Photo Courtesy of BTI Hockey
Three Games on tonight with all three being elimination. Will Philly, Minnesota and Colorado all fight another day or will they be eliminated tonight?
By Chris Yackel
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers (PIT leads 3-1)
This is a series that hasn’t been close at all. Besides the Game 2 drubbing that Philly defeated Pittsburgh 5-1, the Penguins have dominated this series. The Penguins are just rolling right now. Matt Murray looks like guy we’ve seen from the last two springs carrying his team to Stanley Cup glory. Throughout the first four games of this series Murray has posted an other worldly .948 save percentage.
The big guns in the lineup are rolling too as Sidney Crosby has 9 points in this series (5 goals, 4 assists). Evgeni Malkin has 5 points (3 goals, 2 assists). Everything just seems to be clicking at the right time for this team.
On the other hand, in Philly things are not clicking. After two embarrassing home playoff games the Flyers have to win Game 5 in Pittsburgh in order to stay alive in this series. Unlike Pittsburgh, Philadelphia’s big guns are not producing in this series and it’s a large part why the Flyers are in this hole.
Claude Giroux, who had 102 points in the regular season only has 1 point in the four games played this series (1 assist). Jakub Voracek only has 2 points (2 assists). Wayne Simmonds who is the type of player that would thrive playoff time only has one point (1 assist).
There are ZERO goals between those players and that needs to change if the Flyers are to live another day. Factor in the sloppy and inconsistent goaltending from Brian Elliott (.856 save percentage) and Sean Couturier’s absence in Game 4 due to injury its no wonder the Flyers find themselves down 3-1 in the series.
Couturier is also a game time decision for Game 5 which only hurts Philly’s chances more. I expect the Penguins to close this one out on home ice tonight and win their NINTH consecutive playoff series which is just an incredible feat.
Prediction: Pittsburgh wins 3-2, Wins series 4-1
Winnipeg Jets vs. Minnesota Wild (WPG leads 3-1)
This series has been very physical, and there have been some tight games, but the Jets just seem like the much better team than the Wild. Coming into this series the Jets were heavily favorite and based on this series you can see why. They have way too much depth for the Wild to handle.
A team that has Laine, Scheifele, Wheeler, Statsny, Ehlers and Connor all in the top 6 of the lineup is just flat out dangerous. Not only the Wild, but for the rest of the remaining teams in the Western Conference. On defense it gets better with the likes of Byfuglien, Myers, Tanev and Trouba. Factor in Vezina Trophy nominee Connor Hellebuyck this team is a wagon.
The Wild on the other hand are missing some key players in Ryan Suter and now Zach Parise who broke his sternum in Game 3. The loss of Suter for the season was a devastating one coming into this series. The Wild were going to have a hard time against the Jets with Suter in the lineup. Without him it has been a complete disaster.
Parise was playing some of his best hockey in years after returning from serious injury earlier this season. It’s a huge blow to lose him in the lineup. Eric Staal has been idle for most of the series as well, with only 1 goal and an assist. The only saving grace for the Wild has been Devan Dubnyk and his .930 save percentage in this series thus far.
Just like the Penguins, I expect the Jets to close this series out in front of there loud and proud fans, all wearing white in Winnipeg.
Prediction: Jets win 4-1, Win Series 4-1
Nashville Predators vs. Colorado Avalanche (NSH leads 3-1)
This is a series that has been a lot closer than one would think. The Avalanche have given the Preds all that they can handle. Colorado has been impressive as both Nathan MacKinnon and Captain Gabriel Landeskog have carried the load for the Avalanche. Landeskog has 6 points this series (3 goals, 3 assists), while MacKinnon has 5 points (3 goals, 2 assists).
Although the Avalanche lost both Games 1 and 2 in Nashville, they put up a tough fight in front of that tough Nashville crowd. They then played a great Game 3 in order to get the win and just came up short in Game 4.
This has not been a very easy series for Nashville at all. They have had to come from behind in a couple of games, as this series hasn’t been a cake walk for the President Trophy winners. Nashville has been great in this series otherwise. They are getting great play and highlight reel goals from Filip Forsberg (3 goals, 2 assists). Ryan Johansen seems to save his best hockey for the playoffs as he also has 5 points in this series (2 goals, 3 assists).
Nashville just seems primed to make one of those deep runs as they have tremendous depth both offensively and on the backend as well. If Pekka Rinne can play like he has all season, then their odds of making a deep run are almost guaranteed.
The Avalanche have put up a great fight. They came into this series without their star goaltender in Varlomov and their best defenseman Erik Johnson. However, there is no chance they beat Nashville on their home ice. When you factor in that Andrew Hammond who started one NHL game all season is getting the nod in net for Game 5, I think this series is all but over.
Prediction: Preds win 5-2, Win series 4-1
It is indeed going to be an elimination night tonight.
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