Tuesday slates are usually filled, but this Tuesday’s slate is packed full with games that’ll surely impact playoff races and could be previews for postseason matchups down the line.
The Rangers will travel to Pittsburgh to battle a Penguins team fresh off an 11-goal performance against the Red Wings in a matchup we very well may see to open the 2022 playoffs. Boston will welcome the Maple Leafs in a game of the utmost importance because neither team wants to lose home ice advantage in a loaded Atlantic Division.
In Tampa, the Lightning and Hurricanes will battle in a potential Eastern Conference Final preview between two teams that many feel are the best in their respective divisions. And out west – if you can stay awake long enough – you’ll be able to catch the two best teams in the Western Conference, Calgary, and Colorado, duke it out in what very well could be a Western Conference Final preview.
Phew, what a night ahead; let’s start in Boston.
Boston Bruins ML (-130; PointsBet)
The Bruins are hot, and we’re not stepping in front of this runaway train when it’s rolling like this. Boston has made up 18 points in the standings over the last month thanks to a 14-2-1 stretch that includes wins over Stanley Cup hopefuls like Colorado and Tampa Bay. In mid-February, this was a team ticketed for the second and final Wild Card slot. But now, a win will vault Boston over both Toronto and Tampa Bay for second place in the Atlantic. And that means home ice advantage, at least for one round. There’s real motivation for the Bruins.
Of course, there’s motivation on the side of Toronto, too. They’re trying to fight for exactly the same thing the Bruins are, but the Leafs have been plagued by goaltending of late, and it seems like their latest savior in net has turned back into a pumpkin just like his predecessors.
Erik Kallgren burst onto the scene for the least posting back-to-back wins over Dallas and Carolina, two playoff teams if the season ended today. But since, he’s lost both of his starts and allowed 10 goals in the process. It has forced Sheldon Keefe to give the net back to Petr Mrazek, who was waived just a week ago, out of desperation. Mrazek has allowed just four goals over his last two starts, both wins, but the Bruins in Boston are a completely different animal. Mrazek carries a lowly .890 save percentage and a 3.31 goals against average on the year, so this is a prime spot for the Bruins to tee off early and often.
The Leafs are also struggling as a team of late; all the momentum is on the side of the Bruins. Toronto is just 4-3-1 in their last eight games with puzzling losses to Arizona, Buffalo, and Montreal in the process. What’s really plagued Toronto not just of late, but all season, has been their inability to turn away high-danger changes. The Maple Leafs rank third from the bottom in high danger save percentage, which makes Boston a tough matchup. The Bruins are third-best in the entire NHL in converting their high-danger chances, and they tally the third-most as well.
The current odds of -130 are my limit, I wouldn’t play the Bruins any lower than this. Shop around for the cheapest price.
Carolina Hurricanes ML (+120; DraftKings)
Getting the Hurricanes as an underdog is a rarity. In fact, it hasn’t happened since February 20th in Pittsburgh, a game the Canes won 4-3 over the division-rival Penguins. They’re playing the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions on their home ice, but somehow, someway Carolina has had the Lightning’s number. At least in the regular season.
The Hurricanes have taken both of the head-to-head matchups with the Lightning this year, and they’re 4-0-1 in their last five against the Bolts. Carolina plays such a similar style to Tampa Bay – hard on the forecheck, tons of skill up front, and reliable blue liners – that it seems to get the Lightning all out of sorts. During the aforementioned recent five-game sample size against Tampa Bay, Carolina has actually gone 2-0-1 on the road. They’re not scared of the Champs, no matter where they play.
Tampa is also struggling lately. Both as a team, and individually. They’re 4-6-0 in their last 10 games dating back to March 8th, and in that span, they’re 0-5-0 against teams ticketed to be in the playoffs; that includes a 3-2 loss to these very same Carolina Hurricanes. The Lightning’s only victories since the beginning of the month have come against Ottawa, Detroit, Chicago, Vancouver, Seattle, Detroit again, and the Islanders. They haven’t beaten a single team in their weight class, and are staying afloat by beating up on the bottom feeders of the league.
Their stars are also in a rut. In their last 70 combined games – Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Steven Stamkos, Ondrej Palat, Corey Perry, and Alex Killorn have scored just seven total goals between the six of them. That’s almost hard to fathom, and it won’t get easier against a Hurricanes team averaging the fewest goals against per game in the NHL.
#tblightning scoring slumps
Nikita Kucherov – one goal in 10 games
Brayden Point – one goal in eight games
Steven Stamkos – one goal in last 10 games
Ondrej Palat – zero goals in 19 games
Corey Perry – one goal in last 10 games
Alex Killorn – three goals in 13 games
— Joe Smith (@JoeSmithTB) March 24, 2022
Sure, Carolina played last night, but they only played twice in the week prior, so they’re plenty rested. I would take the Canes down to +115 on the moneyline.
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