I’m not sure I have taken such a bad loss like I did last night in the game between the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning. As many of you likely know by now, Tyler Johnson of the Lightning scored with one second to go in regulation time to give Tampa Bay the 2-1 lead and a commanding 3-0 series lead as well. This was after Montreal worked so hard to tie the game midway through the third period and by all accounts it looked like this game was destined for overtime. Obviously that was not the case and my pick of Montreal to win at +130 ended up in the loss column. What a terrible pill to swallow for the Habs as there is a monumental difference between being down 2-1 in a series and being down 3-0. Only four teams in the history of the game have rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win, and if you are a Habs fan perhaps some silver lining is in store as two of those four teams to come all the way back have done so within the last five years, with the Kings doing it as recently as least year’s playoffs. Montreal will need a win this evening to stay alive but tonight’s pick will focus elsewhere as the Minnesota Wild are in the same situation and will need a win this evening to send their Western Conference semifinal series back to Chicago.
Chicago Blackhawks @ Minnesota Wild
My Pick – UNDER 5 (-120)
It is do or die time for the Minnesota Wild as they are in a must-win situation tonight as they host the Chicago Blackhawks for Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals. The Wild are looking to avoid elimination at the hands of the Blackhawks for the third straight postseason but will need to score more than they have lately, something I don’t see happening this evening. Chicago has been rock solid defensively over the last two games, surrendering just one goal over that span while Cory Crawford as been sensational in goal for Chicago. Since being replaced by Scott Darling the first round against Nashville, Crawford has found his groove as he has won all four contests to go along with a .963 save percentage since being re-inserted as the starting goaltender by Joel Quennville. In Game 1, Minnesota scored three second period goals against Crawford but other than that he has stopped 81 of 82 shots, good for a .987 save percentage. Things aren’t all doom and gloom for Minnesota though as Devan Dubnyk provided his team with every chance to win Game 3 as he stopped 21 of 22 Blackhawks shots but was obviously outdueled by his counterpart in Crawford. In the process Dubnyk lifted his goals against average to .911 in this year’s playoffs, with much of that damage coming in the first two games of this series. The good news for the Wild is they are certainly limiting the Blackhawks powerplay opportunities as they are averaging just 3.8 penalty minutes per game in these playoffs and if they continue to avoid the penalty box they can gain a special teams advantage on Chicago. The less time the Blackhawks have with the man-advantage the better this pick is going to look. Another stat to keep in mind is the Wild are second-last in these playoffs in terms of shots on goal per game at 25.6 and fifth in shots against per game at just 27.4. If you aren’t shooting much and you aren’t giving up many shots, odds are there isn’t much scoring going on. Take the Wild and Blackhawks to play another low-scoring affair tonight in a must-win situation for the home team.