I dropped my most recent pick between the Ottawa Senators and the Montreal Canadiens as I had the UNDER 5 with spectacular goaltending between the pipes but on this night it was all about the Ottawa offense. The Senators found twine on five occasions Friday night and once again staved off elimination for at least one more game which will be played in front of their home fans at Scotiabank Place this evening. With Ottawa scoring five times the total still barely reached the 5-goal mark as the Habs were only able to get on the scoresheet once and dropped Game 5 by a 5-1 final. Habs fans everywhere are likely starting to get a little tight around the collar as their comfortable 3-0 series lead is now a not-so-comfy 3-2 lead and as mentioned, they must win tonight in Ottawa to avoid a winner take all Game 7 back at the Bell Centre. Tonight we have just two games on tap with one being the aforementioned Sens/Habs Game 6, but we also have a Western Conference Game 6 between the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild on the slate with the Wild looking to put the finishing touches on the Blues and send themselves to the second round to face off against the Chicago Blackhawks. This is where I will be focussing my pick this Sunday.
St. Louis Blues @ Minnesota Wild
My Pick – UNDER 5 (-115)
The series between the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild has, for some reason, flown underneath most playoff fans’ radars but if you have watched any of this series you would see that is has been as competitive as any other series out there. There is an anomaly here though: this is the only first round series this year that hasn’t had a game decided by one goal. For instance, the Blues’ last visit to Minnesota resulted in them scoring six times on Devan Dubnyk which hasn’t come close to happening in his Wild tenure, only to have Dubnyk steal the show the next game in St. Louis with 36 saves in a 4-1 Minnesota Game 5 victory. Well you would think these volatile scores would make handicapping this series difficult, however I feel this pick is as simple as it gets. Dubnyk was mentioned recently as a Vezina Trophy candidate for the league’s most outstanding goaltender and you don’t get a nomination like that if you haven’t been consistent and that is exactly what Dubnyk has been since he pulled on a Wild uniform. Dubnyk posted a 1.78 goals against average and a .936 save percentage this season while starting 39 regular season games for Minnesota, and that included a run where the former Oilers and Coyotes cast-off (interestingly two teams that could very well use some goaltending) started 37 consecutive games. Posting incredible numbers like that is one thing, however it puts you in to a whole new category when you do so while playing every single game for the better part of 3 months. It looks as if the key to the Wild’s success (and this pick’s success) would be to keep Vladimir Tarasenko off the scoreboard as his six goals leads the postseason and aside from Kevin Shattenkirk who has seven assists the Blues haven’t received much contribution from the rest of their group. Patrick Berglund and Alex Steen both have four points, while players like David Backes (two points), Paul Stastny (one point) and Alex Pietrangelo (one point) were going to need to have good playoffs if this team is going to go anywhere and to this point they have not, hence the 3-2 series deficit. With many Blues players struggling right now up against arguably the league’s MVP for the latter half of the season in Dubnyk, I see a low-scoring game where cautious, defensive-minded play being displayed tonight. Take the UNDER 5 and watch what should be an intense game from the Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota.