Friday Night Hockey April 21
The games are getting fewer and far between as teams start to exit the postseason. The Stanley Cup playoffs are a long and hard-fought battle and only the strongest teams survive, but that doesn’t mean the weaker ones can’t make some noise. We already have some series that feel like they’re going the distance despite the difference in seeds and others that have wrapped up.
With just two games on Friday night there aren’t a ton of betting opportunities on the table but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some good chances to make some money. The underdog has reigned supreme on numerous occasions in the postseason and we’re a big advocate on taking a few chances. We’ll break down both games so you have all the information necessary to make a smart wager on both games. Let’s get to it!
- Toronto (+170) at Washington (-210)
The Maple Leafs had a golden opportunity to take a stranglehold on this series on Wednesday night but couldn’t rally in time and as a result are heading back to Washington with the series tied at two games apiece. Most pundits and analysts expected this series to be over by now, if not in five games, so the Leafs should be proud for already shattering expectations. With that being said, Toronto isn’t going to be pleased with anything other than a series win and you can be sure they’ll be out for revenge on Friday night.
Toronto has already shown they can play with Washington and the Capitals won’t be taking anything for granted for the remainder of the postseason. Every single game has been decided by just one goal in this series with the first three contests needing overtime to settle the issue. Washington came in as the number one ranked team in the NHL and winners of the President’s Trophy but have found out that Toronto’s young guns are here to play.
Now the Capitals get the opportunity to take a 3-2 lead in this series in front of their anxious home crowd. The version of this Capitals team with Alex Ovechkin continues to struggle to make any serious noise in the postseason, and another loss would send this city into a frenzy. The pressure is all on Washington, and sometimes that can be a dangerous thing.
Both teams came into this series with top ten offenses in the NHL and have lived up to their hype. Neither squad has had any trouble scoring goals and they’re tied in that department through the first four games. Washington needed to answer the bell in Game 4 and they came out blazing with four goals in the first period alone. They added another late in the third that proved to be the winner, but their fast start will have Leafs fans concerned about how dangerous this team can be.
Like any great team, the Capitals’ stars have shown up and got the job done. T.J. Oshie is perhaps the most underrated player on the Caps’ roster and yet leads the team with six points thanks to two goals and four assists. Joining him near the top of the leaderboard is Nicklas Backstrom with five points of his own and the usual suspects Justin Williams and Alex Ovechkin. Many people have claimed that Ovechkin needs to do more in this series to lift his team over the edge but he’s certainly been there when his team needed him the most. His three goals have all given his team the lead and his physical style of play is a nice answer to all the hard-hitting the Leafs have been doing during this series.
The most notable forward may be Tom Wilson after his huge game on Wednesday night. Wilson saved a goal in the first period that would have made the score 2-2 then scored on the same shift after tipping in a shot. He also hammered Morgan Rielly and scored again on his next shift to give him two goals in under three minutes. He scored just seven times in the 82 games he played this season and if he continues to find the back of the net this Capitals’ offense is going to be very difficult to stop.
Toronto hasn’t been intimidated by Washington’s big names on the back of their jerseys though. The Leafs have matched the Capitals goal for goal in this playoff series thanks to an incredibly balanced attack. Nine different players have scored at least one goal and yet no one has scored more than two. The rookies have been dynamite and William Nylander has looked like the best player on the ice for large stretches of this series.
Most impressive for Toronto might be the play of their veterans. Tyler Bozak has come up clutch in numerous situations like his overtime winner the other night while Nazem Kadri has been a bulldozer on the forecheck. James van Riemsdyk is playing well and wreaking havoc in front of the net and for all the talk of this team not being prepared for a deep playoff run they’re certainly answering their critics.
Toronto’s big trade deadline acquisition looks good as well. Brian Boyle may have just two points in the series but set up the overtime winner in Game 2 and is winning 66 percent of his face-offs in the series. He’s the focal-point of Toronto’s fourth line and is playing a physical style of hockey that is perfectly suited for a deep playoff run.
Neither team has managed to lock down the other yet in their own end although it looked like Washington may have found the recipe on Wednesday night. The Capitals held the Leafs to one goal in the first period and it wasn’t until Toronto scored twice late in the game that this contest was even close.
The Capitals have a much larger, older and more skilled defensive core and it shows at times with a lack of turnovers and mistakes. Washington takes care of the puck and makes Toronto work for their goals whereas the Leafs have the tendency to cough up the puck when they’re trying to create some offense. Brooks Orpik and Dmitry Orlov have been particularly physical with Orpik delivering some huge hits to the Leafs including one that ended Roman Polak’s season with a broken leg.
Toronto doesn’t have nearly the same rough and tough blueliners on their squad, especially now that Polak is out. They do have some incredibly skilled skaters though and Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner have matured way faster than anyone expected to during this postseason. The two defensemen are excellent at leading the rush and have combined for seven points in this series. Rielly is tied for the team lead with four points thanks to some excellent assists and Toronto will continue to give the pair huge minutes in their effort to ty and upset Washington.
Martin Marincin appeared to be done for the game after Tom Wilson fell on the back of his leg in Game 3 but returned to game 4. He looked rusty at times and will need to be better in Game 5, especially on the road. He’s an excellent penalty killer and will be instrumental in keeping the Capitals off the board if they get any sort of man advantage.
Neither goalie has stolen a game yet this series but both have been strong considering all the shots they’ve faced. Braden Holtby will be in the conversation for the Vezina Trophy for his performance during the regular season but has struggled at times with traffic in front. He allowed four goals on 34 shots in his last game and now owns a 2-2 record with a 3.02 goals against average and a .907 save percentage.
Frederik Andersen has done well against the Capitals considering the offense they employ but like Holtby has gone through his tough stretches as well. While Andersen has done well to ward off traffic in front, he’s struggled at times to stop straight-up shots. He allowed five goals on just 27 shots on Wednesday and now has a 2-2 record with a 3.05 goals against average and a .905 save percentage.
Braden Holtby against Frederik Andersen. Playoffs can be won or lost based on the performance of a goalie and we’ve yet to see either stand on their head and steal a game. Both have all the skills necessary to post a shutout or hold the team to just one goal but we’ve yet to see it. Expect one of these guys to step up in a major way eventually as this series is now a best out of three.
Both teams have now each won a game on the road and we expect that trend to continue on Friday night. Toronto is again getting excellent odds thanks to their regular season performance and this feels like a perfect opportunity to grab them. Take the Maple Leafs on the moneyline.
- Boston (-120) at Ottawa (-110)
While it’s true that Ottawa finished the season with a better regular season record than Boston they were still widely expected to lose this series thanks to the run the Bruins went on to close out the year. Like many of the teams in this year’s playoffs the Senators have shattered those expectations and jumped out to a 3-1 series lead. They’re now just one win away from moving on to the second round and will have the opportunity to do it on their home ice.
Every game in this series has been decided by just one goal and after jumping out to the 1-0 series lead the Bruins are suddenly on the verge of elimination. They’ve been unable to close out their games or complete their comebacks and are now in a dire situation. The good news for Boston and their fans is that every game has been within reach and with a few more lucky bounces they could jump right back into this series.
The Senators offense has scored ten goals in four games during this series which is a nice clip for any team, especially one that was supposed to have difficulty finding the back of the net. With that in mind, Ottawa has been inconsistent with their offense despite the wins. They scored just one goal in Game 1 then responded with back to back four goal performances before somehow hanging on to a 1-0 win in Game 4.
Ottawa will be hoping the four-goal version of their offense shows up on Friday night as they try to put this series to bed and it all starts with Erik Karlsson. Despite still obviously battling an injury Karlsson has been Ottawa’s best player during these playoffs just like he was during the regular season. His outlet passes to start the rush are a thing of beauty and it has kept the Bruins defense on their toes in each game. Boston automatically starts sagging back when Karlsson gets the puck on his stick and that allows the Senators’ forwards to use the open ice to their advantage.
Karlsson is tied for the team lead in points with five despite not scoring a goal yet as he continues to set up his teammates all over the ice. Still, someone needs to score goals and not just set them up and that’s where Bobby Ryan comes in. Ryan was supposed to be a big part of this team during the playoffs and he’s certainly done his part during this first round series. Ryan has three goals after scoring the lone marker in Game 4 and has been the best forward for Ottawa during the series. If you need to ask who set him up for that beauty goal you’re not paying attention.
The Bruins failed to score a goal in Game 4 but had scored three goals in back to back games prior to their dismal outing. That’s a good sign going forward even if they lost both of those contests and they will be looking to create way more opportunities than the 22 shots they put on net in Game 4. Craig Anderson is a good goalie, but not unbeatable. Boston will need to fire way more than just 22 shots on net if they have a hope of getting back into this series, and it starts with their best player.
After a dominating regular season, Brad Marchand has been held to just one goal in this first round series. He’s yet to add an assist either and has been swallowed up by the fast moving and talented defensive core of the Senators. Ottawa has done an excellent job in shadowing Marchand and has challenged the other players on his team to beat them. Marchand will need to find some more room on the ice if Boston is going to crawl back from their 3-1 hole and he’ll need to do so on the road.
David Pastrnak leads the team with just three points as no one on the Bruins has stepped up and grabbed the spotlight just yet. Successful teams often have one player emerge as a star during the postseason run, especially if the rest of the squad isn’t scoring. Boston has yet to see anyone take up that role and someone will need to play the role of hero on Friday night to keep their season alive.
While both teams have played inconsistent hockey throughout the series (despite Ottawa leading 3-1) the Senators’ defense has remained perhaps the only consistent part of the series. Ottawa has done a masterful job of limiting Boston’s shots on goal and have locked up their best player in basically each game. Now the Sens have a chance to close out the series at home and you can be sure their defense will be dialed in after stopping the Bruins from scoring in Game 4.
We’ve talked at length about Karlsson’s skill on both offense and defense already in this preview but it’s impossible to overstate his performance in this series. Karlsson finished second in blocked shots during the regular season and while he didn’t block any on Wednesday he still finished with two hits and three shots on goal and put his already injured body on the line.
One unsung hero for Ottawa during these playoffs has been Dion Phaneuf. After being booed out of Toronto he’s turned his career around and has done a masterful job playing second fiddle to Karlsson. He already has an overtime winning goal under his belt during this series and has been huge in locking down Boston on offense. Expect him to keep it up as he gets a taste of winning during the playoffs.
The Bruins meanwhile have been anything but their normally sound selves on defense this series. Boston allowed just one goal in Game 4 but that still proved to be the difference maker and now they’ll need to repeat that effort with their season on the line. Zdeno Chara has looked slow and old during the series and lacked the speed to keep up with the Senators’ smooth skating. He’ll need to dive deep into the fountain of youth to improve his game in time to save the season.
Craig Anderson didn’t have to work hard in Game 4 but he still came away with the shutout and that’s all that matters at this point of the season. He stopped all 22 shots he faced and now has a 3-1 record with a 1.95 goals against average and a .917 save percentage. He’s still not immune to some traffic in front but Boston can’t seem to get bodies on the net. He’ll keep shutting the door if he gets to see the puck.
Opposite him is Tuukka Rask who has been hot and cold during this series. The 3-1 hole he and the Bruins are in can’t solely be blamed on him though. He did, after all, allow just one goal in his last game. He’s now just 1-3 with a 2.44 goals against average and a .913 save percentage. Those numbers are more than serviceable but will need to improve if he wants to avoid elimination.
Brad Marchand against Erik Karlsson. These two players were absolute stars during the regular season but only one of them has carried over their play into the playoffs. Karlsson has had Marchands number through the first four games and the speedy Boston winger will need to find a way to avoid him and get some shots on net. The Bruins have relied on him all year to generate offense and it will be no different on Friday night.
The Senators have simply played better hockey in almost every single game. They control the puck in their own zone and provide timely offense. Now they get to return home to take on a Bruins team that has looked lost over their last three games. Take Ottawa at home on the moneyline and watch Karlsson continue his incredible postseason.