NHL playoff picks: 4 best bets for Friday
Chris Peters makes four money line picks for Friday night's NHL playoffs action, including Game 2 between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers.
Hurricanes to beat Rangers
The fact that Carolina did not have their best game by any stretch of the imagination and still found a way to win Game 1 shows why I didn’t want to bet against the Canes on home ice. Their first two periods were so sub-standard and then they flipped a switch and owned the third period and overtime. It was a missed opportunity for the Rangers and now puts them into desperation mode a bit.
New York is going to have a solid effort not wanting to fall down 2-0 in the series, but the Hurricanes appeared to wake up between the second and third periods. At five-on-five in the second period, the Hurricanes had just 35.1 per cent of the shot attempts, denoting lopsided possession that favored the Rangers. It really flipped in that third period when Carolina controlled nearly 71 per cent of all five-on-five shot attempts. They then out-attempted New York 7-1 in overtime. Five-on-five scoring chances between the third period and overtime was 17-6 for the Canes. That’s flat-out dominance.
I think Carolina’s Game 2 performance won’t be quite as dominant as they were in the third period and overtime, but I’d expect it to be much better than their first 40 minutes in Game 1. The other reason to like the Canes is that one of the big question marks coming into the postseason was goaltending, given the health of starter Freddy Andersen, but Antti Raanta has been up to the challenge of being the team’s No. 1. He stopped 27 of 28 shots in Game 1 and was one of the biggest reasons his team won.
Carolina is now 5-0 on home ice this postseason and I’m not about to run away from that trend, even though I expect the Rangers to have a big push in Game 2. The Hurricanes just find a way on home ice and until someone proves they can beat them there, I’m sticking with them.
Adam Fox to score 1+ assists
Adam Fox was held without a point for the first time in these playoffs in Game 1 against the Hurricanes. He had 10 points through seven games against the Penguins including seven assists.
While the Hurricanes look like they’re defending well enough as a team and getting good goaltending, I expect Game 2 to be a slightly higher-scoring game overall. I also think both teams are going to trade a few more goals.
Aside from his four-assist game in the Game 6 win over the Penguins, Fox hasn’t really had a true breakout moment in these playoffs. The reigning Norris Trophy winner has made a positive impact, but still can do even more to help his team be even more competitive against the Canes. I don’t anticipate he will be held off the scoresheet in consecutive games based on how involved he is with the Rangers offense and expect him to find the score sheet in Game 2.
Flames to beat Oilers
I never really liked this matchup for the Oilers, but I had no idea how insane of a game we’d get in Game 1. While that game may recalibrate expectations for how competitive the Oilers will be, the fact is, they still gave up nine goals in a playoff game. More importantly, they gave up 19 high-danger scoring chances at all strengths against one of the better teams in the entire NHL. Even if you want to blame the goaltending for that horror show of a first game, the Oilers barely defended in the game. You can’t win in the playoffs with performances like that.
It appears that Edmonton has both Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse operating at quite a bit less than 100 per cent of health. With those two hobbled by injuries, their impact on the game has been muted. They’re still good players, but this series is going to require every Oiler to be able to contribute. Even though Connor McDavid has shown he can put the team on his back and make an impact, I don’t think there’s any hope of him being able to beat the Flames on his own.
Meanwhile, I don’t expect Jacob Markstrom to lay as big of an egg as he did in Game 1 for the Flames in net. He did not have a single game in these playoffs where his save percentage dipped below .900 and then it was .786 in Game 1. I’d expect him to be much closer to his postseason save percentage of .923 in Game 2.
Game 1 was an anomaly of a game with that gaudy 9-6 scoreline. I’d expect Calgary to get back to its identity of playing some stifling defense, getting good goaltending and pushing the pace offensively. I’d expect big nights from Calgary’s top line as well, just as they had in Game 1. Johnny Gaudreau had three assists, Matthew Tkachuk had a hat trick and Elias Lindholm had one goal and one assist. That trio may be unstoppable in this series and I expect them to be in Game 2.
Johnny Gaudreau to score 2+ points
He was the overtime hero in Game 7 against the Dallas Stars and he made a sizable impact in Game 1. Gaudreau has been held off the scoresheet in just one game so far this postseason and looks to be playing some of his best hockey, continuing from his absolutely stellar regular season.
Gaudreau has three multi-point games so far in these playoffs, including in each of his last two games. I don’t know that Edmonton is going to have an adequate answer for him and Matthew Tkachuk. They sure didn’t in Game 1, and they really haven’t had an answer for him all season.
In four regular-season meetings with Edmonton, Gaudreau had eight points including a goal and seven assists. Include Game 1 and he’s up to 11 points including 10 assists. The value on this particular bet is too good to pass up for me.