Another one bites the dust. The Montreal Canadiens were the second-last casualty of the Conference semifinals as they lost their bid to become the fifth team in NHL history to overcome a 3-0 deficit as they dropped Game 6 to the Tampa Bay Lightning by a 4-1 score. I took the Lightning to win last night’s game in regulation at +105 odds and I couldn’t feel any better about that pick. It is definitely risky to be taking a team to win a playoff game in the first 60 minutes as we all know playoff hockey games are usually won by the smallest of margins but in this case I had the upmost confidence in this deep Lightning team to win this one on home ice in regulation. They were the league’s best home team in the regular season for a reason and I knew that they didn’t take the Game 4 drubbing they received on home ice lightly heading in to last night’s series clinching opportunity. Tampa Bay looks to be as good as a contender as anyone remaining in the playoffs and with the offense clicking right now they are going to be very tough to beat. We now move on to a winner-take-all Game 7 tonight that features the New York Rangers and the Washington Capitals.
Washington Capitals @ New York Rangers
My Pick – CAPITALS (+135)
The New York Rangers will try to erase a 3-1 series deficit and come out on top for the second consecutive postseason as they face off against the Washington Capitals in tonight’s Game 7 from Madison Square Garden. Looking back at NHL history, the Rangers can become the first team ever to accomplish that feat as they have also won five consecutive Game 7’s heading in to tonight’s game. Well, unfortunately for the Rangers I don’t think they can manage such a great accomplishment once again this season. When I look at this series I look at two goalies who are playing out of this world as Braden Holtby and Henrik Lundqvist rank 1-2 in most goaltender categories this postseason. However, what I also see is one team who has their whole team going and one team who is still waiting for contributions from many spots in the lineup. While there were players like Chris Kreider and Rick Nash who had big games in Game 6 in Washington, there are several players on this team that are yet to show up in the postseason. Martin St. Louis is having an awful playoff with just four points in 11 games, Derek Stepan has some assists but just two goals in 11 playoff games, and the same can be said for Nash who scored just his second goal of the postseason in Game 6 and considering he has an annual disappearing act in the playoffs I don’t see strong production from him moving forward. What I do see is the league’s best scorer on the other team’s bench as Alex Ovechkin shows up when the cards are down and I fully expect the Great 8 to do so again tonight. While Ovi and Nicklas Backstrom are obviously the go-to guys, it’s production from players like Joel Ward, Jason Chimera and Evgeni Kuznetsov that gives me confidence this Capitals team has the balance it takes to succeed this time of the year. Obviously tonight is just one game and anything can happen, but the Capitals have been every bit as good, if not better in this series against the Rangers which is why I like them at the fantastic +135 odds we have been blessed with. Take the Caps to stun the Madison Square Garden faithful tonight and move on to the Eastern Conference finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning.