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Big Al's Daily Angle: NBA, WNBA, NHL, MLB and EPL Previews and Odds - 05/18/2021

by Big Al Staff

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The Tuesday sports card has action in the NBA, NHL, MLB, WNBA, and the English Premier League.The play-in tournament for the NBA playoffs begins with a doubleheader on TNT. Indiana hosts Charlotte at 6:30 PM ET. The Pacers ended a two-game losing streak with a 125-113 victory at Toronto as a 5.5-point favorite on Sunday. The Hornets have lost five in a row after a 115-110 loss at Washington as a 6.5-point underdog on Sunday. Indiana is a 3-point favorite with the total set at 227.5 (all odds from BetOnline). The winner of this game plays the loser of the Washington/Boston contest to determine the eighth-seeded team for the Eastern Conference playoffs. Boston plays at home against Washington at 9:10 PM ET. The Celtics have lost five of their last six games after their 96-92 loss at New York as a 12-point underdog on Sunday. The Wizards have won two in a row with their 115-110 victory against Charlotte as a 6.5-point favorite on Sunday. Boston is a 2-point favorite with an over/under of 232.5. The winner of this game earns the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. The loser plays on Thursday against the victor of the first game to determine the eighth seed. Four games are on the NHL schedule. Calgary visits Vancouver at 4 PM ET as a -129 money line road favorite with a total of 6 as both teams play out the remainder of their regular season. Pittsburgh is at home against the New York Islanders on the NBC Sports Network at 7:30 PM ET in the second game of their East Division playoff series. The Islanders won the opener of this series with their 4-3 win in overtime on Sunday. The Penguins are a -130 money line favorite with a total of 5.5. Tampa Bay plays at Florida at 8 PM ET on CNBC in the second game of their Central Division playoff series. The Lightning won the opener with a 5-4 victory on Sunday. The Panthers had their six-game winning streak end with the setback. Tampa Bay is a -126 money line road favorite with the total at 6. Vegas plays at home against Minnesota on the NBC Sports Network at 10 PM ET. The Wild won the opening game after breaking up a scoreless tie in overtime on Sunday. The Golden Knights are a -160 money line favorite with an over/under of 5.5.Fifteen games are on the MLB slate. Cincinnati hosts San Francisco at 6:40 PM ET as a -114 money line favorite with a total of 8. Tampa Bay travels to Baltimore at 7:05 PM ET as a -147 money line road favorite with an over/under of 8.5. Miami visits Philadelphia. The New York Mets visit Atlanta at 7:20 PM ET. Toronto is at home against Boston as a -130 money line favorite with the total at 9. Washington plays at the Chicago Cubs at 7:40 PM ET as a -110 money line road favorite. The Chicago White Sox play at Minnesota as a -110 money line road favorite with an over/under of 8. St. Louis plays at home against Pittsburgh as a -127 money line favorite with a total of 7.5. The New York Yankees play at Texas on ESPN at 8:05 PM ET as a -161 money line road favorite with an over/under of 9. Milwaukee visits Kansas City at 8:10 PM ET. The Los Angeles Angeles host Cleveland at 9:38 PM ET as a -132 money line favorite with the total at 8. Oakland is at home against Houston at 9:40 PM ET as a -112 money line favorite with an over/under of 8. San Diego plays at home against Colorado at 10:10 PM ET as a -200 money line favorite with a total of 7. Seattle is at home against Detroit as a -120 money line favorite with an over/under of 8. The Los Angeles Dodgers host Arizona.Three games are on the WNBA docket. Minnesota visits New York at 7 PM ET. Phoenix travels to Washington at 8 PM ET on ESPN2. Las Vegas plays at Seattle in the second game on ESPN2 at 10 PM ET. Matchweek 37 of the English Premier League begins on Tuesday with four matches that are on the Peacock app. Manchester United hosts Fulham at 1 PM ET as a -1.5 goal line favorite with the total at 3. Leeds United visits Southampton at 1 PM ET in a pick ‘em match up with an over/under of 3.25. Manchester City travels to Brighton and Hove Albion at 2 PM ET as a -1.25 money line road favorite with a total of 2.75. Chelsea plays at home against Leicester City at 3:15 PM ET on the NBC Sports Network (and Peacock) as a -0.75 goal line favorite with an over/under of 2.25.

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NHL Hockey: Colorado Avalanche vs. St. Louis Blues Series Preview, Odds and Prediction - 05/17/2021

by Big Al Staff

Monday, May 17, 2021

NHL West Division First Round Playoff Preview: St. Louis Blues versus the Colorado Avalanche.Colorado finished tied with Vegas for the most points in the NHL at 82. The Avalanche clinched the tie-breaker to seize the top seed in the divisional playoffs with their 2-1 victory in Las Vegas in the second to last game in the regular season last week. That win also allowed the organization to claim the President’s Trophy for the league's best record.Jared Bednar’s team was on pace for more than 110 points had this been a full season. His group led the NHL in both net goal differential and expected goals net differential. General manager Joe Sakic heads one of the more analytically-driven organizations in the league. Colorado has generated the best five-on-five analytics for any team since the 2007-08 season. The Avalanche made noise two years ago after upsetting the top-seeded Calgary Flames in the opening round of the Western Conference playoffs. With big expectations last season, they finished second in the conference before the stoppage of play. After defeating Arizona in the opening round of the playoffs, Colorado lost in the second round to a Dallas team that would eventually take Tampa Bay to six games in the Stanley Cup finals. Colorado is blessed with one of the elite young talents in the game in Nathan MacKinnon. The top-line center scored 20 goals and added 45 assists in 48 games. He is joined on the Avalanche top line by Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, who contributed another 52 and 66 points, respectively. Last year’s Calder Trophy winner, Cale Makar tied with Rantanen with 36 assists in his 44 games while becoming one of the top defensemen in the league. Philipp Grubauer posted a 30-9-1 record this season after his injury left a big hole between the crease during last year’s playoffs. He has a 1.95 goals-against-average and a .922 save percentage. He was not as effective down the stretch with a .908 save percentage in his last ten games, yet he stopped 36 of 37 shots from Golden Knights last week in what was the biggest game of the regular season. Sakic traded for San Jose goaltender Devan Dubnyk at the trade deadline, given the season-ending injury to backup Pavel Francouz. He also added size by picking up center Carl Soderberg and defenseman Patrick Nemeth to help in a possible showdown with Vegas in the next round.Colorado must first dispose of a St. Louis team that is two years removed from lifting the Stanley Cup trophy. The Blues’ defense of their title was going well even without their star right wing Vladimir Tarasenko, who was battling a shoulder injury. They had the best record in the Western Conference before the stoppage of play. However, Craig Berube’s team was swept in their three-round robin games once play resumed in the summer before getting upset in the first round by Vancouver. General manager Doug Armstrong lost captain Alex Pietrangelo in the offseason when he signed with Vegas. He adapted by signing Torey Krug from Boston to a seven-year, $45.5 million deal to take the open spot on the blue line. Armstrong also brought in forward Mike Hoffman from Florida. Former Selke and Conn Smythe Trophy winner Ryan O’Reilly was named the new captain. The group struggled in a top-heavy realigned West Division before winning eight of their last twelve games to claim the final spot in the divisional playoffs with a 27-20-9 record and 63 points. After multiple shoulder surgeries, Tarasenko has returned to the ice to score four goals and assist on another ten goals in 24 games. O’Reilly leads the team with 24 goals and 30 assists. Krug has 30 assists while anchoring the power play. Jordan Binnington rebounded from a nightmare postseason with a 2.65 goals-against-average and a .910 save percentage. He has a .921 save percentage in his 16 games. The Blues hope their playoff experience and physical brand of hockey will neutralize a talented Avalanche team that has yet to reach a Western Conference final in the MacKinnon era. Colorado won five of the eight regular-season meetings, outscoring them by a 26-21 margin. An 8-0 victory on January 15th skews those numbers. St. Louis won the final two games in late April without having to face Grubauer in goal.BetAnySports lists Colorado as a -320 money line favorite with the total set at 5.5 for the opening game of this series on Monday. The NBC Sports Network broadcasts the game at 10 PM ET.Prediction:  Colorado Avalanche win series 4 games to 0

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Ness Notes: The NBA's "Second Season" (Extended Cut)

by Larry Ness

Monday, May 17, 2021

This the first of a two-part article on the 2021 NBA playoffs. Part 2 will be available "first thing" Saturday morning May 22.The 2020-21 NBA regular season came to a close on Sunday and the playoffs will begin on May 22 (it will end with the 2021 NBA Finals in July). The top-six teams in each conference are already in this year's postseason but for the first time a play-in tournament will precede the playoffs. The format (not universally loved) is really rather simple. Let's look closer. The 7th-through 10th-ranked teams compete for the final playoff spots, the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds in each conference. The seventh-place teams in each conference will host the eighth-place teams, with the winners claiming the seventh seed in the playoffs. The losers of those games will host the winners of the two games contested between the 9th-and 10th-place teams (9th-place teams play at home vs the 10th-place teams). The two winners from those contests claim the eighth seed in each conference. Bottom line is that the No. 7 and No. 8 teams can clinch a playoff berth with just one win, while the No. 9 and No. 10 teams will need to win TWO games to earn a playoff spot.Twelve teams have secured playoff berths. The two No. 1 seeds are the 52-20 Utah Jazz in the West and the 49-23 Philadelphia 76ers in the East. The Jazz are back in the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, a year after blowing a 3-1 lead to the Nuggets in the first round of last year's Orlando's 'bubble.' The Jazz edged the Suns by ONE game and it's the first time in franchise history that the Jazz have finished with sole possession of the best record in the NBA. Utah had twice previously tied for the best record in 1998 and in the lockout-shortened season in 1999. Philadelphia also earned its top seed by just ONE game over the Nets. The 76ers last earned the East's top seed back in 2001 when Allen" We're Talkin' About Practice" Iverson won the MVP and Larry Brown won coach of the year. That team reached the NBA finals before losing to the Shaq and Kobe Lakers in five games. The 76ers won Game 1 (the 'step-over') but then lost FOUR straight. Philadelphia had made the playoffs 10 times since that 2001 Finals appearance (current run of four straight postseason appearances) without coming close to the Finals in any attempt. This 2021 appearance makes it 11 times since 2001. Will it be a "lucky 11?" Here's a list of seeds two through six in each conference. The Phoenix Suns went 8-0 SU & ATS in last year's Orlando 'bubble' but failed to make last year's postseason field. Phoenix ended its 10-season playoff drought with a bang in 2021 by going 51-21 to grab the West's No. 2 seed (the Suns' 42-28-2 ATS record is the "Best in the West" and the second-best in the entire NBA. The Nuggets and Clippers each finished 47-25, with Denver earning the No. 3 seed by having won two of three vs LA in the regular season. The Mavericks, Blazers and Lakers each finished 42-30, with Dallas breaking its three-way tie with Portland and Los Angeles by virtue of its Southwest Division title. Portland got the No. 6 seed (Blazers now own the NBA's longest-active playoff streak at EIGHT in row) because it won TWO of three over the Lakers in the regular season. The defending champs have been relegated to the "Play-In" tournament (see below). The 48-24 Brooklyn Nets fell ONE game shy of the East's top-seeded 76ers but finished two games better than the 46-26 Milwaukee Bucks, earning the No. 2 seed. The Bucks settled for the No. 3 seed, after owning the East's (and the NBA's) No. 1 seed each of the last two seasons. Milwaukee's current .639 winning percentage is far off its .748 percentage of the previous two seasons (116-39). The NY Knicks and Atlanta Hawks both finished 41-31, with the Knicks winning the tiebreaker to earn the No. 4 seed. New York ended a SEVEN-year playoff drought in 2021 (last playoff appearance was in the 2012-13 season) by winning 16 of its final 20 games. FYI, the Kicks were the NBA's best ATS team during the regular season, going 45-26-1. Many have likely forgotten that the Hawks had a run of 10 consecutive playoff appearances from the 2007-08 season through the 2016-17 season, mostly because Atlanta entered the current season with a three-season run of just 73-158 (.316). The No. 6 seed in the East belongs to the 40-32 Miami Heat, who last year made a memorable postseason run in the Orlando 'bubble' that saw them make it all the way to the NBA Finals (lost in six games to the Lakers).Eight others have qualified for the "Play-In" tournament and I'll get to the 7-10 seeds in a moment. However, let me first mention THREE teams among the 10 whose seasons are already over. Toronto won the 2019 NBA title and lost a seven-game series to Boston in the Eastern semifinals last year. The Raptors' 111-43 (.721) regular season record the last two years was second to only the Milwaukee Bucks. However, the Raptors finished the current season 27-45, ending seven consecutive playoff appearances. The Raptors were in the mix for a postseason berth in 2021 until they lost 10 of their last 11. Being forced to play their home games in Tampa didn't help, as the Raptors finished 11-25 at 'home.'Unlike Toronto, Houston's season was all but 'over' as soon as James Harden 'held his breath' until the Rockets traded him to the Brooklyn Nets on January 14. Houston was 11-10 on the morning of Feb 6 but went on to lose 45 of its last 51 games. At 17-55, Houston owns the NBA's worst record this season, ending the NBA's longest-active playoff run at EIGHT in a row. It's no surprise that the Sacramento Kings extended the NBA's longest playoff drought this season by finishing 31-41. In doing so, the Kings have tied the Clippers (1977-1991) for the longest postseason drought in NBA history (15). The team's last playoff game was back on May 5, 2006. Let me add this, right out of the "You Can't Make This Stuff Up" department. Sacramento hired Rick Adelman prior to the 1998-99 season (strike year) and the Kings were one of the most successful teams in the Western Conference over the next EIGHT seasons, qualifying for the playoffs every year of his Sacramento career. Despite his overall record of 395-229 (.633) in that span, His contract was not renewed after the 2005-06 season. Good decision Sacramento. Since ridding themselves of Adelman, the Kings have gone through 10 head coaches, compiling a 437-757 (.366) record On to 2021's "Play-In" Tournament. 36-36 Boston finished 7th in the East, followed by 34-38 Washington (8th), 34-38 Indiana (9th) and 33-39 Charlotte (10th). Over in the West, the defending champions Lakers (42-30) are 7th, the 39-33 Warriors are 8th, the 38-34 Grizzlies are 9th and the 33-39 Spurs are 10th. San Antonio is the lone Western Conference team 'alive' with a losing record, while THREE of the four East "Play-In" teams own losing records. The 'fun' begins Tuesday on TNT, which will cover the Eastern Conference games. No. 10 Charlotte will play at No. 9 Indiana with tip-off listed at 6:40 ET. The Hornets are hoping to end a four-year playoff drought, while the Pacers have been to the playoffs in NINE of the last 10 seasons (including FIVE in a row). The Hornets 'limp' into Tuesday night's game having lost 15 of their last 21, including FIVE in a row. The Pacers are playing  a little bit better (13-12 over their last 25 games) but also own the worst home record (13-23) of any team not yet eliminated. Indiana took two of three from Charlotte in the regular season and is favored by three points (over/under is 228). The HUGELY disappointing Celtics have been to the postseason in 12 of the last 13 years (including SIX straight) but draw the surging Wizards in this 7/8 matchup. Washington had gone a combined 57-97 (.370) the previous two seasons but behind Beal and Westbrook, turned around what looked like another 'lost' season. Washington was just 17-32 through April 5 but won 17 of its final 23 games. The Celtics took two of three regular season meetings with the tip-off set for 9:10 ET. Boston is favored by just 1 1/2-points (over/under is 233).Action in the West begins Wednesday, as the No. 10 Spurs are in Memphis to take on the No. 9 Grizzlies. San Antonio (and Pop) saw their run of 22 consecutive postseason appearances end last year and the Spurs don't look like a team capable of winning two straight on the road to grab the No. 8 seed this season. The Spurs sat 31-29 through April 26 but ended the regular season by losing 10 of their last 12 games. Memphis made SEVEN straight playoff appearances from the 2010-11 season through the 2016-17 season but opened the current season off three straight losing years (combined 89-146, .376 record). Memphis hovered around .500 for most of the season before ripping off FIVE straight wins from May 8-14, to set up a Sunday showdown in San Francisco vs the Warriors (winner got the No. 8 spot). Golden St won that game 113-101, so Memphis MUST beat San Antonio (Grizzlies took two three in the regular season) plus win on the road Friday at the loser of the 7/8 matchup. ESPN is covering the Western Conference games and tip-off is set for 7:40 ET with Memphis favored by 3 1/2-points (over/under is 222). Last but surely not least, it's the defending champion Lakers hosting the Warriors at 10:10 ET. The Lakers won the franchise's 17th NBA title last season (tied with Boston for the most of any team), while the Warriors, coming off FIVE consecutive appearances in the Finals (won three), owned the NBA's worst record at 15-50. LA's current season has been marred by injuries to both A.D. (missed 36 games) and LBJ (missed 27) but was just a tiebreaker (or two) away from coming away with the West's No. 5 seed. As noted above, the Warriors were able to secure the No. 8 spot by beating the Grizzlies this past Sunday, as Steph Curry (the NBA's leading scorer) can lay a legitimate claim to MVP honors (not saying he should win it!). However, he almost single-handedly led Golden St to EIGHT wins in its last nine games, including SIX in a row to end the regular season. The Lakers, who took two of three in the regular season, are favored by 4 1/2-points (over/under is 219 1/2).The loser of the 7/8 matchup will host the winner of the 9/10 matchup on Thursday (TNT) in the East and on Friday (ESPN) in the West. Those two winners will claim the No. 8 seeds in their respective conferences. The typical 16-team NBA playoff format begins on Saturday. Check back "first thing" Saturday morning for Part 2 of my look at the NBA's "Second Season."Good luck...Larry

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NHL Playoff Breakdown

by Ben Burns

Monday, May 17, 2021

If the first few games are any indication, we're in for an exciting NHL postseason. For the first time in history, the first three games of the NHL playoffs all went to Overtime. In fact, the fourth game nearly did, too. The third of those OT games was an epic duel between a pair of veteran goalies, Cam Talbot of the Minnesota Wild and Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Knights. In last year's playoffs, there wasn't a single game which was scoreless after regulation. This year, it happened on the first full day of games. (It had previously happened in April of 2019, a game between the Islanders and Hurricanes.) Fleury, the first goalie to ever play in 15 straight postseasons, made some huge saves. Talbot made even more. Forty-two of them. Minnesota won 1-0, reminding us of the importance of "hot goaltending" in the playoffs. It's hard to predict which goalies are going to "get hot" at the right time, as they're all capable of doing so. It's important to pay attention to how they look out of the gate; the playoffs are an entirely different beast. Here are some to keep an eye on:Vasilevskiy (Tampa) Though he wasn't spectacular in the opening game of this year's playoffs, he still did enough. Vasilevskiy would stop 35 of 39 en route to the 5-4 win. He proved himself in last year's postseason and he's off a dominant regular season. Fleury (Vegas) At 36, Fleury is still playing at a very high level. As mentioned, this is his 15th straight trip to the playoffs. He's hoisted the Cup before and he managed career bests in both goals against average and save percentage during the regular season.Campbell (Toronto) Unlike the others, Campbell doesn't have playoff experience. There's also a lot of pressure on him. Still, he was excellent in the regular season and we've see young goalies get it done in the past.Rask (Boston) Rask has been playing at a high level for years but hasn't won the Cup as a starter (Rask was backup to Tim Thomas when the Bruins won in 2011.) He battled injuries this season but now appears to be healthyTalbot (Minnesota) Talbot wouldn't have necessarily cracked this list, if not for his superb effort in 1-0 win over the Knights. He's played well in the playoffs in the past though. He's going to need to keep standing on his head if the Wild want to knock off the Knights. There are a lot of other capable goalies in the field, too. Guys like Carey Price, Jordan Binnington and Semyon Varlamov. (Varlamov didn't play in the Isles' opener but rookie Ilya Sorokin stepped in and got the win.) Going forward, pay close attention to which goalies are playing their best. Confidence can be contagious. You may want to also keep an eye on the road teams, too. They're 3-1 through the first two days. Enjoy the games and good luck! 

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A Look at the NBA’s Play-In Tournament

by Will Rogers

Monday, May 17, 2021

EASTERN CONFERENCETuesdayWashington (8) at Boston (7)Celtics  -1.5      O/U 234Weird season all around, but none weirder than Washington’s. The Wizards opened the season 3-12, and then things started to go bad. There were five- and four-game losing streaks post All-Star Game, but here they are knocking on the door against a gasping Celtics team. Washington rode a resurgent Russell Westbrook to eight straight wins in a 12-5 April that moved the Wizards back in the playoff hunt. The Wizards have more than a puncher’s chance against Boston, which was outscored despite winning two of three against Washington. The Celtics, who are in disarray defensively and still haven’t yet figured out a way to cover for tiny guard Kemba Walker, were torched by Bradley Beal this year. Beal averaged nearly 42 in the three games vs. Boston, which has given up huge nights to numerous guards all year. Jaylen Brown (wrist) is out for the season, leaving the bulk of the scoring load to Walker and Jayson Tatum. Look for Washington to double-team Tatum all night; he struggles to find open teammates when swarmed.TuesdayCharlotte (10) at Indiana (9)Pacers  -3.5    O/U 229Heading into the post-season with five straight losses isn’t quite what Charlotte had in mind. The Hornets will now have to win two straight road games after blowing an 11-point lead and losing to Washington in the final regular season game. That’s a big problem, but not the only big problem for Charlotte. They need to figure out what to do with Pacers bigs Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner. Sabonis is an all-star who averaged better 20 and 12 this season, and Turner blocks nearly four shots a game and will make things problematic for LaMelo Ball’s drives. If things weren’t bad enough for Charlotte, Swiss army knife Gordon Hayward doesn’t expect to be able to go in the Play-In Tournament; Hayward missed 24 of the Hornets’ 72 games this season, and Charlotte was 8-16 in those games. If there is any consolation for Charlotte, it’s that Indy was atrocious at home this season, going 13-23 – the worst home record of any team in the post-season this year.WESTERN CONFERENCEWednesdaySan Antonio (10) at Memphis (9)Grizzlies -3.5     O/U 225.5How many times has San Antonio played a post-season game and NOT had the best player in the series? Not too often, but that will be the case in this one-and-doner. The Grizzlies feature up-and-coming star Ja Morant and a whole lot of people who know their roles, and accept them. SA got its fill of Morant when the Grizzlies overpowered the Spurs in back-to-back games just before the All-Star break. But that set of games three months of go featured a different San Antonio defense. Since then LaMarcus Aldridge has been jettisoned and a younger 5-man, Jakob Poeltl, has taken over. San Antonio isn’t exactly breezing into the Play-In – the Spurs closed the season with four straight losses. But in a single game, would you bet against any team coached by Gregg Popovich? That would take plenty of courage. The Grizz, meanwhile, are young and strong and running against the wind, and figure to be a tough out if they manage to get past San Antonio and into the playoffs proper.WednesdayGolden State (8) at Los Angeles Lakers (7)Lakers -6.5      O/U 222.5LeBron James saw this one coming a mile away while he was rehabbing a sprained ankle that kept him off the court for several weeks. Now it’s a reality, and while the NBA no doubt is delighted with the TV rating that a James-Steph Curry match will no doubt draw, James will be grouchy as the defending champions face the possibility of having to win one of the next two before even thinking about the real playoffs. The Warriors sans Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant still managed to finish six games over .500 this season in the West, and it’s clear to anyone and everyone that Golden State – which won the NBA title only two years ago – will sink or swim on whether Curry (the NBA scoring champ this season) can continue his torrid shooting. The Lakers, meanwhile, did everything they could to avoid the Play-In, winning their final five games. But they needed help elsewhere, and didn’t get it. To make matters worse, James seemed to re-injure his ankle in the season finale on Sunday. Wild horses won’t keep him off the court against GS, but will he be at 100 percent?

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Big Al's Daily Angle: MLB and NHL Previews and Odds - 05/17/2021

by Big Al Staff

Monday, May 17, 2021

The Monday sports card continues the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs and Major League Baseball.Three games are on tap in the NHL. The slate begins at 7:30 PM ET on the NBC Sports Network, with Washington hosting Boston in the second game of their East Division Series. The Capitals won the opener on Saturday with a 3-2 victory in overtime. Tom Wilson began the scoring for the home team, 6:22 minutes into the first period. Jake DeBrusk evened the score for the Bruins just under seven minutes later. Brenden Dillon gave the Caps a 2-1 lead at the 8:44 mark of the second period. Nick Ritchie squared things up again on the power play a little under eight minutes later. After a scoreless third period, the game went into overtime when Nic Dowd scored the game-winner for Washington, 4:41 minutes into the extra period. The Capitals lost their starting goaltender in the first period after Vitek Vanecek injured his groin. Craig Anderson came on in relief to stop 21 of 22 shots to help Washington take the 1-0 lead in the series. The veteran celebrates his fortieth birthday on Friday, and he will likely get the start on Monday with Vanacek day-to-day. Ilya Samsonov has been cleared from COVID quarantine protocols but is unlikely to dress until he gets back into game shape. Phoenix Copley will likely be called up from the taxi squad to serve as the backup goaltender. Boston is a -129 money line road favorite with the total set at 5.5 (all odds from BetOnline). Carolina plays at home against Nashville on CNBC at 8 PM ET in the opening game of their Central Division playoff series. The Predators have won six of their last eight games after defeating the Hurricanes, 5-0, last Monday. Carolina has lost three games in a row, although they rested their starters after clinching first place in the division. The Hurricanes are a -179 money line favorite with an over/under of 5.Colorado is at home against St. Louis on the NBC Sports Network at 10 PM ET in the first game of their West Division playoff series. The Avalanche have won five in a row after a 5-1 victory against Los Angeles on Thursday. The Blues have won three games in a row after their 7-3 victory against Minnesota on Thursday. Colorado is a -265 money line favorite with the total at 5.5. Nine games are on the MLB schedule. The card begins at 6:40 PM ET, with Cincinnati hosting San Francisco as a -135 money line favorite with an over/under of 8. Atlanta plays at home against the New York Mets on ESPN at 7:10 PM ET. The Braves had their two-game winning streak end on Sunday in a 10-9 loss at Milwaukee. The Mets lost their third in a row after their 7-1 defeat at Tampa Bay yesterday. Atlanta is a -126 money line favorite with the total at 8.  The New York Yankees travel to Texas at 8:05 PM ET as a -272 money line road favorite with the total at 8. The Los Angeles Angels are at home against Cleveland as a -136 money line favorite with an over/under of 9. Three games close out the MLB card at 10:10 PM ET. The Los Angeles Dodgers host Arizona as a -192 money line favorite with the total at 7. San Diego plays at home against Colorado as a -190 money line favorite at BookMaker with an over/under of 7. San Diego is at home against Detroit as a -155 money line favorite with the total at 8.

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NHL Hockey: Carolina Panthers vs. Nashville Predators Series Preview, Odds and Prediction - 05/17/2021

by Big Al Staff

Monday, May 17, 2021

NHL Central Division First Round Playoff Preview: Nashville Predators versus the Carolina Hurricanes.Carolina won the Central Division with a 36-12-8 record, with their 80 points being the third-most in the NHL this season. The Hurricanes made a surprise run to the Eastern Conference finals two years ago before getting swept by Boston. They made the playoffs again last summer, making it the first time the franchise qualified for the postseason in consecutive seasons since 2002. But Carolina ran into the Bruins once again, who eliminated them in the first round in the playoff bubble. General manager Don Waddell made few moves in the offseason, with the most significant addition being the signing forward Jesper Fast from the New York Rangers for depth on the bottom-six. With a young foundation of forwards Andrei Svechnikov, Sebastian Aho, and Teuvo Teravainen plus Dougie Hamilton on the blue line, the organization felt the pieces were in place to take the next step to reach a Stanley Cup final. Waddell was aggressive at the trade deadline last season by acquiring underachieving center Vincent Trocheck from Florida and Under third-year head coach Rod Brind’Amour, the Hurricanes are second in the league in both their power play and their power play kill units. Aho leads the team with 24 goals and 57 points. Hamilton tops the team with 32 assists. Trocheck has re-emerged with one of his best seasons since the Gerard Gallant era in Florida with 17 goals and 26 assists in 47 games. Svechnikov added another 15 goals and 27 assists. Teravainen missed 35 games to an injury, but he got back on the ice for the final eight games in the regular season. Goaltending was considered a question mark in the offseason, with Brind’Amour relying on the tandem of Petr Mrazek and James Reimer. Those two goaltenders and rookie Alex Nedeljkovic combined for a .935 save percentage at even strength, ranking second-best in the NHL. The Hurricanes lead the league by allowing only 1.78 goals per 60 minutes at even strength. Waddell made a minor move at the trade deadline this season by adding Jani Hakanpaa from Anaheim for more depth on the blue line.Nashville was close to being sellers at the trade deadline before they won twelve of fifteen games. The possibility of another playoff run compelled general manager David Poile not to dangle players like defenseman Mattias Ekholm or left wing Mikael Granlund. Instead, Poile added depth on the blue line by acquiring Erik Gudbranson from Ottawa. They enter the postseason with 20 victories in their last 28 games. The Predators reached the Stanley Cup finals in 2017. A loss in the Western Conference finals the next year was followed up by a first-round exit in 2019. Head coach Peter Laviolette was fired after a 19-15-7 start last season, with Poile bringing in John Hynes, who had been fired by New Jersey earlier that year. The team was eliminated in the play-in qualifier to Arizona after finishing seventh in the Western Conference in the abbreviated regular season. Nashville still has one of the best defensive pairs in the NHL in reigning Norris Trophy winner Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis. Eckholm anchors an effective second line. With goaltender Juuse Saros, the Predators lead the NHL with a .936 save percentage at even strength. They are third for the season by allowing 1.98 goals per 60 minutes at even strength, and they lead the league over their last 20 games by lowering that number to 1.66 goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five. Carolina won the first six meetings between these two teams before dropping the last two games to Nashville earlier this month. BetOnline lists the Hurricanes as a -179 money line favorite with the total set at 5.Prediction:  Carolina Hurricanes win 4 games to 1

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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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NHL Hockey: Minnesota Wild vs. Vegas Golden Knights Series Preview, Odds and Prediction - 05/16/2021

by Big Al Staff

Sunday, May 16, 2021

NHL West Division First Round Playoff Preview: Minnesota Wild at Vegas Golden Knights. Vegas finished the regular season with 82 points which tied them with Colorado for most in the NHL. But because the Golden Knights lost to the Avalanche on May 10th, 2-1, they lost the head-to-head tie-breaker with Colorado for the top seed in the West Division playoffs. Not only did that loss cost Vegas from winning the President’s Trophy, but rather than facing a St. Louis team that they dominated during the regular season, they now face a Wild team that defeated them in five of their eight encounters this season.The Golden Knights reached the Western Conference finals for the second time in the first three years of their existence last fall before losing to Dallas in five games. General manager Kelly McCrimmon made a big splash in the offseason by signing defenseman Alex Pietrangelo away from St. Louis to a seven-year $61 million deal. Salat cap constraints forced the franchise to trade away center Paul Stastny and Nate Schmidt. Salary cap issues continued to plague the team late in the season when injuries led to them playing with just fifteen skaters in their showdown with the Avalanche since they lacked the flexibility to bring on extra players. Yet by adding Pietrangelo to join Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty, management has successfully added three high-level players while keeping the core from their magical expansion season where they reached the Stanley Cup finals. Stone leads the team with 61 points from 21 goals and 40 assists. Pacioretty’s 24 goals were the most for the club, and he added 27 assists. Robin Lehner entered the season as the expected starting goaltender after he took over the number one duties in the playoffs last year. He got inked to a five-year, $25 million deal. But a slow start and some injuries created an opportunity for Marc-Andre Fleury, who took full advantage of playing time. Fleury posted a 1.98 goals-against-average and a .928 save percentage. He begins the postseason as the team’s number one goalie. McCrimmon was creative with salary cap maneuvers with other teams to allow the team to trade for forward Mattias Janmark from Chicago. He has played on the third forward line with Alex Tuch.Minnesota finished in third place in the West Division with a 35-16-5 record and 75 points. The Wild finished in tenth place in the Western Conference last year and qualified for the play-in qualifying tournament, where they lost to Vancouver. General manager Bill Guern was active in his first offseason with the organization. He let several veterans go while trading for Marcus Johansson, Nick Bonino, and Nick Bjugstad to restock the forward depth. Perhaps his most impactful move was moving on from goaltender Devan Dubnyk and signing Cam Talbot as a free agent from Calgary in a move that might best be described as addition from subtraction. Rookie Kirill Kaprizov has been a sensation for the team in offering them the elite-level talent they have lacked at forward. The former KHL star scored 27 goals and added 24 assists in his first regular-season in the NHL. Kevin Fiala started slow, but he has led the team in scoring since March. He has 20 goals and 20 assists. Mats Zuccarello added another 11 goals and 24 assists. The blue line is the strength of the team with two outstanding defensive players in Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin who anchor their two pairs. Talbot was an improvement over Dubnyk in goal with a 2.63 goals-against-average and a .915 save percentage. He did struggle down the stretch with a .904 save percentage since the start of April. Minnesota did not make a move at the trade deadline. They lack the playoff experience of the Golden Knights. However, the Wild are a confident bunch when playing Vegas with 11 wins in their last 16 games against them.Prediction:  Vegas Golden Knights win 4 games to 3

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Big Al's Daily Angle: NBA, NCAAF, NHL, MLB, WNBA, and EPL Previews and Odds - 05/16/2021

by Big Al Staff

Sunday, May 16, 2021

The Sunday sports card features action in the NBA, NHL, MLB, WNBA, the English Premier League, and college football with the FCS national championship game.Fifteen games are on the NBA docket on the last day of the regular season. Three games begin the card at 1 PM ET. Washington hosts Charlotte as a 5-point favorite at DraftKings. New York plays at home against Boston in the opening game of a doubleheader on ESPN as an 8-point favorite at DraftKings. Indiana visits Toronto as a 6-point road favorite at DraftKings. Phoenix travels to San Antonio at 2 PM ET as a 10-point road favorite at DraftKings. Golden State hosts Memphis at 3:30 PM ET in the second game on ESPN. The winner clinches the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs which ensures them a second game if they lose the first play-in game. The Warriors are a 5.5-point favorite with the total set at 230 (all odds from BetOnline unless indicated otherwise). Three games continue the NBA card at 7 PM ET. Atlanta plays at home against Houston as a 10.5-point favorite at DraftKings. Philadelphia is at home against Orlando as an 8.5-point favorite at DraftKings. Cleveland visits Brooklyn. Miami travels to Detroit at 8 PM ET as a 6.5-point road favorite at DraftKings. Three games conclude the NBA slate at 9 PM ET. The Los Angeles Clippers visit Oklahoma City as an 8.5-point road favorite at DraftKings. Dallas plays at Minnesota as a 9-point road favorite at DraftKings. The Los Angeles Lakers visit New Orleans as a 10-point road favorite at DraftKings. Four games are on the NHL schedule. Pittsburgh hosts the New York Islanders at noon ET on NBC in the opening game of their East Division playoff series. The Penguins are a -125 money line favorite with a total of 5.5. Vegas plays at home against Minnesota at 3 PM ET on NBC in the first game of their West Division playoff series. The Golden Knights are a -153 money line favorite with an over/under of 5.5. Tampa Bay visits Florida at 7:30 PM ET on the NBC Sports Network in game one of their Central Division playoff series. The Lightning are a -115 money line road favored with the total at 5.5. Calgary plays at Vancouver at 10:30 PM ET as both teams continue to make up games from their regular season schedule. The Flames are a -127 money line road favorite with an over/under of 5.5.Fifteen games are on the MLB slate. San Francisco plays at Pittsburgh at 1:05 PM ET as a -163 money line road favorite with the total at 8. The New York Yankees visit Baltimore. Toronto plays at home against Philadelphia at 1:07 PM ET as a -164 money line favorite with an over/under of 10. Boston hosts the Los Angeles Angels at 1:10 PM ET as a -149 money line favorite with a total of 9.5. The Chicago Cubs travels to Detroit as a -137 money line road favorite with an over/under of 8. The New York Mets play at Tampa Bay.Houston hosts Texas at 2:10 PM ET as a -181 money line favorite with a total of 8. The Chicago White Sox play at home against Kansas City as a -160 money line favorite with an over/under of 8.5. Minnesota is at home against Oakland with both teams priced at -105 with a total of 8.5. Atlanta plays at Milwaukee. Cincinnati is at Colorado at 3:10 PM ET as a -110 money line road favorite with an over/under of 11.5. Washington plays at Arizona at 4:10 PM ET as a -108 money line road favorite with a total of 9.5. Miami plays in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. Cleveland visits Seattle. San Diego plays at home against St. Louis at 7 PM ET on ESPN. The Padres send out Ryan Weathers to face Kwang-Hyun Kim. San Diego is a -128 money line favorite with an over/under of 7.Two games are in the WNBA. New York visits Indiana at 2 PM ET. Phoenix travels to Connecticut at 8 PM ET. Both games are on the CBS Sports Network. Four matches conclude Matchweek 36 in the English Premier League. Aston Villa visits Crystal Palace at 7 AM ET on the NBC Sports Network as a -0.25 goal line road favorite with the total at 2.5. Tottenham hosts Wolverhampton at 9:05 AM ET on the NBC Sports Network as a -1 goal line favorite with an over/under of 2.5. Liverpool travels to West Bromwich Albion at 11:30 AM ET on the NBC Sports Network as a -2 goal line road favorite with a total of 3.5. Everton is at home against Sheffield United at 2 PM ET on Peacock as a -1.25 goal line favorite with an over/under of 2.5. Sam Houston State plays South Dakota State for the FCS college football national championship on ABC at 2 PM ET. The Jackrabbits are a 5.5-point favorite with the total set at 48.

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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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