We are down to just two series remaining in the Conference Quarterfinals as there were several teams who did not make it through the weekend while we have some tantalizing games on tap for this evening. The New York Rangers knocked off the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime on Friday night to end a series that was much closer than the 4-1 series final would indicate. The Penguins were in every game but dropped two games in overtime which ended up being their demise. Yesterday, the Wild eliminated the Blues in six games with a 4-1 win at the Excel Energy Center which also pushed yesterday’s pick of UNDER 5. The Wild scored early in the third and added an empty netter with under two minutes to go which earned us the push. Finally, the Montreal Canadiens held on to dispose of the Ottawa Senators as their nail-biting 1-0 victory at Scotiabank Place ended what was a miracle run for Ottawa in to the playoffs but unfortunately Carey Price and the Habs defense was too much for Ottawa but they did give it one heck of a run. The Western Conference second round matchups are already set while the hockey world turns it’s attention to tonight’s action that has a Game 7 on tap while a first round upset also looms on the schedule this evening.
Tampa Bay Lightning @ Detroit Red Wings
My Pick – RED WINGS (-110)
It is do or die for the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight as they face a must-win Game 6 situation at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit as the Red Wings look to put the finishing touches on the Lightning in what would probably go down as the biggest upset of the first round should the series win come to fruition for Detroit. The Wings once again played a flawless game on Saturday in Tampa Bay as they held a powerful Lightning offense off the scoresheet for the second time in the series. Detroit plays a fantastic defensive system and relies on possessing the puck as a secondary form of defense as it is pretty hard for the Lightning to score when they don’t have the puck. Of course, none of this would be possible if it were not for the stellar play of rookie goaltender Petr Mrazek. Aside from a tough Game 2, Mrazek has been sensational in goal for the Red Wings and his 1.91 goals against average and .937 save percentage in this series are living proof. Mrazek is the owner of a 1.58 goals against average over his last six starts against the Lighting while winning four of those six contests. What worked for the Lightning all season long was a balanced attack as they had two lines that produced like number one lines while getting significant offensive contributions from their other two lines as well as their defense. Well, now it is the Red Wings who have used that formula. Pavel Datsyuk leads this team in the playoffs with three goals and four points while defenseman Jonathan Ericsson also has four points, all assists. Other than that, Detroit has five players with three points and six players with two points in the series. These offensive numbers don’t blow you away by any means but it goes to show you how balanced this lineup is in it’s offensive production and more important for Mike Babcock all lines are responsible defensively and can be thrown out against any one of Tampa Bay’s forward units. Detroit’s powerplay has continued to produce as they ranked second in the regular season with a 23.8% clip and in these playoffs they are producing at a similar 21% clip compared to just 8.3% for Tampa Bay which is third-last in these playoffs. The Lightning have won just five times in 22 all-time visits to Joe Louis Arena and the way the Red Wings are playing right now I don’t see this trend changing any time soon. Take the Red Wings tonight to close out this series on home ice and deal the Lightning a surprising first round exit.