When it comes to betting on games involving the Pittsburgh Penguins, there is only one constant - they score a lot of goals. In their 11 playoff games so far, they've scored four or more in 9 of them. Therefore, if you want to skip the series bet altogether and just ride "over" on their team total every game, you won't get an argument from me.
Yet, before you go and asssume the Penguins will ride their high-flying offense all the way to the finals, let's consider something about the Bruins that neither the Islanders or the Senators had - balance.
It's a given that we're going to focus on this area first because goalies in hockey are like quarterbacks in football. If yours is hot, you're likely going far, if not all the way. In round one I picked the Islanders +2 games for this sole reason alone. Nabokov isn't great, but I knew Fleury could be even worse. Unfortunately for me, the Penguins had a backup plan and inserted safety-valve Tomas Vokoun. Vokoun has posted good numbers so far and been steady enough to get past Ottawa, but what if the Senators had a better offense?
Both the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins won their first round matchups in seven games. The big difference was how they did it. The entire hockey world were wondering what gold course the Bruins would be showing up on in the third period, but they battled back and won one of the most dramatic games in recent memory. Meanwhile, the Rangers silenced the Washington faithful on the road and smothered them for a 5-0 clincher. Let's take a closer look at how these two matchup in round 2.
Despite advancing in round 1, both of these teams had some big guns that went MIA. Seguin, Marchand, and Jagr are key cogs in the Boston wheel and none of them provided the kind of offense the team expected. Seguin had over 20 shots alone and still couldn't find a way to get a goal. Conversely, Richards and Nash couldn't do much for their side either. Richards was even dropped to the fourth line at times which is the ultimate slap in the face for someone of his pedigree.
Who is most likely to break their slump and put their team over the top in round 2? The simple answer could be no one.
There were a lot of surprises in the first round of the NHL playoffs this year, but not when it came to these two teams. The Penguins goaltending was clearly a front and center topic heading into round one and it became an even bigger story when Vokoun supplanted Fleury for the number one spot. I suspected the Islanders could snatch a couple victories from them and they almost did more than that. Meanwhile, the Senators used their 2012 playoff experience wisely and quickly took care of a Montreal team that wasn't quite ready for prime-time. So what happens when these two square off tonight in Pittsburgh?
The New York Rangers and Washington Capitals are meeting in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fourth time in the last five years. Should we expect much of the same or have the changes on the rosters set the stage for something new?
Seeing is Believing?
If there is one series that has unknowns, this is the series. Which Ovechkin will we see? The guy who's fallen from grace over recent years or the Rocket Richard winning sniper who propelled them to a division crown? Will we get the rejuvenated Holtby who went on a tear in the final two months after getting a contract extension? Will Lundqvist raise his game to a new level and finally be the playoff goalie we've all expected of him? How will Nash do in his second playoff appearance of his career? There are lots of big questions surrounding the key players
Much like the Wild in the West, no one is giving the Islanders much a chance in this series. Sportsbooks have made them a full two game underdog for the series, so the prevailing perception is that Pittsburgh will take care of business in four or five games. Is this a true representation of the matchup? Well it is and it isn't. Let's take a closer look at the key factors.
One reason why I wouldn't completely count out an Islanders upset in this series is due to the situation between the pipes. Fleury has had a nice bounceback season from last year's playoff debacle, but until he wins another round it will continue to be an issue. This is why the Penguins were smart to secure Vokoun as the backup. If Fleury falters, I don't think they will hesitate to park him on the bench to right the ship.