Bet the NHL! Greg Frank picks Flyers vs Bruins (without Tuukka Rask)and Blue Jackets vs Maple Leafs, in a battle of offense vs defense
The games are at 3 pm and 8 pm EDT.
Flyers (+119) @ Bruins (5.5)
Pick: Flyers +119
Tuukka Rask won’t play today for Boston against Philadelphia as the two teams open play in the Eastern Conference Round Robin in Toronto. That’s pretty important given Rask is 15-2-4 with a 1.94 goals-against average and three shutouts against the Flyers in his career. While it was almost five months ago, Rask was brilliant in Philadelphia in the final game for each team before the pause on March 10 stopping all 35 shots he faced on the way to a 2-0 Bruins win. Read into regular season results at your own peril, but even despite that win for Boston in March, the Flyers won the regular season series. For what it’s worth, the Flyers looked pretty good in their exhibition victory on Tuesday against Pittsburgh and might be able to pick up where they left off as one of the league’s hottest teams heading into the pause. Without Rask in the equation today, the orange and black are absolutely worth the investment at a plus price on the money line.
Blue Jackets (+130) @ Maple Leafs (6)
Pick: Blue Jackets +130
It’s not a great matchup for the Maple Leafs on their home ice sheet in the qualifying round. The Blue Jackets saw key forwards Artemi Panarin, Ryan Dzingel and Matt Duchene depart in free agency last summer as well as goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. But they are where they are because they lock down defensively and as long as American-born blue liners Zach Werenski and Seth Jones are suiting up for the Blue Jackets, they’re going to be hard to score on. Rookie goalie Elvis Merzlikins has filled the void left by Bobrovsky’s departure admirably posting a 2.35 GAA and .923 save percentage in the regular season.
For as good as the defensive metrics are for Columbus, the offensive metrics are equally as impressive for Toronto which should come as no surprise given the crop of forwards the Leafs boast. However, we’re always going to favor good defense over good offense in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and we also happen to have a pretty big coaching mismatch in this series as well. John Tortorella is yet again a finalist for the league’s Jack Adams award while Sheldon Keefe coaches his first playoff game for Toronto after taking over for Mike Babcock back in November. Remember when the Blue Jackets shocked the hockey world last year in the first round and swept the Tampa Bay Lightning? Don’t be so shocked when they win tonight and eventually win this best-of-five series.