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Pete Truszkowski gives us his pick for Tuesday's playoff games including Golden Knights vs. Avalanche

Golden Knights vs. Avalanche - Game 5 NHL Picks

Tuesday’s NHL slate will see the Carolina Hurricanes look to keep their season alive against the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Meanwhile the current favorites, the Colorado Avalanche, look to get back on track after dropping two games in Vegas to the Golden Knights.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Carolina Hurricanes Predictions

Tampa Bay Leads 3-1

Entering this series, many expected the Carolina Hurricanes to give the Tampa Bay Lightning a serious run for their money. Some even expected the Canes to be able to pull off the upset and eliminate the defending champs. Unfortunately, due to a combination of bad luck and injuries, they’re already facing elimination in game five.

Through four games, the underlying metrics suggest a very even series. Tampa Bay has an expected goal advantage of 6.91 to 6.76 (50.5%). Notably, the Lightning have generated 38 high danger chances while Carolina has just 27. This suggests Carolina has had a lot of the puck, but the Lightning have done a good job in limiting the quality of their chances with less concern for quantity. At 5-on-5, the teams are even in goals. That’s rather noteworthy for a series that is currently 3-1 in favor of Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay has converted on six of their 14 powerplay opportunities in this series. In the playoffs, they’re scoring on a ridiculous 41.2% of their man advantage opportunities. Nikita Kucherov has made a tremendous impact after missing the whole regular season. He has posted 17 points in 10 games, 12 of which have been on the powerplay. Additionally, Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point have produced better than a point per game in the playoffs.

The Hurricanes are a team built on their forward depth and their ability to throw three scoring lines at you that could hurt you. Unfortunately, injuries have slowed their ability to do this. Coach Rod Brind’amour has been without Nino Niederreiter, Vincent Trocheck and Warren Foegele for most of the series and their returns are uncertain. Three top nine forwards are on the mend for Carolina and it has limited one of their biggest strengths.

Entering the series, most gave Tampa Bay an advantage between the pipes. Andrei Vasilevskiy is arguably the best goalie in the sport, and despite giving up four in game three, he’s been tremendous in this series. Vasilevskiy is stopping nearly 93% of the shots Carolina has thrown his way.

In the other crease, it’ll be interesting to see where Brind’Amour goes from here. Alex Nedeljkovic started the first two games and performed relatively well despite losing both games. Petr Mrazek got the start in game three and won the game. However, he was beaten six times in game four on just 26 shots. I would expect a return to Nedeljkovic, but we probably won’t know until game time.

As long as the price stays under -125, I’d look for a bet on Tampa Bay here. I think the difference in talent has been highlighted with Carolina’s injuries. I also think the Lightning have the better goalie. Tampa Bay won both games in Raleigh earlier in the series, so obviously playing on the road doesn’t make a difference for the Lightning.

The Pick: Tampa Bay ML @ -120 (Click to bet)

Vegas Golden Knights vs. Colorado Avalanche Predictions

Series Tied 2-2

During the regular season and through the first round of the playoffs, the Colorado Avalanche looked unstoppable. The Avs led the league in expected goal rate, shot attempt share, high danger chance percentage, and 5-on-5 goal differential during the regular season. They won the President’s Trophy as the league’s best team. In the first round, they swept the St. Louis Blues who have won the Stanley Cup recently in 2019.

On the other hand, the Vegas Golden Knights struggled through their series against the Minnesota Wild, needing a game seven to take care of business. When Colorado took game one from Vegas with a 7-1 scoreline, it looked like the Avalanche were an unstoppable force who was going to steamroll their way to a championship.

Since then, it’s actually been the Vegas Golden Knights who have been dominant. Over the last three games of this series, Vegas has an expected goal advantage of 8.45 to 3.2! They are playing to nearly a 75% expected goal rate against what was the league’s best team during the regular season. One game could be an outlier, two games might be a coincidence, but three games now is definitely worthy of a closer look.

After winning back-to-back games, all of the momentum is now with the Golden Knights. The question marks are now facing the Avalanche. After such a dominant regular season and first round, how could Colorado look so feeble for three straight games? These teams were relatively even during the regular season, but many still had a sizable gap between them.

As the series has evolved, two main lines are taking front stage. For Vegas, their second line featuring Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith has been dominant. Smith has scored some big goals and Marchessault posted a hat trick in Vegas’ game four win. With Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty on line one, the second line coming alive has given Vegas a formidable one-two punch.

For Colorado, it might not be fair, but there are questions about their top line. Nathan MacKinnon was the runaway favorite to win the Conn Smythe just a week ago, but he has just one assist in the last three games with zero even strength points. MacKinnon is a top three player in the sport, so the microscope zooms in even more during the big moments. It’s no surprise that with MacKinnon struggling to produce, Colorado’s wins have dried up.

Phillip Grubauer was exceptional through the first three games of the series, but he wasn’t particularly strong in game four getting beat five times. Marc-Andre Fleury had a tremendous regular season, great first round and has been solid in this series after Robin Lehner took the loss in game one. Goaltending will likely make a huge impact on this series, and there’s not much separating these two right now.

With the series swinging the way it is, I like the Golden Knights as underdogs here. Sure, Colorado has the larger sample size, but there’s no denying who the better team in this series has been. I don’t think there’s much separating these teams, and even if Colorado is slightly better, +130 is too much value to pass on.

The Pick: Vegas ML @ +130 (Click to bet)


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