expect them to be able to continue to drive play with the series now shifting to Massachusetts. While the moneyline in this game is a little steep, there’s another avenue to back the Bruins I would recommend.
Boston’s offense has really clicked with the addition of Taylor Hall at the trade deadline. We know how good the top line is with Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron. Hall has added a dangerous winger for David Krejci. In addition, Jake DeBrusk has had a hot start to the series on the third line.
My confidence in Washington’s goaltending situation isn’t high. My confidence is much higher in Boston eventually getting the results they deserve. For that reason, my favorite bet is the Bruins team total. You can bet the Bruins to score over 3 goals at -120. With the safety net of a push, I think there’s tremendous value on this play.
Nashville Predators vs Carolina Hurricanes Prediction
Carolina Leads 1-0
The Carolina Hurricanes entered this series as prohibitive favorites but Game 1 started off a bit weird. It seemed like it took the Canes a while to settle in, and that included goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic. Nashville did a good job of hanging in the game through the first two periods, but in the third we saw why Carolina is expected to discard the Preds.
Despite Nashville hanging in the game on the scoreboard for most of the night, the game on the ice wasn’t particularly close. Carolina won the expected goal battle 3.72 to 1.72. Carolina generated 11 high danger chances and allowed Nashville just five.
The Hurricanes currently sit as the second highest favorite to win the Cup, and for good reason. The trio of Andrei Svechnikov, Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen is a top-end first line. Vincent Trocheck has rejuvenated his career this season and with Martin Necas and Nino Niederreiter on his wings, the Canes’ second line is better than many teams’ top line. Jordan Staal centers a third line that contributes at both ends of the ice.
Contrarily, the Nashville Predators offense is a bit of a mess. Filip Forsberg had a solid season, but outside of him the forward group is littered with older overpaid players who have greatly underperformed and are likely on the downside of their careers. Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson are players the Predators need to play at an elite level and they just haven’t done so.
Nashville’s biggest strength is Juuse Saros. The young Finnish netminder ranked fifth in the league with a goals saved above expectation (GSAx) mark of +13.2. He stopped 92.7% of the shots he faced, which was the fourth-best mark in the league during the regular season. However, he might not even be the best goaltender in this series.
These two teams finished as one and two in even strength save percentage during the regular season. Alex Nedeljkovic started the season as Carolina’s third string, but he started game one and is presumably the number one goalie in Carolina right now. He led all goalies in save percentage during the regular season.
Carolina is clearly the better team in basically every facet up and down these two teams’ resumes. The moneyline is a bit prohibitive, but if you back the Hurricanes to win in regulation you can get them at near even money.
Edmonton Oilers vs. Winnipeg Jets Prediction
The North Division finally begins their playoffs on Wednesday with the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets facing off.
Winnipeg enters these playoffs in poor form as they lost nine of ten games before winning their final two. Winnipeg’s 46.5% expected goal rate is the second worst amongst all playoff teams. Their defense in particular is a major issue. Of all playoff teams, no team has a worse expected goals against and high danger chances allowed per hour mark than the Jets.
Thankfully for Winnipeg, they have one of the top goalies in the league. Connor Hellebuyck led all NHL goalies this season in goals saved above expectation. However, his .916 save percentage will not be good enough for the Jets to make a run. He needs to be even better for Winnipeg to survive their putrid defense.
If there’s one player in this league who almost certainly will take advantage of a putrid defense, it’s Connor McDavid. McDavid put up 105 points in 56 games. A player hasn’t put up insane numbers that insane since Mario Lemieux. McDavid will almost certainly win the MVP.
Leon Draisaitl is not a bad running mate for McDavid. Draisaitl had 84 points in the shortened season. Behind the two Oilers stars, no other player in the league eclipsed 70 points. These two should feast on the Jets all season long.
Head-to-head, the Oilers dominated the Jets this season. Edmonton won seven of the nine meetings, outscoring Winnipeg 34-22. They had nearly 55% of the expected goals over the series.
I think the Jets are way too flawed of a team to be able to slow down the high flying Oilers. Hellebuyck might steal a game or two for the Jets, but I think Edmonton is in much better form right now and I expect them to take Game 1 at home.
Bet: Edmonton ML (-148)
Colorado Avalanche vs St. Louis Blues Prediction
Colorado Leads 1-0
Coming into the first round of these playoffs, the biggest mismatch on paper was likely between the Colorado Avalanche and the St. Louis Blues. There were no surprises on the ice either in Game One as the Avs won the game by a score of 4-1.
The Colorado Avalanche finished the regular season with the best record in the league. In addition, they ranked first in expected goal rate, shot attempt share and 5-on-5 goal differential. It’s no surprise that they are currently the favorites to hoist the Stanley Cup.
On the other hand, St. Louis’ 63 points was the second lowest total amongst all playoff teams. They ranked 27th in expected goal rate and 24th in shot attempt share. They had a -0.15 goal differential per 60 minutes at 5on5.
Game One looked closer than it was due to Jordan Binnington. The Blues goaltender stopped 46 of 49 shots from the Avs, but it still wasn’t nearly enough. Colorado won the expected goal battle handily. In all situations, the expected goals were 4.56 to 1.44 in favor of Colorado. At 5-on-5, Colorado won the xG battle 2.91-1.23 (70.3%).
In an impressive feat, no player on the Colorado Avalanche posted an xG rate below 52% and no player on the Blues posted an xG rate above 47%. This highlights the fact that it wasn’t just one line doing the damage for the Avalanche. This was a total domination with every line pulling its weight for Colorado.
With that being said, the Avalanche top players still dominated this game. Nathan MacKinnon had two goals and an assist, Gabriel Landeskog had three points and Mikko Rantanen added two assists. The top line played to an expected goal rate of 73.5% in over 13 and a half minutes of ice time. The Avs top defensive pair of Cale Makar and Devon Toews continued their domination, posting an xG of 82.3% in Game One.
The Blues can’t skate with the Avs. Their only hope is that the Avalanche no-show a game or that Binnington puts together a superhuman performance. I don’t expect that to happen here, so I’ll back the Avalanche on the puckline.
Bet: Colorado -1.5 (-115)