Friday Night Picks: Playoff Edition
By Stephen London
Hello and welcome to a special playoff edition of Friday Night Picks. Last night, the individual game picks went 3-1. If the St. Louis Blues could have come away with an overtime win against the San Jose Sharks, the picks would have gone 4-0. Let's see what's in store for tonight's matchups.
No. 6 New Jersey Devils at No. 3 Florida Panthers
The Florida Panthers have to be proud of themselves, making it to the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade. They will most certainly have their hands full tonight, when the New Jersey Devils come to town to start the last of the opening-round matchups. Even though the Panthers are technically ranked higher, the Devils have a full 10 wins more than the Southeast Division winner.
The Devils also have Martin Brodeur, a veteran and future Hall of Famer, in net. The Panthers will try to counter with ex-Washington Capital Jose Theodore. The Panthers will have to be able to shut down some of the best forwards in the league, such as Ilya Kovalchuk, who has five points (three goals, two assists) during the four games these two squads have played this season.
The Panthers and Devils split the four-game regular-season series between the two teams. But the Panthers were stalling before the end of the season, going 2-3-5 during their last 10 games. The Panthers will have to step up their game on all fronts, because the Devils have been hot going into the playoffs, going 7-2-1 during their last 10 games.
Panthers players to watch: Stephen Weiss, Tomas Fleischmann, Kris Versteeg, Sean Bergenheim
Devils players to watch: Kovalchuk, Dainius Zubrus, Adam Henrique, Patrik Elias
Picks: 1U Devils on the series -210 ... risking 2.1U
1U on under 5.5 goals -110 ... risking 1.1U
No. 5 Philadelphia Flyers at No. 4 Pittsburgh Penguins
The Philadelphia Flyers must feel as if they dodged a bullet during the first game of the series, coming back from a 3-0 deficit and winning in overtime. Head coach Dan Bylsma of the Pittsburgh Penguins said it best when he called the Flyers' goal opportunistic. This series will continue to be tight, considering each team's firepower on offense.
Sidney Crosby did start the scoring for his team, getting his name on the score sheet twice with a goal and an assist. Danny Briere started the comeback for the Flyers, scoring two goals to answer the Penguins' 3-0 rally.
If the Penguins don't win at least one of the games in their home city, they might fall victim to getting swept by their in-state rival. The pick in tonight's game is an easy one to make, but picking the winner of the series is another question. Now that the Flyers have won one away game, they might just be the smarter pick.
Penguins players to watch: Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Tyler Kennedy
Flyers players to watch: Briere, Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Maxime Talbot
Picks: 1U on Flyers for the series -110 ... risking 1.1U
1U on Penguins -193 ... risking 1.93
No. 5 Detroit Red Wings at No. 4 Nashville Predators
The Detroit Red Wings fell victim to the Nashville Predators in Game 1, 3-2. The NHL fined Shea Weber of the Predators for taking the head of Henrik Zetterberg and throwing it into the glass. It would not be a surprise if the Red Wings tried to get revenge on Weber for the assault he put on Zetterberg.
The Red Wings need at least one win away from home in order to feel more comfortable for their two-game homestand. Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne will have to be on top of his game in order for the Preds to come away with another win.
This series could come down to the seventh game. Both teams have quality defensemen and a comparable goaltender to go with their strong defense. But if the Predators keep finding ways to score, they will have an easy time sitting back and playing defense.
Predators players to watch: Paul Gaustad, Patric Hornqvist, David Legwand, Mike Fisher
Red Wings players to watch: Nick Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Holmstrom, Johan Franzen
Pick: 1U on Predators for the series -160 ... risking 1.6U
No. 8 Los Angeles Kings at No. 1 Vancouver Canucks
The Los Angeles Kings came away with a win in Game 1 against the President's Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks. Daniel Sedin, the Canucks' top goal scorer, is injured and did not play, which certainly helped the Kings' chances. Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo helped as much as he could, but 35 saves on 38 shots was not enough for the Canucks to come away with a win.
Sedin will not be joining his brother and linemate, Henrik Sedin, in tonight's game. The Kings' Jeff Carter established himself with his old teammate, Mike Richards, in Game 1, getting two assists. Richards tallied a goal and two assists against the Canucks.
With the Kings' offense finding a new sense of ability, the Canucks need to find an answer. They also have to find better ways to beat Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick. The Kings are looking as if they are in the driver's seat of this series.
Canucks players to watch: Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows, Maxim Lapierre
Kings players to watch: Carter, Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Dustin Penner
Picks: 1U on Kings on the series -110 ... risking 1.1U
1U on Canucks -150 ... risking 1.5U
Posted April 13, 2012