The playoff intensity is certainly heating up as all the series’ have completed at least their first two games and it’s obvious teams are really starting to get a hate on for one another as these playoffs move along. There have been some on-ice scraps, some off-ice banter and as always plenty of controversy, all things that make this time of the year so special for hockey fans all over the world. One thing that really separates playoffs from the regular season other than the obvious physicality and intensity is the thrill of overtime. Yesterday there were two games decided in sudden death overtime as the Islanders’ John Tavares scored in the first shift of O.T. and sent the Islanders faithful home happy while garnering a 2-1 series lead while the Habs put the Senators on the brink of elimination on Dale Weise’s overtime heroics that grabbed a commanding 3-0 series lead. It was a fantastic weekend of NHL playoff hockey and things will only get better with this week’s action, beginning tonight with three games on tap.
Anaheim Ducks @ Winnipeg Jets
My Pick – OVER 5.5 (+125)
It has been a long time coming for NHL playoff hockey to return to the city of Winnipeg as the Jets will play host to the Anaheim Ducks in what is the first playoff game in Winnipeg since April 28th, 1996. The MTS Centre will be rocking tonight as the home crowd looks to boost their hometown Jets after two tough losses in Anaheim to begin the series. Anaheim mounted a third period comeback in game 1 and also crushed Jets fans with a tiebreaking goal with just 21 seconds remaining in regulation to win game two. Anaheim set an NHL record this season with 18 wins while trailing at some point in the third period and their 12 wins while trailing after two periods also set an NHL record. They scored 93 goals in the third period and overtime this year which is a massive amount of tallies given they scored just 61 in the first period and 74 in the second. This comes in to play with this pick for sure as this means there is plenty of third period scoring in Ducks’ games all season long and you only have to look at games 1 and 2 of this series as concrete proof. The Ducks and Jets sat right around the middle of the pack in terms of goals per game, powerplay, penalty killing, shots on goal per game etc. in the regular season, however it is worth noting that the Ducks gave up just as many goals as they scored this season, giving up 2.7 per game while scoring 2.78 so it’s not like this team’s defensive play is stout by any means. The Jets’ scored 2.72 per game this year which is right in line with Anaheim but they will be looking to improve their penalty killing if they want to close the gap in this series. Winnipeg has given up three powerplay goals in the first two games of the series which cost them game 2. The goaltending has been pretty good on the both sides so far but keep in mind Anaheim went through three goalies in last year’s playoffs after Frederik Andersen posted a 3.10 goals against average in seven starts so although it has been good so far, it’s not like these goaltenders have playoff pedigrees in which they have been stellar. Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec didn’t even see the postseason until this series began and he has certainly had his fair share of ups and downs in his regular season career, so his solid play is anything but a certainty moving forward. With an extremely intense atmosphere about to explode in Winnipeg tonight I am expecting a high tempo game that could very well open up and see its fair share of scoring. Take the OVER 5.5 tonight and enjoy what will no doubt be one of the best atmospheres this postseason will have to offer.