I have now captured back-to-back winners in relatively smooth-sailing fashion as the Detroit Red Wings turned the tables on the Tampa Bay Lightning and shutout their high-powered offense by a 3-0 score. This was actually the second straight trip to Detroit in which the Lightning haven’t been able to find the back of the net, which is rare for the league’s highest scoring team in the regular season. Last night’s game is perfect proof of how well the Red Wings are coached by Mike Babcock and his staff. Limiting Tampa Bay’s chances with a rock solid defensive system isn’t common and the Red Wings managed to pull it off along with the stellar play of Petr Mrazek who has been thrust in to the starter’s role for these playoffs due to the consistency issues of former number one Jimmy Howard. The Red Wings look like they could make some noise moving forward but might have to win a game in Tampa Bay to do so which is never an easy task for any team. I’m on a bit of a roll right now and it would be nice to have this continue right through the first round and beyond. Wednesday night’s action has four games on tap with the possibility of two series ending in sweeping fashion.
New York Rangers @ Pittsburgh Penguins
My Pick – PENGUINS (+100)
Game 4 between the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins takes place tonight from the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, PA as the Penguins are just about in a must-win situation before the series shifts back to Madison Square Garden for Game 5 on Friday night. The Penguins have shown more heart and resilience than expected throughout the first three games of the series as all three contests have been very close, one-goal affairs. The Penguins weren’t able to capitalize and tie up in the final minutes of Game 3 however there is no arguing this team has been competing right alongside the Rangers for the entire series and a win tonight can definitely plant a seed of doubt in to the minds of New York fans everywhere. One piece of news that is a sigh of relief to Penguins fans is the involvement of Sidney Crosby once again as he endured his fair share of struggles in the playoffs in recent years, especially in last year’s seven-game series against this same Rangers team. Crosby scored two goals in Pittsburgh’s 4-3 Game 2 victory and has had a hand in three of the Penguins last five goals total. If only Crosby could drag Evgeni Malkin along with him than the Penguins would really be in business. Malkin has gone 13 straight games without a goal and although he has looked dangerous many times with the puck on his stick in this series he has yet to break through. Yet is the key word as once Malkin does get on the board he could be as dangerous as any player in these playoffs. A big reason I still like the Penguins despite their habit of getting behind early in games is their proficiency on special teams. As I mentioned in my piece last week regarding these two teams it is the Penguins who boasted the better powerplay and penalty killing numbers throughout the regular season and so far in this series they have also been the superior club on special teams. The Penguins have capitalized on 28.6% of their powerplay chances in the series while the Rangers sit at a 14.3% clip which of course gives the Penguins a penalty killing number of 85.7% to the Rangers’ 71.4%. The Rangers would be wise to stay out of the box tonight because if they can’t then it opens up the door for the Penguins to go to work. I am looking at the Penguins playoff experience as a group to kick in tonight and I have confidence in this team to compete hard on route to evening the series at 2-2 heading back to New York.