NHL Game 1 Betting Tips On Thursday
By Bob Duff
The phenom has arrived ahead of schedule. Scoring a rookie-leading 40 goals and 69 points, 2016 NHL first overall draft pick Auston Matthews led the Toronto Maple Leafs into the playoffs and a showdown with the heavily-favored Washington Capitals.
Can he take Toronto any further? Those and other answers are below, with odds provided courtesy of BetOnline.ag:
If Auston Matthews wants to know how tough it’s going to be for him in the playoffs, he need only reach across the ice and talk to Washington captain Alex Ovechkin.
The top player chosen in the 2004 NHL entry draft, Ovechkin’s Capitals lost in his first playoff series. Sidney Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins won one game on his first playoff foray and Wayne Gretzky’s Edmonton Oilers were swept.
Toronto requires two things to have any hope in this set – goalie Frederik Andersen must be a brick wall between the pipes and the Leafs’ kids must perform like wise veterans.
Rookies Matthews, William Nylander (16 points) and Mitchell Marner (61) have carried the team all season long. Fellow rookie Zach Hyman led all NHL first-year players with four shorthanded goals.
The Caps are a formidable foe. They won the Jennings Trophy, allowing just 177 goals and their possession rate of 51.68 is fourth best in the NHL. Washington’s power play was third in the NHL and in Nicklas Backstrom, the Capitals suit up the league leader in power play points with 35.
Pick: The Capitals (-225) and the under (5.5)
The Ducks charged into the playoffs on an 11-0-3 roll, while the Flames stumbled to the regular-season finish line with a 5-8 slate.
Then there’s that whole Calgary can’t win in Anaheim factor. The Flames – who will be required to win at least once there to take the series – haven’t earned a victory at the Honda Center since the 2006 playoffs, a 27-game losing streak.
Anaheim’s Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Rickard Rakell and Ryan Kesler all reached the 50-point plateau. Rakell led the NHL with 10 game-winning goals and Getzlaf was third in the league with 58 assists.
The Ducks were the NHL’s fourth-best penalty killers. The Flames were 15th among the 16 playoffs teams in shots on goal with 2,389. That’s of concern because the Ducks are tight defensively, allowing 197 goals, third fewest in the league.
The Flames will need to get ahead to get ahead in this series. Calgary was 23-4-1 when leading after one period this season, third best in the NHL. But getting the puck might be a problem for the Flames. Anaheim won an NHL high 54.7 per cent of faceoffs, while the Flames were 19th in the NHL at the dot (48.9 per cent).
Pick: The Ducks (-153) and the under (5)
Charging to the top of the Western Conference, the Blackhawks are 27-12-4 since Jan. 1, third best in the NHL over than span behind Washington (71 points) and Anaheim (61).
The Blackhawks will welcome back Artem Anisimov (leg injury) to join their top line of Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin, both of whom have averaged a point per game since the NHL all-star break.
Scoring is an issue for the Predators, who scored two or fewer goals in eight of their 14 playoff games last spring. Nashville averaged 2.9 goals per game this season, up from 2.73 a year ago. Victor Arvidsson jumped from eight goals as a rookie to 31 this season.
Pick: The Blackhawks (-166) and the under (5.5)