NHL Playoff Picks
As Toronto Maple Leafs fans mourn another embarrassing playoff performance and the rest of the hockey fan base laughs at them, there’s just one game on Tuesday’s NHL slate. The Carolina Hurricanes will look to salvage a split at home against the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
Tampa Bay Leads 1-0
Many expected a tight series between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes, and that’s exactly what we got in the first game of this series. Barclay Goodrow’s goal with seven minutes left was the difference in a 2-1 win for the Lightning.
The underlying metrics from game one confirmed what the scoreline suggested in terms of a near even game. In all situations, Carolina posted a 2.76-2.35 expected goal advantage. At 5-on-5, Carolina’s advantage was 1.84-1.56. Tampa Bay generated seven high danger chances compared to six for Carolina.
Both teams are dealing with semi-important injuries. For the Hurricanes, Nino Niederreiter missed game one and is extremely doubtful to return at any point in this series. Niederreiter is an integral part of Carolina’s second line with Martin Necas and Vincent Trocheck. Due to Nino’s injury, Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour juggled his lines. He broke up their usual first line featuring Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen. That line was one of the league’s best during the regular season when together, so it’ll be interesting to see how long Brind’amour keeps them broken up.
For Tampa Bay, David Savard missed game one with an upper body injury. He is day-to-day but isn’t expected to play on Tuesday night. The Lightning acquired Savard from the Columbus Blue Jackets at the trade deadline in order to bolster their defensive core. In addition to Savard, Erik Cernak left game one with an injury and didn’t return. He’s questionable for game two. It goes without saying that if the Lightning are without two regulars on the back-end, it’ll be a challenge against an offensively gifted team like the Hurricanes.
Entering this series, we agreed that there wasn’t much separating these teams. I backed the Lightning in Game One solely off the goaltending matchup. While it may be harsh, the goaltending was the difference in Tampa Bay’s win. Alex Nedeljkovic had a solid overall game for the Hurricanes, but the winning goal for the Lightning was poor. He misplayed the angle, didn’t get set and let a shot from the side of the net roll through his legs. In the other crease, Andrei Vasilevskiy was spectacular, stopping 37 of 38 shots.
With that being said, I’d look to back the Hurricanes in game two. The Lightning got the highly sought after road win in the series opener, so Carolina should be desperate to get a win at home. They don’t want to head to Tampa Bay with the potential of facing elimination. Carolina will have over 15,000 fans in the stands and their home-ice advantage has been apparent in these playoffs.
Additionally, Carolina slightly outplayed the Lightning in Game One. I don’t think it’s wise to expect another brilliant goaltending performance from Vasilevskiy, even if he is more than capable of repeating it. I look for the Hurricanes to even this series in front of their home crowd in what should be another close, exciting game.
Bet: Carolina Hurricanes ML @ -104