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NHL Hockey: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Islanders Series Preview, Odds and Prediction - 05/16/2021

by Big Al Staff

Sunday, May 16, 2021

NHL East Division First Round Playoff Preview: New York Islanders versus the Pittsburgh Penguins.Pittsburgh finished tied with Washington with 77 points in the East Division. They claimed first place and home-ice advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs by winning the head-to-head series with the Capitals. Led by Sidney Crosby, the organization still have a core of players that won back-to-back Stanley Cup champions in 2015-16 and 2016-17. The Penguins started strong last season with improved defense, good goaltending, and positive contributions from the bottom of their lineup. However, the team hit a wall by winning only three of their last eleven games in the regular season before the stoppage of play. They returned to the bubble in the summer to outplay Montreal but get stymied by goalie Carey Price and lose to the Canadiens in the play-in qualifying round. A slow start this season contributed to longtime general manager Jim Rutherford resigning on January 27th. The franchise hired Ron Hextall as their next general manager and brought in veteran executive Brian Burke as the President of Hockey Operations. The new brain trust made a splash at the trade deadline by acquiring versatile forward Jeff Carter from Los Angeles. The Carter acquisition has fortified the forward depth of this Pittsburgh team. Carter has scored nine goals and assisted on another 11 goals in his 14 games in a Pens’ uniform joining Jared McCannon on the third line. Crosby anchors the top line, and he leads the team with 24 goals and 38 assists in 55 games. Kris Letang has 45 points in 55 games leading the top defensive pairing with Brian Dumoulin and quarterbacking the power play. Goaltending is a question mark for head coach Mike Sullivan in the franchise’s first season since 2005 without either Marc-Andre Fleury or Matt Murray between the pipes. Tristan Jarry has a 25-9-3 record, with a 2.75 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage. Casey DeSmith has an 11-7-0 record, with a 2.54 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage. New York defeated Florida, Philadelphia, and Washington en route to the Eastern Conference finals where they lost in six games to the eventual Stanley Cup champions in Tampa Bay. The Islanders finished in fourth place in the East Division this season with a 32-17-7 record. They lost seven of their last ten games going into the postseason, but they lost seven straight games before the stoppage of play last season before flipping the switch in the bubble. The team endured a major blow in mid-March when their captain, Anders Lee, suffered a season-ending knee injury. The left winger on the top line had scored at least 20 goals in four straight seasons before his campaign was short-circuited this year. General manager Lou Lamoriello was active at the trade deadline by acquiring forward depth in Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from New Jersey and defenseman Brayden Coburn from Ottawa. Center Matthew Barzal leads the team with 28 goals and 45 points. Defenseman Nick Leddy’s 29 assists are a team-best. Goalie Semyon Varlamov has a 19-11-4 record, with a 2.04 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage. The Islanders are second in the NHL by allowing only 1.92 goals per game at even strength as they continue to be one of the stingiest defensive teams in the third season under head coach Barry Trotz.Pittsburgh won six of the eight regular-season meetings between these two teams. However, Sullivan and Trotz will remember the opening round of the 2019 playoffs when the Islanders stunned the Penguins by sweeping them in four games. The opening game of this series takes place on Sunday at noon ET. BetOnline lists Pittsburgh as a -125 money line favorite with the total set at 5.5. NBC has the broadcast.Computer prediction:  Pittsburgh Penguins win 4 games to 2

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Big Al's Daily Angle: Preakness Stakes, NBA, NHL, MLB, WNBA, EPL, and FA Cup Previews and Odds - 05/15/2021

by Big Al Staff

Saturday, May 15, 2021

The Saturday sports card features action in the NBA, NHL, MLB, WNBA, the English Premier League, the FA Cup, and the second leg of the Triple Crown.The Preakness Stakes takes place on NBC, with the race starting at 6:47 PM ET. Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit, is the morning line favorite at 9-5 odds. Six games are on the NBA docket. The card begins at 1 PM ET with three games. The Los Angeles Lakers visit Indiana as a 7-point road favorite at DraftKings. New York plays at home against Charlotte as a 5.5-point favorite with the total set at 212 (all odds from BetOnline unless indicated otherwise). Brooklyn is at home against Chicago as an 11-point favorite at DraftKings. Minnesota hosts Boston at 2 PM ET as a 2.5-point favorite at DraftKings. Phoenix travels to San Antonio as a 10.5-point road favorite at DraftKings. Milwaukee plays at home against Miami at 8 PM ET as a 3-point favorite with an over/under of 232. Two games are on the NHL schedule. Edmonton plays at home against Vancouver at 3:30 PM ET as a -190 money line favorite with the total at 6. The Stanley Cup playoffs begin at 7:15 PM ET on NBC, with Washington hosting Boston in the opener of their East Division best-of-seven series. These two teams split their eight regular-season meetings after the Capitals won at home against the Bruins, 2-1, on Tuesday to close out the regular season for both clubs. Boston is a -125 money line favorite with an over/under of 5.5. Fifteen games are on the MLB slate. The New York Mets visit Tampa Bay at 1:10 PM ET. Minnesota hosts Oakland in the first game of a doubleheader on FS1 at 4:05 PM ET. The A’s won the opening game of this series on Friday with a 6-1 victory. They send out Cole Irvin to face the Twins’ Jose Berrios. Minnesota is a -135 money line favorite with the total at 8.5. The Los Angeles Angels travel to Boston at 4:10 PM ET as a -110 money line road favorite with an over/under of 9.5. The Chicago Cubs play at Detroit as a -118 money line road favorite with a total of 9.San Francisco visits Pittsburgh at 6:35 PM ET as a -128 money line road favorite with an over/under of 7.5. The New York Yankees play at Baltimore at 7:05 PM ET as a -160 money line road favorite with the total at 9. The Chicago White Sox play at home against Kansas City at 7:10 PM ET as a -187 money line favorite with an over/under of 8.5. Houston is at home against Texas as a -174 money line favorite with a total of 8.5. Atlanta travels to Milwaukee. Philadelphia is at Toronto at 7:37 PM ET. Cincinnati visits Colorado at 8:10 PM ET. Washington plays at Arizona.San Diego hosts St. Louis in the nightcap on FS1 at 8:40 PM ET. The Padres won the opening game of this series with a 5-4 victory on Friday. They send out Chris Paddack to face the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright. San Diego is a -130 money line favorite with an over/under of 7. Cleveland plays at Seattle at 9:10 PM ET as a -114 money line road favorite with a total of 8. Miami visits Los Angeles to play the Dodgers. Two games on the WNBA schedule. Chicago travels to Washington at 1 PM ET. Las Vegas visits Seattle at 3 PM ET. Both games are on ABC. Matchweek 36 of the English Premier League continues with three matches. Leeds United visits Burnley on the NBC Sports Network at 7:30 AM ET as a -0.25 goal line road favorite with an over/under of 2.75. Southampton hosts Fulham on the NBC Sports Network at 10 AM ET as a -0.5 goal line favorite with a total of 2.5. West Ham United travels to Brighton and Hove Albion as a -0.25 goal line road favorite with an over/under of 2.5.The finals of the FA Cup take place at 12:15 PM ET between Leicester City and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium. The Foxes reached the championship game with their 1-0 victory against Southampton on April 18th. The Blues advanced to the finals on April 17th with a 1-0 win against Manchester City. Chelsea is a -0.5 goal line favorite with the total set at 2.25. ESPN+ broadcasts the match.

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NHL Hockey: Boston Bruins vs. Washington Capitals Series Preview, Odds and Prediction - 05/15/2021

by Big Al Staff

Saturday, May 15, 2021

NHL East Division First Round Playoff Preview: Boston Bruins versus the Washington Capitals.Washington tied for first place in the East Division with Pittsburgh but settled for the second seed given tie-breakers. The Capitals had 77 points in the regular season, coming from a 36-15-5 record under first-year head coach Peter Laviolette. Led by Alex Ovechkin and a core group of veterans who led the franchise to their first Stanley Cup championship in 2018, the hope is the pieces are in place to make another deep postseason run. This team started great under head coach Todd Rierden last season in his second year with the organization. However, their play waned in the second half, and they were a disappointment in the bubble after the COVID stoppage in play. A first-round playoff exit to the New York Islanders compelled the franchise to dismiss Rierden and hire the former Nashville skipper. Known as a disciplinarian who might coax better efforts from underperforming veterans like Evgeny Kuznetsov, Laviolette is the first Washington head coach with previous NHL coaching experience in the Ovechkin era. Laviolette had one of the deepest blue lines in the league during his time with the Predators, which peaked with a Stanley Cup appearance in 2017. General manager fortified the Capitals' depth on defense by signing Zdeno Chara and Justin Schultz in the offseason. Led by John Carlson, who might be coming off his best regular season in his career with ten goals and 34 assists in 55 games, Washington has three capable blue line pairings. Ovechkin and Kuznetsov have had better seasons despite shooting percentages that top 12%. Ovechkin has 24 goals and 18 assists in 45 games after tying for the league-lead with 45 goals last season. Kuznetsov scored only nine times with 21 assists in 41 games. Niklas Backstrom led the team with 53 points coming from 15 goals and 38 assists. T.J. Oshie complemented that line with 22 goals and 21 assists. Goaltending remains a question mark after the franchise parted ways with Braden Holtby in the offseason. Second-year pro Ilya Samsonov was 13-4-1 in 19 games, with a 2.69 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage. Rookie Vitek Vanecek was a surprise by playing in 37 games while posting a 21-10-4 record with a 2.69 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage. MacLellan had originally signed veteran New Rangers’ goaltender Henrik Lundqvist in the fall to mentor these young goaltenders while perhaps offering Laviolette his playoff experience in the postseason. Turning to Lundqvist is not an option after he opted out from playing the season the health issues with his heart. The Ovechkin/Kuznetsov duo may not have as lethal in the regular season as they were in the 2016-17 campaign, but this Capitals’ team may have better depth at forward and center. MacLellan traded for Detroit Red Wings’ talented but underachieving center Anthony Mantha at the trade deadline. Mantha is anchoring the Backstrom-Oshie line. The Caps join Carolina as the only two teams in the NHL to rank in the top-five in power-play productivity and the power play kill unit.  Boston finished in third place in the East Division with a 33-16-7 record. They were four points behind the Capitals and Penguins. The Bruins ran away with the President’s Trophy last year, but they lost their mojo after the stoppage of play in March. They lost all three of their round-robin games in the bubble to determine playoff seeding before losing to Tampa Bay in the second round. Did this team simply get outplayed by a Lightning team that was due to win a Stanley Cup title, or was their disappointment in the restart a harbinger whose championship window is closing? Head coach Bruce Cassidey still has probably the best forward line in hockey in Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak. Fourth-year defenseman Charlie McAvoy has emerged into one of the elite blue line players in the league. Goaltender Tuukka Rask continues to play at a high level. The former Vezina Trophy winner and Stanley Cup champion for this franchise has a 15-5-2 record in 24 games, with a 2.28 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage. The Bruins have one of the best “backup” goalies in the NHL in Jaroslav Halak, who posted a 9-6-4 mark in 19 games, with a 2.53 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage.Boston started the season sluggishly, with Marchand and Pastrnak recovering from off-season surgeries. The team is peaking at the right time with 14 victories in their last 19 games entering the postseason. General manager Don Sweeney made one of the biggest splashes in the league by acquiring Taylor Hall from Buffalo at the trade deadline. The talented left wing was lost with the Sabres but immediately responded playing in a new uniform by scoring seven goals and adding seven assists in his 16 games as a Bruin. He joins center David Krejci and right win Craig Smith, the team’s biggest free-agent signing in the offseason from Nashville, to form an imposing second line. Sweeney also added blue line depth by trading for defenseman Mike Reilly from Ottawa. Krejci has 36 assists and 48 points in 51 games in leading the second line. Marchand leads the team with 69 points coming from 29 goals and 40 assists in the 53 games he played. Bergeron has 23 goals and 25 assists in 54 games. Pastrnak added 20 goals and 28 assists in 48 games. These two teams split their eight regular-season meetings, with Boston outscoring Washington, 26-25. The opening game of this series begins the NHL postseason on Saturday on NBC at 7:15 PM ET. BetAnySports lists the Bruins as a -125 money line road favorite with the total set at 5.5.Prediction:  Boston Bruins win the series in 6 games

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NHL First Round Playoff Preview

by Sean Murphy

Friday, May 14, 2021

The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs are upon us with the action getting underway with Game 1 between the Bruins and Capitals on Saturday evening.Here's a quick preview of each opening round series.(Odds courtesy BetOnline)North DivisionMaple Leafs (-280) vs. Canadiens (+235)For the first time in 42 years the Leafs and Canadiens will renew their storied rivalry in the playoffs, this time as the 1 vs. 4 matchup in the North Division. The Leafs took seven of nine regular season meetings and enter the series as heavy favorites. You would be hard-pressed to find an advantage for the Habs in this series but perhaps goaltending could be the great equalizer? Canadiens goaltender Carey Price has proven he can steal a series in the past but let's face it, he had a disastrous regular season and was outperformed by backup Jake Allen, who could very well earn the Game 1 start in this series. Jack Campbell took over the Leafs starting job after Frederik Andersen got hurt and while Andersen is back, he's unlikely to wrestle back the number one role. For things to go Montreal's way it will need to get elite production from its forward group that has only been good in fits and starts this season. Keeping pace with the Leafs vaunted offense will be a tall task indeed and I ultimately expect the Habs to fall short. Prediction: Leafs in six. Oilers (-200) vs. Jets (+170)This would have been an intriguing matchup a few weeks ago but with the Jets going in the tank down the stretch, excitement has waned a bit. The Oilers didn't let up an ounce in the closing weeks of the regular season and are well-positioned to outgun a Jets squad that has sorely missed the production of Nik Ehlers since he went down with a season-ending injury. Winnipeg does have the talent and experience to go on a deep playoff run but it's going to be difficult for them to take flight (pun intended) from a standing start. Note that the Jets entered Friday's regular season finale against Toronto having won just twice since April 17th, scoring fewer than three goals in nine of their last 11 contests. The Oilers are hungry for an elusive playoff series win and have the personnel in place to end their drought here in 2021. In the face of an army of doubters, goaltender Mike Smith has proven to be Edmonton's unsung hero this season and should help them advance past the down-trodden Jets in relatively short order. Prediction: Oilers in five.Central DivisionHurricanes (-255) vs. Predators (+215)Carolina not surprisingly dominated the regular season series between these two teams, taking six of eight meetings. A true Stanley Cup contender, the 'Canes will be looking to erase the memory of an early playoff exit (in unceremonious fashion) at the hands of the Bruins last year. While the Predators have one of the most underrated goaltenders in hockey in Juuse Saros, I'm not convinced they have enough offensive firepower to keep pace with the deep Carolina offense. Home ice will mean something in this series as the 'Canes went 20-8 in Raleigh during the regular season, outscoring opponents by an average margin of 1.3 goals per game. While the Preds went 18-10 at home, they check in 13-15 in a visitors role. Prediction: Hurricanes in five.Lightning (-150) vs. Panthers (+130)It looks like it will be all hands on deck for the Lightning as they welcome back Nikita Kucherov and Steve Stamkos from injury in round one against the in-state rival Panthers. Victor Hedman will require offseason surgery but all indications are that he'll be back on the ice for the series-opener as well. The Panthers did take five of eight regular season meetings between these two teams and while they have the offense to keep up with the Bolts, I'm not sure Sergei Bobrovsky can match saves with all-world counterpart Andrei Vasilevskiy. This is also a series where Florida missed defensive anchor Aaron Ekblad and key secondary scorer Vincent Trocheck, who now skates with the Hurricanes. This has the makings of a long series but I'll give the slight edge to the defending champions. Prediction: Lightning in seven. East DivisionPenguins (-145) vs. Islanders (+125)Pittsburgh had its way with New York during the regular season, taking six of eight meetings. The stretch run was a disaster for the Islanders as they dropped seven of their last 10 games to set up this difficult opening round date. With that being said, the Isles core remains intact from the team that staged a 4-0 sweep over the favored Penguins two years ago. I wouldn't be quick to dismiss a Barry Trotz-coached squad that defends well and also has two top-rate goaltenders at its disposal. The issue is up front where someone other than Mat Barzal will need to step up and contribute - something we just didn't see much of during the regular season. I may sound like a broken record but scoring depth is paramount at this time of year and the Pens have it. Prediction: Penguins in six. Capitals (+145) vs. Bruins (-165)The Bruins are favored in this series despite finishing behind the Capitals in the East Division standings. In fact, Boston is the favorite to come out of the East Division. I would have had this series priced a little tighter but can understand the logic behind the B's being favored in spite of the 4-4 regular season split between these two. While Boston's top line of Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak has been firing on all cylinders, the Caps have been struggling to even ice a healthy roster with key cogs such as Ovechkin, Carlson and Kuznetsov in and out of the lineup. Washington's 19-9 road record is certainly a feather in its cap entering this series as is the fact that it managed to go 12-5 down the stretch despite being undermanned. Perhaps the Caps spat with the Rangers will be looked back on as a galvanizing turning point. Prediction: Bruins in seven.West DivisionAvalanche (-400) vs. Blues (+320)Colorado won its way into top spot in the West Division thanks to sweeping a two-game set against the Kings at the end of the regular season. It did so without the services of Nathan MacKinnon but I would count on him to be back on the ice for the start of this series. St. Louis dropped five of the first six meetings in this series during the regular season before answering with a couple of victories on home ice in late April. It will be hard-pressed to steal more than a game, if that, against the Stanley Cup favorites here, however. We saw a glimpse of Colorado's incredible depth as it scored 11 goals - without MacKinnon - in consecutive wins over the Kings earlier this week. The Avs defense is the real undervalued commodity here though, noting that they've allowed just 2.4 goals per game overall and 1.9 goals per game on home ice this season. The Blues don't have the goaltending or consistency up front to keep pace. Prediction: Colorado in four.Golden Knights (-240) vs. Wild (+200)This has the makings of an incredible series between the veteran-laden Knights and the upstart Wild. Vegas led the West Division for much of the season - deservedly so - but a late season loss to the Avs cost them the top seed. Few teams displayed the consistency of the Knights over the course of the season as they went 21-7 at home and 19-9 on the road. It is worth noting that the Wild have managed to take four of the last seven meetings in Las Vegas. Minnesota seemed to find its identity this year, somewhat surprisingly as a high-octane offensive squad. If you haven't seen much of the Wild this season you're in for a treat. Rookie standout Kirill Kaprizov is cut from the same mold as superstar Artemi Panarin, breaking into the league as a 24-year old this season and pacing the Wild offense. Minnesota checks in averaging 3.4 goals per game compared to Vegas' 3.2. Prediction: Vegas in seven. 

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Big Al's Daily Angle: NBA, NHL, EPL, WNBA and MLB Previews and Odds - 05/14/2021

by Big Al Staff

Friday, May 14, 2021

The Friday sports card features action in the NBA, NHL, MLB, WNBA, and the English Premier League.Eight games are on the NBA docket. The card begins at 7 PM ET, with Washington hosting Cleveland as a 7.5-point favorite at DraftKings. Utah visits Oklahoma City at 8 PM ET as a 13.5-point road favorite at DraftKings. Philadelphia plays at home against Orlando as a 13-point favorite at DraftKings. Denver travels to Detroit. Memphis is at home against Sacramento at 9 PM ET as an 8.5-point favorite at DraftKings. Dallas hosts Toronto as a 13-point favorite at DraftKings. The Los Angeles Clippers visit Houston.The NBA card concludes at 9:30 PM ET with Golden State playing at home against New Orleans on ESPN. The Warriors have won six of their last seven games with their 122-116 upset win against Phoenix as a 5-point underdog on Tuesday. The Pelicans have lost three of their last four games after their 125-107 loss at Dallas as a 9.5-point underdog on Wednesday. Golden State is a 5.5-point favorite at DraftKings. One game is on the NHL schedule. Toronto visits Winnipeg at 8 PM ET as a -155 money line road favorite with the total set at 6 (all odds from BetOnline unless indicated otherwise). Sixteen games are on the MLB slate. Kansas City plays at Chicago against the White Sox at 3:10 PM ET in the opener of their seven-inning doubleheader. San Francisco visits Pittsburgh at 6:35 PM ET as a -136 money line road favorite with an over/under of 7. The New York Yankees travel to Baltimore at 7:05 PM ET as a -180 money line road favorite with a total of 9. The Chicago Cubs visit Detroit as a -132 money line road favorite with an over/under of 8.5. The Los Angeles Angels play at Boston. Toronto hosts Philadelphia at 7:37 PM ET as a -147 money line favorite with the total at 10.5.Houston is at home against Texas at 8:10 PM ET as a -215 money line favorite with an over/under of 9. Oakland visits Minnesota as a -110 money line road favorite with a total of 8.5. Atlanta plays at Milwaukee. The second game of the Royals/White Sox doubleheader is at 8:10 PM ET. Colorado plays at home against Cincinnati at 8:40 PM ET as a -108 money line favorite with an over/under of 10.5. Washington travels to Arizona at 9:40 PM ET as a -165 money line road favorite at BookMaker with a total of 8. The Los Angeles Dodgers host Miami at 10:10 PM ET as a -209 money line favorite with an over/under of 7. San Diego is at home against St. Louis as a -166 money line favorite with a total of 7. Cleveland visits Seattle as a -120 money line road favorite with an over/under of 8.The WNBA season tips off on Friday with four games. Indiana visits New York at 7 PM ET as a 3-point road favorite. Connecticut travels to Atlanta at 7:30 PM ET as a 3-point road favorite. Minnesota hosts Phoenix on the CBS Sports Network at 9 PM ET as a 2.5-point favorite. Los Angeles plays at home against Dallas at 10:30 PM ET as a 5.5-point favorite. Matchweek 36 in the English Premier League begins at 3 PM ET with Manchester City traveling to Newcastle United. Man City is a -1.75 goal line road favorite with the total at 3. Peacock broadcasts the match.

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NHL Playoffs: Tampa Bay Lightning/Florida Panthers Series Preview and Odds - 05/16/2021

by Big Al Staff

Friday, May 14, 2021

NHL Central Division First Round Playoff Preview: Florida Panthers versus Tampa Bay Lightning.The Florida Panthers will have home-ice advantage against the reigning Stanley Cup champions after a surprising regular season that earned them second place in the makeshift Central Division in this season played amidst the COVID outbreak. Florida’s 37-14-5 record put them one point behind Carolina in first place in the division with 79 points. The Panthers reached the traditional sixteen-team playoff postseason for just the third time in the last 20 seasons. They did qualify for the play-in best of five series last year before getting eliminated by the New York Islanders in four games. The organization replaced general manager Dale Tallon in the offseason with Bill Zito, who had previously served as Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Zito parted ways with goal scorers Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov and replaced them with some under-the-radar values in forwards like Patric Hornqvist, Anthony Duclair, and Carter Verhaeghe. Zito then made a splash at the trade deadline by acquiring forward Sam Bennett from Calgary and defenseman Brandon Montour from Buffalo. Bennett has scored nine goals and added nine assists in his ten games in a Panthers’ uniform while stabilizing the second line playing center with talented wingers Jonathan Huberdeau and Owen Tippett. Huberdeau leads the team with 61 points coming from 20 goals and 41 assists in his 55 games. The 21-year-old Tippett is the former tenth pick in the 2017 draft. Bennett’s strong play has allowed head coach Joel Quenneville to drop center Alex Wennberg to play on the third line alongside a two-time Stanley Cup winner in Hornqvist. Montour has found new life getting away from the Sabres skating with Markus Nutivaara on the second blue line pairing. Florida had a big hole to fill on their blue line after the season-ending leg injury to star young defenseman, Aaron Ekblad. Mackenzie Weegar has emerged as a legitimate number one defenseman playing the top blue-line pairing with Gustav Forsling. The Panthers have surprisingly improved in their possession numbers after the loss of Eklbad. The Florida talisman is their top-line center Alexsander Barkov. The second overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft is enjoying the best season in his career with 26 goals and 32 assists while being one of the best two-way players in the game. Zito’s success in adding midtier depth afforded the veteran Quenneville the luxury to split up Barkov and Huberdeau to form two high-quality scoring lines. After playing together at five-on-five 69% of the time in the previous two seasons, Quenneville has had the two stars on the ice together at even strength just 14% of the time this year. Duclair and Verghaeghe join Barkov on the top line.While Zito has quickly addressed many of the problems in depth he inherited from Tallon, the question marks with goaltending continue. Tallon thought he addressed this issue two years ago by signing Sergei Bobrovsky to a seven-year, $70 million contract. The 32-year-old former Vezina Trophy winner was a disappointment with a 3.23 goals-against-average and a .900 save percentage (the second-lowest mark in his career) last year. Bobrovsky has not been much better this season, with a 2.91 goals-against-average and a .906 save percentage. Quenneville might turn to Chris Driedger after the 26-year-old posted a 2.07 goals-against-average and .927 save percentage in 23 regular season starts.Tampa Bay finally got the monkey off their back in the Jon Cooper-coaching era by winning the Stanley Cup last fall in the NHL playoff bubble. That triumph culminated a six-year run under Cooper, where they lead the league in the most regular-season wins, the most playoff wins, and the most goals scored during that tenure. After their dominant postseason run, the Lightning’s campaign to repeat as champions suffered an early blow when Nikita Kucherov suffered a hip injury that kept him out of the entire regular season. Cooper’s team was on cruise control playing without Kucherov, finishing with a 36-17-3 record for 75 points and third place in the Central Division. The good news for Tampa Bay is that Kucherov will be back for the postseason. However, star defensemen Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh, and forward Steven Stamkos are dealing with injuries that threaten their ability to take the ice in the opening game of this series. General manager Julien BriseBois was able to keep the core of his team intact in the offseason. He did lose Verhaege to the Panthers, who were struggling to find ice time given the forward depth of the Lightning. Tampa Bay lost some blue line depth entering the year, most notably in the departure of Kevin Shattenkirk. Brisebois acquired defenseman David Savard in a trade with Columbus at the deadline, but the veteran has yet to gel with his new team.Brayden Point led the team with 23 goals and 48 points anchoring the top line without Kucherov at right wing. The Lightning’s regular-season Most Valuable Player may have been goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who posted a 2.21 goals-against-average and a .925 save percentage. Florida won the regular-season series between these two teams with five victories in eight games. They outscored Stanley Cup champions by a 31-24 goal margin, albeit without Kucherov. The Panthers host the opening two games of this best-of-seven series beginning on Sunday on the NBC Sports Network at 7:30 PM ET. The winner of this series plays the winner of the Carolina Hurricanes-Nashville Predators first-round series. BetOnline lists Tampa Bay as a -108 money line road favorite with the total set at 5.5.

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Big Al's Daily Angle: NHL, NBA, MLB and EPL Previews and Odds - 05/13/2021

by Big Al Staff

Thursday, May 13, 2021

The Thursday sports card features action in the NBA, NHL, MLB, and the English Premier League.Nine games are on the NBA docket. The card begins at 7 PM ET with two games. The Los Angeles Clippers visit Charlotte as an 8-point road point favorite with the total set at 224 (all odds provided by BetOnline unless indicated otherwise). Milwaukee travels to Indiana as an 8.5-point road favorite at DraftKings. Atlanta hosts Orlando at 7:30 PM ET as a 12.5-point favorite with an over/under of 228. New York plays at home against San Antonio as a 5-point favorite at DraftKings. Philadelphia travels to Miami at 7:30 PM ET in the opening game of a doubleheader on TNT. The 76ers had their eight-game winning streak end in a 103-94 upset loss at Indiana as a 5.5-point favorite on Tuesday. The Heat have won six of seven after their 129-121 win at Boston as a 1.5-point favorite on Tuesday. Philadelphia is a 1.5-point road favorite at DraftKings. Memphis is at home against Sacramento at 8 PM ET as a 7-point favorite at DraftKings. Chicago plays at home against Toronto as a 9.5-point favorite at DraftKings. Denver visits Minnesota as a 5.5-point road favorite with a total of 235.5.Phoenix hosts Portland at 10 PM ET in the nightcap on TNT. The Suns have lost three of four games after their 122-116 upset loss at Golden State as a 5.5-point favorite on Tuesday. The 76ers won their ninth game in their last ten with their 105-98 upset victory at Utah as a 1-point underdog on Wednesday. Phoenix is a 5.5-point favorite at DraftKings. Three games are on the NHL schedule. Minnesota travels to St. Louis at 8 PM ET as a -120 money line road favorite at DraftKings with the over/under at 6. Calgary is at home against Vancouver as a -176 money line favorite with a total of 5.5. Colorado plays at home against Los Angeles as a -385 money line favorite with an over/under of 5.5. Twelve games are on the MLB slate. Atlanta hosts Toronto at 12:10 PM ET as a -148 money line favorite with the total at 8.5. Philadelphia visits Washington at 1:05 PM ET as a -108 money line road favorite with an over/under of 8.5. Detroit plays at home against Kansas City at 1:10 PM ET as a -110 money line favorite with the total at 9. Milwaukee is at home against St. Louis at 1:40 PM ET as a -125 money line favorite with an over/under of 7. The Chicago White Sox are at home against Minnesota at 2:10 PM ET as a -132 money line favorite with a total of 7.5. San Francisco visits Pittsburgh at 6:35 PM ET as a -158 money line road favorite with an over/under of 8. Boston hosts Oakland at 7:10 PM ET as a -108 money line favorite with the total at 9. The New York Yankees travel to Tampa Bay as a -134 money line road favorite with an over/under of 8.5. Houston is at home against Texas at 8:10 PM ET as a -190 money line favorite with the total at 8.5. Cincinnati plays at Colorado at 8:40 PM ET as a -137 money line road favorite with an over/under of 10.5. Miami travels to Arizona as a -113 money line road favorite with a total of 8. Cleveland visits Seattle at 10:10 PM ET as a -135 money line road favorite with an over/under of 8. Matchweek 35 in the English Premier League concludes with two matches on the NBC Sports Network. Everton visits Aston Villa at 1 PM ET in a pick ‘em matchup with a total of 2.5. Liverpool plays at Manchester United at 3:15 PM ET as a -0.25 goal line road favorite with an over/under of 2.75.

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NHL Playoffs: An Early Look

by Ben Burns

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

I've looked forward to the NHL postseason for my entire life. While this has been a unique year, the playoffs figure to be just as exciting as ever.  Every NHL game this entire season has been of the "divisional variety." Due to Covid restrictions, teams played within their division all year. That'll mean that everyone is very well-acquainted with each other; the first two rounds of the playoffs will also all be between teams from the same division. You know what they say, familiarity breeds contempt. When the smoke clears, there will be one team remaining from each division. Here's how the matchups are currently shaping up. East DivisionThe Pittsburgh Penguins earned the #1 seed and will host the #4 New York Islanders. The winner of that series will face the winner of Washington Capitals (#2) vs. Boston Bruins (#3) series.West DivisionAs of this writing, the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Knights are still batting for the top seed. The team which finishes #1 will host the (#4) St. Louis Blues. The other will face the Minnesota Wild.North DivisionThe Toronto Maple Leafs dominated the "Canadian division" most of the season. By earning the #1 seed, they'll host their oldest rival, the (#4) Montreal Canadiens. The (#2) Edmonton Oilers will take on the (#3) Winnipeg Jets. Central DivisionThe Carolina Hurricanes were the class of the Central during the regular season. They'll host the (#4) Nashville Predators. The winner of that series will face the winner of the "Battle of Florida," as the (#2) Florida Panthers will take on the (#3) Tampa Bay Lightning. That should be a good series. The teams have never met in the playoffs and the Panthers had the edge in the regular season. The Lightning are still the defending champs though.  At this time of the year, a hot goalie can really carry a team. That being the case, before the playoffs officially begin, I'll check back in with a look at the goalies from each of the above teams. 

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NHL Hockey: Minnesota Wild vs. St. Louis Blues Preview, Odds and Prediction - 05/12/2021

by Big Al Staff

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

NHL Wednesday NBC Sports Network Preview: Minnesota versus St. Louis. The Minnesota Wild visit St. Louis to play the opener of a two-game series at 9 PM ET on the NBC Sports Network to close out the regular season. Both teams have clinched spots in the West Division playoffs. Minnesota has won two straight games after their 4-3 victory in overtime against Anaheim on Saturday. Victor Rask scored the winning goal at the 2:46 mark in overtime. Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Hartman, and Nick Bonino scored the three goals in regulation time. Cam Talbot stopped 19 of the 22 shots he faced. The Wild concluded their seven-game homestand with a 4-1-2 mark. They are in third place in the West, three points behind Colorado for second place. With both teams playing tonight and tomorrow, Minnesota needs to win both games to put themselves in a position to leapfrog the Avalanche to seize home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. A first-round series with Vegas remains a possibility for the Wild if Colorado wins their final two games against Los Angeles. General manager Bill Guerin did not make any moves at the trade deadline.Left wing Kirill Kaprizov leads the team with 51 points from 27 goals and 24 assists. Left wing Kevin Fiala has 20 goals and 20 assists. Right wing Mats Zuccarello is third on the team with 35 points from 11 goals and 24 assists.Cam Talbot will likely get the start tonight for head coach Dean Evason with home-ice in the playoffs still in play. The veteran has a 19-7-5 record this season, with a 2.59 goals-against-average and a .916 save percentage. Talbot has allowed at least three goals in five straight games. He has a 2-1-2 record during that stretch with a .858 save percentage. He has started in three of Minnesota’s last four games. Kaapo Kahkonen has a 16-7-0 record, with a 2.70 goals-against-average and a .908 save percentage. St. Louis ended a three-game losing streak with their 2-1 overtime victory in Los Angeles on Monday. Justin Faulk scored the winning goal 46 seconds into the overtime period. Tyler Bozack scored their regulation goal. Jordan Binnington made 26 saves in his eighth start in the team’s last ten games. The Blues are 6-1-3 in their last ten games. They are locked as the fourth seed in the West Division playoffs, a distant 16 points behind the Wild. General manager Doug Armstrong made no moves at the trade deadline. Left wing David Perron leads the team with 52 points from 16 goals and 36 assists. Center Ryan O’Reilly adds 24 goals and 28 assists. Left wing Mike Hoffman is third on the team with 33 points from 17 goals and 16 assists.Head coach Craig Berube has a choice to make between resting key players versus getting his team in playoff shape. Vladimir Tarasenko is questionable with a lower-body injury. Binnington has a 17-14-8 record, with a 2.64 goals-against-average and a .911 save percentage. He is 5-0-3 in his last eight starts, with a 2.32 goals-against-average and a .927 save percentage. Backup Ville Husso is likely to get a start in one of the next two nights. He is 8-6-1, with a 3.43 goals-against-average and a .886 save percentage. St. Louis has won four of the six meetings between these two teams this season. Minnesota ended a four-game losing streak to the Blues on May 1st with a 4-3 victory at home in the most recent meeting between these two teams.  BookMaker lists Minnesota as a -140 money line road favorite with the total set at 5.5.Computer prediction:  Minnesota Wild 4 St. Louis Blues 1

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Big Al's Daily Angle: EPL, NBA, NHL and MLB Previews and Odds - 05/12/2021

by Big Al Staff

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Wednesday sports card features action in the NBA, NHL, MLB, and the English Premier League.Six games are on the NBA docket. The card begins at 7 PM ET, with Atlanta hosting Washington in the opening game of a doubleheader on ESPN. The Hawks have won four of their last five games with their 125-124 victory at home against the Wizards as an 8-point favorite on Monday. Washington had their two-game winning streak end with the setback. Atlanta is a 6-point favorite with the total set at 239.5 (all odds from BetOnline unless indicated otherwise).Brooklyn plays at home against San Antonio at 8 PM ET as a 4.5-point favorite at DraftKings. Boston visits Cleveland as a 10-point road favorite at DraftKings. Dallas is at home against New Orleans at 9 PM ET as a 9.5-point favorite at DraftKings. Utah hosts Portland at 9:30 PM ET in the nightcap on ESPN. The Jazz had their five-game winning streak end with a 119-116 upset loss at Golden State as a 2.5-point favorite on Monday. The Trail Blazers have won eight of their last nine games after a 140-129 victory against Houston as a 15.5-point favorite on Monday. Utah is a 4-point favorite at DraftKings.The Los Angeles Lakers play at home against Houston at 10:30 PM ET as a 13-point favorite at DraftKings. Five games are on the NHL schedule. Edmonton visits Montreal at 5 PM ET as a -116 money line road favorite with an over/under of 6. Toronto travels to Ottawa at 8 PM ET as a -185 money line road favorite with a total of 6.5. Vegas plays at San Jose at 9 PM ET as a -186 money line road favorite with an over/under of 6. Colorado hosts the Los Angeles as a -320 money line favorite with the total at 5.5.Minnesota visits St. Louis at 9 PM ET on the NBC Sports Network. The Wild have won four of their last five games with their 4-3 victory against Anaheim on Saturday. The Blues ended a three-game losing streak with a 2-1 win in Los Angeles on Monday. Fifteen games are on the MLB slate. The New York Mets host Baltimore at 12:10 PM ET as a -181 money line favorite with an over/under of 8. Cincinnati travels to Pittsburgh at 12:35 PM ET as a -157 money line road favorite with a total of 7.5. Cleveland plays at home against the Chicago Cubs at 1:10 PM ET as a -108 money line favorite with an over/under of 9.San Diego visits Colorado in a seven-inning doubleheader, with the opening game starting at 3:10 PM ET. The second game is scheduled for 6:10 PM ET.Philadelphia travels to Washington at 7:05 PM ET as a -138 money line road favorite with a total of 8.5. Kansas City visits Detroit at 7:10 PM ET. Oakland plays at Boston. The New York Yankees are at Tampa Bay. Toronto plays at Atlanta at 7:20 PM ET as a -106 money line road favorite with an over/under of 8.5. Milwaukee is at home against St. Louis at 7:40 PM ET as a -162 money line favorite with a total of 7. The Chicago White Sox host Minnesota at 8:10 PM ET as a -136 money line favorite with an over/under of 8. Houston plays at home against the Los Angeles Angels as a -120 money line favorite with the total of 8.5. Arizona is at home against Miami at 9:40 PM ET as a -245 money line favorite with an over/under of 8. The Los Angeles Dodgers are at home against Seattle at 10:10 PM ET as a -240 money line favorite with a total of 8.Matchweek 35 of the English Premier League continues with Chelsea hosting Arsenal on the NBC Sports Network at 3:15 PM ET. The Blues are a -0.75 goal line favorite with an over/under of 2.5. 

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Big Al's Daily Angle: NBA, NHL, MLB and EPL Previews and Odds - 05/11/2021

by Big Al Staff

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The Tuesday sports card features action in the NBA, NHL, MLB, and the English Premier League.Eleven games are on the NBA docket. The card begins at 7 PM ET with two contests. Minnesota visits Detroit as a 7.5-point road favorite (all odds from BetOnline unless indicated otherwise). Denver travels to Charlotte as a 5.5-point road favorite with the total set at 217.5. The Los Angeles Clippers are at Toronto at 7:30 PM ET as an 11.5-point road favorite. Miami plays at Boston in the first game on TNT at 7:30 PM ET. The Heat have won five of their last six games after their 130-124 win at Boston as a 1-point favorite on Sunday. The Celtics have lost three of their last four games. Miami is a 1-point road favorite. Brooklyn visits Chicago at 8 PM ET as a 5.5-point road favorite. Dallas plays at Memphis as a 2-point road favorite. Philadelphia travels to Indiana as a 6.5-point road favorite. Milwaukee is at home against Orlando as a 14.5-point favorite at DraftKings. Phoenix plays at Golden State at 10 PM ET as a 5-point road favorite with an over/under of 230. Sacramento is at home against Oklahoma City as a 10.5-point favorite with a total of 224. The Los Angeles Lakers host New York in the nightcap on TNT at 10:10 PM ET. The Lakers ended a two-game losing streak with a 123-110 upset victory at home to Phoenix on Sunday as a 7-point underdog. The Knicks ended a two-game losing streak with a 106-100 win at Los Angeles against the Clippers as a 7.5-point underdog on Sunday. Los Angeles is a 5.5-point favorite. Two games are on the NHL schedule. Washington plays at home against Boston at 7 PM ET as a -107 money line favorite with an over/under of 6. Winnipeg is at home against Vancouver at 8 PM ET as a -158 money line favorite with a total of 5.5. Fifteen games are on the MLB slate. San Francisco hosts Texas at 3:45 PM ET as a -155 money line favorite with an over/under of 8. Cleveland plays at home against the Chicago Cubs at 6:10 PM ET as a -170 money line favorite with a total of 7. Pittsburgh is at home against Cincinnati at 6:35 PM ET as a -116 money line favorite with an over/under of 8.Washington plays at home against Philadelphia at 7:05 PM ET as a -117 money line favorite with a total of 9. The New York Mets are at home against Baltimore at 7:10 PM ET as a -144 money line favorite with an over/under of 7. Kansas City visits Detroit as a -131 money line road favorite with a total of 7.5. Boston is at home against Oakland as a -130 money line favorite with an over/under of 9. The New York Yankees visit Tampa Bay on ESPN at 7:10 PM ET. The Yankees have won seven of their last nine games with their 3-2 victory against Washington on Sunday. The Rays ended a two-game losing streak with a 4-3 win at Oakland on Sunday. Tampa Bay sends out Luis Patino to face Jordan Montgomery. New York is a -127 money line road favorite with the total at 8.Atlanta hosts Toronto at 7:20 PM ET as a -167 money line favorite at DraftKings with an over/under of 9.5. Milwaukee plays at home against St. Louis at 7:40 PM ET as a -121 money line favorite with a total of 7.5. The Chicago White Sox play at home against Minnesota at 8:10 PM ET as a -118 money line favorite with an over/under of 8. Houston is at home against the Los Angeles Angels as a -144 money line favorite with the total at 8. San Diego visits Colorado at 8:40 PM ET as a -205 money line road favorite at DraftKings with an over/under of 9.  Arizona hosts Miami at 9:40 PM ET as a -114 money line favorite with a total of 8. The Los Angeles Dodgers are at home against Seattle as a -235 money line favorite with an over/under of 7.5.Matchweek 35 in the English Premier League continues with two matches on the NBC Sports Network. Manchester United hosts Leicester City at 1 PM ET as a -0.25 goal line favorite with a total of 2.5. Southampton plays at home against Crystal Palace at 3:15 PM ET. The Saints are a -0.25 goal line favorite with an over/under of 2.5.

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Big Al's Daily Angle: NBA, NHL, MLB and EPL Previews and Odds - 05/10/2021

by Big Al Staff

Monday, May 10, 2021

The Monday sports card features action in the NBA, NHL, MLB, and the English Premier League.Six games are on the NBA docket. The card begins at 7:30 PM ET with two games. Atlanta hosts Washington as a 6-point favorite at DraftKings. Indiana visits Cleveland as a 3.5-point road favorite at DraftKings. Memphis plays at home against New Orleans at 8 PM ET as a 10-point favorite with the total set at 223.5 (all odds from BetOnline except indicated otherwise). Milwaukee travels to San Antonio as a 7.5-point road favorite with an over/under of 234. Utah plays at Golden State at 10 PM ET as a 2.5-point road favorite at DraftKings. Portland is at home against Houston as a 12-point favorite at DraftKings.Nine games are on the NHL schedule. Philadelphia hosts New Jersey as a -151 money line favorite with a total of 6. Edmonton travels to Montreal as a -118 money line road favorite with an over/under of 6. Boston plays at home against the New York Islanders as a -164 money line favorite with a total of 5.5. Florida is at home against Tampa Bay as a -121 money line favorite with an over/under of 5.5. Carolina visits Nashville at 8 PM ET as a -135 money line road favorite with a total of 5.5. Winnipeg plays at home against Vancouver as a -171 money line favorite with a total of 5.5. Dallas plays at Chicago on the NBC Sports Network at 8 PM ET. The Blackhawks won their second game in a row with a 4-2 victory at home against Dallas on Sunday. The Stars have lost six of their last seven games. Dallas is a -148 money line road favorite at DraftKings with an over/under of 6. St. Louis plays at Los Angeles at 10 PM ET as a -130 money line road favorite with an over/under of 5.5. Colorado visits Vegas as a -111 money line road favorite with a total of 5.5. Six games are on the MLB slate. Cincinnati travels to Pittsburgh at 6:35 PM ET as a -133 money line road favorite with an over/under of 8. Boston visits Baltimore at 7:05 PM ET as a -140 money line road favorite with the total at 9.5. The Los Angeles Angels play at Houston on ESPN at 8:10 PM ET. The Angels have won two of their last three games with their 2-1 win at home against the Dodgers on Sunday. The Astros have won three of their last four games after their 7-4 victory against Toronto on Sunday. Houston sends out Luis Garcia as their starting pitcher to face Jose Suarez.San Diego plays at Colorado at 8:40 PM ET. Miami travels to Arizona at 9:40 PM ET. San Francisco is at home against Texas at 9:45 PM ET as a -142 money line favorite with an over/under of 7.Matchweek 35 of the English Premier League continues with Fulham hosting Burnley on the NBC Sports Network at 3 PM ET. The Cottagers are a -0.25 goal line favorite with a total of 2.25.

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