Let’s take a look at the Tuesday NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs slate featuring a pair of games as second round action continues.
Boston Bruins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning – Game 2 (Boston leads series 1-0)
Prior to the start of the playoffs, the chatter surrounding the Boston Bruins was about their lack of intensity in the round robin as the Bruins looked lethargic in going 0-3 in their first three games. However when the playoffs started, those concerns disappeared quickly. Boston got right back to their usual playoff dominance dispatching the Carolina Hurricanes in five games in the first round and carrying that success over into Game 1 of this series against the Tampa Bay Lightning earning a 3-2 win in Game 1.
Boston got off to a strong start playing a very good 1st Period and grabbing a 1-0 lead. Tampa Bay got better as the game went along and actually outplayed the Bruins for portions of the last two periods but Bruins goalie Jaroslav Halak who has taken over the starting netminder role for the departed Tuukka Rask was excellent in the victory turning aside 35 of 37 shots. The Lightning outshot the Bruins and had the edge in high danger scoring chances but it mattered not because they couldn’t solve the Bruins defense and Halak enough.
Tampa Bay’s power play for a team as talented and skilled as they are is becoming a grave concern. The Lightning are on a woeful 0-for-13 with the man advantage since the start of the playoffs. Boston’s fantastic top line of Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand was again outstanding in Game 1 and scored each of the last two Bruins goals. Tampa Bay shouldn’t feel too bad about their Game 1 performance other than finishing. It was a very even game and one could argue they had a slight edge in territorial play and offensive zone time. They just couldn’t get enough pucks past Jaroslav Halak. These two teams are now on a 13-3-2 combined streak to the under in their games since the NHL season resumed. The under has also cashed in four of the last five meetings between the Bruins and Lightning.
Tampa Bay has yet to drop two games in a row since the season resumed and I think they have it in them to bounce back and even up this series here in Game 2. They carried the play at times in the last two periods of Game 1 but didn’t get rewarded. Look for that to change here.
Tampa Bay -115
Vancouver Canucks vs. Vegas Golden Knights – Game 2 (Vegas leads series 1-0)
The Vancouver Canucks were given a rude wake-up call in Game 1 of this series getting shut out and dominated 5-0 in game 1 by the Vegas Golden Knights. Vancouver took care of business in the first round eliminating the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in six games and it was an impressive series victory but the Canucks had to endure a severe contrast in styles going from ending the series against St. Louis on Friday to their second round matchup with Vegas on Sunday night in Game 1.
Vancouver didn’t seem ready or prepared to handle it. St. Louis is a plodding, cycle the puck, heavy forechecking team that relies on just heavy pressure and physical play in the offensive zone to generate offense. Vegas is a speedy, transition, feast on turnovers style of team which really couldn’t be more different than the way St. Louis plays and it appeared in Game 1 that the Canucks struggled to adapt to it. Vegas had the puck most of the night and were winning all the races and battles for loose pucks that it seemed Vancouver often won in the previous series against St. Louis. The Golden Knights outshot the Canucks 39-26 in Game 1 and only took one penalty in the game which speaks to my previous point about Vegas having possession of the puck for most of the game. When you have the puck, you don’t need to hook, hold or grab anybody from the opposing team and take penalties.
Vegas was focused and sharp from the opening faceoff which is impressive considering the stir caused by Allan Walsh over the weekend. Walsh is the player agent of current #2 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury who is backing up the current Vegas starting goalie Robin Lehner. Walsh posted a picture to Twitter of Marc-Andre Fleury being stabbed in the back with a knight sword which had the word “DeBoer” inscribed on the sword referring to Vegas head coach Peter DeBoer. It was a veiled message that the coach wasn’t treating Fleury right by forcing him to back up Lehner instead of starting. The fact of the matter is Lehner has been strong since being traded to Vegas and Fleury struggled to find his game when he rejoined the team after the death of his father. The fact Vegas played as well as they did in Game 1 despite a potential off-ice distraction shows how well this team has it rolling and they are now 8-1 since the restart and have scored 4 or more goals in seven of those nine games.
Vancouver will play better in Game 2 but will it be enough? Vegas has owned this head-to-head matchup going 8-2 in the last 10 meetings. It’s clear that this will be a more difficult opponent for the Canucks than the Blues were. I wouldn’t rush to bury this Vancouver squad just yet. They have been able to respond multiple times here in the playoffs after a bad game. They have enough talent and skill up front to pose more of a threat to the Golden Knights defense than they showed in Game 1. I expect Vancouver to find the back of the net in Game 2 and also think Vegas will get their usual 3 to 4 goals as well sending this game over the total. The over is a strong 20-9-1 in Vancouver’s last 30 games and the over is 3-1-1 in the last 5 games for Vancouver when they have lost by 3 or more goals in their previous game. There are still some concerns about whether Vancouver can properly match up with Vegas as this is a big increase in speed and depth from their series against St. Louis. That being said, I do think Vancouver is worth a smaller bet here at a very rich +185 price and would expect the entire team including Jacob Markstrom in net after being pulled in Game 1 to be a whole lot better on Tuesday night in Game 2.
Vancouver/Vegas Over 5.5 -130
Vancouver +185 (smaller bet)