NHL picks: 4 best bets for Bruins vs Capitals
Our NHL expert has picked out his four best bets as the Boston Bruins visit the Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs.
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Boston Bruins to win
It is one of the juiciest series of the first round with the Bruins and Caps, two of the most experienced teams when it comes to postseason play in recent history, and there’s the added element of Boston’s former captain now playing for the enemy. Zdeno Chara playing a playoff game in colors other than black and gold will take some getting used to.
The Bruins are the healthier of the two teams at the moment, having all of their top players available. The Capitals are missing Ilya Samsonov and Evgeny Kuznetsov due to being on the league’s COVID-19 protocol list, and T.J. Oshie is questionable after sustaining a lower-body injury towards the end of the season.
Meanwhile, the Bruins have all of their top players available and have really seen Taylor Hall take off since joining the team via trade. He has 14 points in 16 games as a Bruin, joining a group that is led already by the vaunted top line Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. David Krejci has also quietly put together one of the better seasons of his career. So when it comes to depth, Boston appears to have a decided advantage.
The Caps will likely turn to Vitek Vanecek in net against Boston. He appeared in seven games against the Bruins this season, going 4-3-0 with a .905 save percentage. This will be the rookie netminder’s first postseason start of his career.
On the other side, the Bruins will counter with one of the most seasoned playoff goalies in the league today. Tuukka Rask is expected to get the start for Boston, making his 94th postseason start. He has a career .926 save percentage in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and has gone 51-42 over that span.
The two teams split their season series, with Boston winning four times in regulation and Washington winning twice in regulation and two with overtime or shootout. There isn’t a lot separating the two teams, but I like Boston’s depth advantage heading into the first game of the series.
Over 5.5 total goals
While I don’t think there are going to be a lot of shots in the game, I do think both teams are going to put some pucks in the net. They’ve scored six or more goals in their regular-season games six times.
With Vanecek in net for Washington in his first playoff game, and the Bruins’ offense having the firepower it does, I can see them getting things revved up on the rookie netminder. On top of that, you’d expect Washington to pop at least a few past Rask as well, even though the Bruins goaltender has largely been very good down the stretch this season.
It should be a fun start to the playoffs and this is one of those series that very well could go the distance if Washington manages to get everyone back in the lineup.
Taylor Hall to score anytime
With eight goals in 16 games since joining the Bruins, Hall looks reborn. Playing at a high level alongside David Krejci and Craig Smith, Hall has helped give the Bruins a legitimate second-line threat that teams have to pay more attention to.
Hall has only been to the postseason twice in his career, posting 12 points in 14 career playoff contests, including four goals. He has four career points in the first game of each of the playoff openers he’s played in, so he’s had a hot start.
Under 61.5 total shots on goal
Many of the games between these two teams have featured a high volume of shots on goal. However, things tighten up in the playoffs. My expectation is that it will be harder to get pucks to the net for both teams compared to their regular-season series that were primarily high-scoring affairs.
Despite those high-scoring games, the teams surpassed the 61.5 shot threshold only three times in the regular season. Even though the Caps are going to be down a few bodies, their defense is largely intact. I just don’t see this game being as freewheeling as some of the regular-season contests were.
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