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NHL Pick: Capitals vs. Lightning Betting Odds from Larry Ness: October 9th 2017

Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
NHL Pick: TB -106 odds (October 9th 2017)

The set-up: The Capitals have been best-known for great regular seasons followed by early playoff exits and that was the case again last season. Tampa Bay advanced all the way to the Eastern Conference finals two years ago but last season finished 42-30-10 and with 94 points, just missed the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Caps have opened 2-0, with captain Alex Ovechkin following up a hat trick in the season opener by scoring four goals in the team’s second game. The Lightning won Friday night at home 5-3 over the Panthers in their season-opener but then lost the next night in Miami, 5-4.

Evgeny Kuznetsov has seven assist in two games (he can thank Ovechkin) while fellow linemate Jakub Vrana has set up three goals. Washington may have just one power play goal but its penalty killing unit has thwarted all nine man-advantage opportunities by the opposition. As expected, goalie Braden Holtby has been solid with a 2.40 GAA with 66 saves in the first two games.

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos made his first regular-season appearance in almost 11 months this past weekend and came away with three assists in the two games. Brayden Point is off to a fast start with five points. Despite carrying eight defensemen (that means two ‘sit’ each game), the Lightning have allowed 84 shots on goaltender Andrei Vasilevski. He has turned aside 76 of the shots, keeping his team in both games.

The Capitals have earned at least a point in eight straight games (7-0-1) against the Lightning, outscoring them 10-4 last season. However, Washington’s fast start, especially Ovechkin’s, seems too much. Expect the Caps and Ovechkin to ‘come back to earth’ in this one. Take the home team.

NHL Pick: Bet the ‘Over’ in the Nashville vs. Anaheim game on May 12th 2017

Nashville Predators vs. Anaheim Ducks
NHL Betting Pick: Over 5 goals -120 odds (May 12th 2017)

The set-up: The Anaheim Ducks finally put an end to their demonizing streak of Game 7 postseason failures on their home ice with their 2-1 win over the Oilers on Wednesday. However, there is no rest for the weary as Anaheim will host the upstart Nashville Predators tonight in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals at the Honda Center. The eighth-seeded Predators swept the top-seed Blackhawks in the first round and then eliminated the Blues in six games in the second round, advancing to the conference finals for the first time in franchise history. However, the Ducks will well remember that Nashville won Game 7 in Anaheim a year ago,eliminating the Ducks from the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season in a Game 7 on their home ice. That led to the dismissal of head coach Bruce Boudreau.

Nashville: The Predators’ playoff run is due in large part to the remarkable renaissance of veteran goaltender Pekka Rinne. He’s overcome an uneven regular season by allowing just 14 goals in 10 playoff games, including a pair of shutouts in the sweep of top-seeded Chicago. Rinne’s led Nahville to an 8-2 record, posting a 1.37 GAA with a .951 save percentage. The defensemen, despite the blockbuster offseason trade of longtime captain Shea Weber for fellow blueliner P.K. Subban, are getting it done at both ends of the ice by amassing nine goals and 27 points in the postseason.

Anaheim: Captain Ryan Getzlaf got off to a miserable start to the season with only two goals in his first 26 games but has been superb in the playoffs with eight goals and seven assists. Linemate Corey Perry came alive in the last four games versus Edmonton with a goal and five assists plus 33-goal scorer Rickard Rakell tallied in four straight games against the Oilers. The defense is also providing healthy offensive production with a combined three goals and 20 assists. However, goalie John Gibson remains a question mark. He has surrendered at least three goals in six of his last nine appearances.

The pick: I noted Gibson’s shortcomings above and will add that he lost both playoff starts against the Predators a year ago. Sure, Rinne’s been a ‘tough nut to crack’ but Anaheim is 22-12 since the start of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the best winning percentage (.647) of all teams in that span. Expect a goal or two more than the over/under number indicates.

NHL Pick: Capitals vs. Penguins Betting Odds & Pick from Will Rogers: May 8th 2017

Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
NHL Betting Pick: Washington +105 odds (May 8th 2017)

The set-up: The Caps began the third period of Saturday’s Game 5 down 2-1 and 20 minutes away from losing yet another postseason series. However, Washington scored three goals less than eight minutes in, capped by Alex Ovechkin’s fifth goal of this year’s playoffs (he has three assists for eight points). “We’re still down. We take good moments in the game (Saturday) and move forward,” Ovechkin told reporters. Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby and fellow forward Conor Sheary returned on Saturday from one-game absences due to concussions, with Crosby notching his franchise high-tying 96th playoff assist for his 12th point (four goals, eight assists) in nine contests this postseason.

Washington: Ovechkin has been impressive versus Pittsburgh with 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists) in 18 career postseason games. However, the Penguins have enjoyed the last laugh by winning seven of the previous eight series and going on to capture the Stanley Cup after the last two (2009, 2016). While Ovechkin often gets the headlines, countryman Evgeny Kuznetsov continues to be one of the main stories of this series after scoring a goal in each of the last three games to tie Nicklas Backstrom and Ovechkin for the team lead with five. Goaltender Hotlby held Pittsburgh at bay in the third period and since getting pulled in Game 2 (a 6-2 Pittsburgh win), has stopped 63 of 70 shots (.900 SP), which includes that “own goal” in Game 4.

Pittsburgh: Crosby told reporters that his team needs to focus on puck possession as a means to overcome a huge shot discrepancy in the series (Washington leads 174-115). “I would say just a little bit more zone time,” the two-time Hart Trophy winner – and 2017 finalist – told reporters. “If we can hold on to the puck a little bit more, we should get more shots. I think we’ll generate a little bit more from that.” The Penguins may have won seven of the previous eight series against the Capitals but Pittsburgh head coach Mike Sullivan isn’t interested in history, whether it dates back to last season’s second-round series versus Washington or the events of Game 5. “We have to have a short memory,” Sullivan told reporters. “We just have to reset our mindset and go home and try to put our very best on the ice.”

The pick: Yes, the Capitals lost Game 6 in Pittsburgh last year 4-3 in overtime but the Capitals had won Game 6 in four off the previous series in which they had trailed 3-2. I expect them to win here and extend the series to a Game 7 in Washington?