2018 NHL Playoff Eastern Conference Second Round Betting Preview
NHL Eastern Conference Second Round Playoff Preview
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Washington Capitals
Pittsburgh Defeats Washington In Six (+551)
Most Series Points
Sidney Crosby (+120) vs Alexander Ovechkin (-111)
Pittsburgh managed to float through the first round, beating up on the goaltending of the Philadelphia Flyers for a deceptively easy six-game triumph. The Penguins have turned their “A” game on and off throughout the season, occasionally crushing opponents like Philly to fire a shot across the bow of the NHL. Washington lost two consecutive overtime matches before storming back to clinch in six games against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Washington’s performance was similar to their 2017 first round series against the Leafs, which also required a Capitals comeback.
The post season history between these two teams tells a story of complete and utter frustration for Washington. Pittsburgh boasts a 9-1 playoff series record, with the last Capitals victory in 1994. All five Pittsburgh Stanley Cup rings include a series win over the Capitals. The Penguins ejected Washington from the playoffs during the second round in two consecutive years. As a result, the Capitals haven’t won two series in a single post season since 1998 – Washington’s only Stanley Cup finals appearance. Put simply, history strongly favors the Penguins.
Sidney Crosby elevated his game during the first round, leading the NHL in playoff scoring by completely decimating the Flyers. Evgeni Malkin will miss at least one game, but Pittsburgh didn’t seem to mind while eliminating the Flyers – after all, Jake Guentzel’s tied with Crosby in goals and points with six markers and seven helpers in six games.
Since the Penguins have the best hockey player in the world, a sneaky amount of scoring depth and an obvious historical advantage, Washington will need a transcendent performance from Braden Holtby and Alex Ovechkin to break the Capitals long playoff curse.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Boston Bruins
Tampa Bay: -163
Tampa Bay Defeats Boston In Seven (+400)
Most Series Points
Nikita Kucherov (-133) vs David Pastrnak (+145)
Tampa Bay sputtered down the regular season stretch, nearly ceding top spot in the eastern conference, but they took care of the New Jersey Devils with a professional, gentleman’s sweep. Kucherov was outstanding, even displaying a bit of sandpaper. Boston nearly caught Tampa at the top of the Atlantic Division, drawing a tough seven game series against the pesky Toronto Maple Leafs. The Bruins escaped a 4-3 deficit in game seven for another exciting, series-clinching victory, extending Toronto’s playoff losing streak against Boston to 59 years.
Boston beat Tampa Bay in three of four regular season meetings, but the Lightning dismantled Boston 4-0 the last time they met in April, sending a statement to their Atlantic Division peers. These clubs have met only once in the post season, during the 2011 conference finals. Boston earned a seven-game series victory en route to lifting their first Stanley Cup since 1970. Pittsburgh’s a favorite to three-peat this year, but many observers believe the winner of the Lightning-Bruins series will represent the eastern conference in the cup finals.
Tampa and Boston feature deadly top lines, with Kucherov-Stamkos-Miller facing off against the Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak trio. However, the Lightning possess better scoring depth and a deeper blueline. Tuukka Rask’s a solid goaltender, but he’s been on-and-off during his playoff career. Andrei Vasilevskiy is nominated for a Vezina this season, and he’s earned a .927 SV% and an 8-6 record over 12 starts and 17 playoff appearances. Tampa’s the better team on paper, but Boston won’t give without a fight. This series has game seven written all over it.
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