THE FIRST DAY OF THE PLAYOFFS ARE HERE! These picks will look a little different, not much can go into this picks but as the year goes on and series go on, more in-depth looks will go into it. Usually, during the playoff time first few games the home team has an advantage, early on if you are home, you more than likely win. But tonight we have three games two on at 7:00 p.m. (est) and one at 10:00 p.m. (est). Let’s begin!
Minnesota Wild vs Winnipeg Jets
The Wild come into this series as the underdogs for sure, with Ryan Suter out, a guy that chalked up 25 plus minutes a game and the forwards relied on heavily, it will be a major adjustment for this team to lose someone like this, especially being a leader on the team and an absolute workhorse. Plus you throw in Winnipeg’s top-9 with the NEW American all-time goaltender for wins, Connor Hellebyuck, the Jets are favored here tonight and every series. These games in the first round will be a time we see teams play a little simpler, a lot of chip and chase play and power play, penalty kill will play a large part here tonight. The Wild’s power play ranked at 17th in the NHL this season(20.4%) vs Winnipeg’s 5th rank power play at 23.4 percent. Winnipeg ranked 2nd in the NHL for goals for per game(3.3) while Minnesota was 11th at 3.05. Two teams that can score, but two teams that score on the power play a decent amount as well. Easy choice for me going Winnipeg.
Philadelphia Flyers vs Pittsburgh Penguins
Not major injury news out of Pittsburgh which we are used to seeing it seems every time this team comes into the playoffs but they have Matt Murray and Kris Letang healthy, plus now Derek Brassard is back as well. The Penguins come in as back to back Stanley Cup champs, with an absolute target on their back and to face one of their biggest rivalries. The Flyers mouths are foaming waiting for this game, the Flyers play a physical, in your face type of game they will make it hard for Pittsburgh all series. But again the Penguins have Phil Kessel-Brassard, Evgeni Malkin-Patrick Hornqvist-Carl Hagelin, then Crosby-Geuntzel-Rust on the first line, unbelievable, incredibly deep and tough to play against. The Flyers do have Hart candidate Claude Giroux dialed in right now along with Voracek and Couturier, so they have the firepower but the Penguins out weight them there. The Penguins come into this game with the 1st ranked power play in the NHL(26.1%) and fourth for goals for per game(3.29) while the Flyers come in with the 15th ranked power play(20.7%) and 12th for goals for per game(3.04). With the Flyers 29th ranked penalty kill in the league vs the Penguins first ranked power play, going to be tough for Philly. Going Pitt here tonight.
Los Angeles Kings vs Vegas Golden Knights
If the Golden Knights want to win this series they are going to have win these games at home, and it starts here tonight. The Knights are coming into this series as a favorite in the gambling world but a lot of hockey fans have a feeling L.A. can take this. Due to their past in the playoffs and past Stanley Cup wins, it is hard to knock of L.A. in a playoff setting. A lot of new faces in Vegas who have not seen playoff hockey but the city of Vegas will be going nuts at these games which will play a huge role in Vegas’s odds. The Kings get back Jeff Carter now at full health, and throw in Kopitar, Brown, Muzzin, Doughty, Phaneuf, Quick and Toffilo, these guys know what to do and have been here before. Vegas is going to really need to use this home ice to their favor and punch the Kings in the face early on here and take two at home to start. Vegas comes in with the 11th ranked power play in the NHL(21.4) vs Kings 18th ranked(20.4), evenly matched in that sense, we can expect Johnny Marchessault to be slinging 10 shots a game per usual. But L.A.’s number one ranked penalty kill(85%) makes it tough for Vegas to take advantage of that man up scenario. Throw in L.A. has allowed the least amount of goals(2.46) in the NHL vs Vegas who is ranked 5th in goals for per game(3.27). It will be a battle for sure, Fleury will need to stand on his head all series and Quick will be doing his usual, if Fleury can outplay Quick and Vegas can take all four at home, then they are moving on. Going Vegas here tonight.