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Rangers to beat Penguins

The biggest storyline ahead of this game is the status of Sidney Crosby. As I file my picks today, we don’t know if he will be in the lineup. Head coach Mike Sullivan has said that Crosby has an upper-body injury and is being evaluated. His status has a huge influence on this game because of how amazing he’s played throughout this series. Before placing your wager, I’d recommend you keep an eye on what happens with the Pens captain.

Crosby has nine points through five games and even when the rest of his team doesn’t have their best, he’s able to carry them. The interesting thing about Crosby’s absence is that Evgeni Malkin typically steps up in a major way and produces at a pretty high rate when Crosby is out. If that trend continues, that’s especially helpful, but how does Crosby’s absence change the impact of the top line with Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust, who have benefited from Crosby’s excellent first round?

The Rangers are playing for their playoff lives and looking to force a Game 7 while playing on the road. They have not yet won in Pittsburgh in this series and allowed seven goals in each of the two previous games there. But if Crosby is indeed out, that’s a massive loss for Pittsburgh and it opens the door for the Rangers, who played a very strong game in Game 5 to extend the series. We still haven’t seen Igor Shesterkin steal a game in this series and if he ever finds his game, it’s going to be a lot tougher for the Penguins to produce.

If Crosby is in, I’m picking the Penguins at home all day. With him out and with how well the Rangers handled the Pens after Crosby’s injury, I have to think they can force a Game 7 here.

Player Prop: Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh Penguins) anytime goalscorer

Dan Rosen of shared that Malkin has 199 points in 148 career games without Sidney Crosby. He is going to have to step up in a major way and often does. I don’t know if it will be enough in this particular instance, but I have little doubt he’s going to hit the scoresheet in this game at one point or another.

Malkin has five points in the series to date including two goals. He has three points over his last two games including a goal in Game 4. He’s been engaged, he’s been physical and over the last two games, he’s been productive. In two prior playoff games without Crosby, Malkin has had three assists. If Pittsburgh has any hopes of closing this one out tonight, though, Malkin is going to have be a major factor.

Panthers to beat Capitals

With a chance to close out the series, the Panthers have definitely seized control with back-to-back wins where they had to come back to beat the Capitals. Game 5 was an impressive showing from the Comeback Cats as they didn’t start the game particularly well. Down 3-0 in the second period, they scored five unanswered goals.

Carter Verhaeghe had five points in that game, making him an unlikely playoff hero for Florida. The fact that the Panthers’ best guys weren’t going as well as one of their scoring depth players and still managed to win is a great sign for Florida. If they don’t start the game on time tonight, however, they’re going to be in for a disappointing plane ride back to Florida for a Game 7.

The Capitals are going to be a tough team to beat, but they’ve failed miserably at closing out either of their last two games. It sounds like there’s a small chance Tom Wilson will return to the lineup in time for Game 6 which would absolutely provide a boost. It just might be too late as the Panthers train really seemed to get rolling in Game 5 and doesn’t look like it has plans to stop in Washington.

Flames to beat Stars

Calgary has gotten back to its suffocating ways, allowing just a single goal against in each of their last two games. Now that the series shifts to Dallas, the Stars are on the brink of elimination and playing a team that seems to have found its game after losing Games 2 and 3. This is going to be a tough night for the Dallas Stars.

The Flames have played with a lot more urgency and focus in their last two games. They’ve stayed away from the things Dallas was trying to do to get them off their game and it’s allowed Calgary to play its preferred style without much disruption. By every discernible metric, the Flames were the far superior team in Game 4 and 5. They controlled five-on-five shot attempts at a rate greater than 60% in both games and out-chanced the Stars in both games.

Calgary has also gotten more from its secondary scoring players. Mikael Backlund and Andrew Mangiapane both factored into the scoring in Game 5. Making sure the offensive burden doesn’t fall solely on Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm is critical for the Flames because teams will continue to key in on that top line.

It feels as though the Flames have really turned the tide of this series and it’s looking harder than ever for the Stars to claw their way back in. I expect Dallas to be better on home ice in this game, but I also expect the Flames to have the killer instinct to ensure the series does not return for a Game 7.