Saturday. We break down that and all of today’s NHL action in our
Stanley Cup Playoffs betting preview.
New York Rangers at Pittsburgh Penguins (A: +162, H: -180, O/U: 5)
Penguins lead series 3-1
The New York Rangers are in an eerily situation to two years ago, when they were on the brink of elimination as they headed to Pittsburgh for Game 5 of their playoff series. The Rangers wound up winning the final three games en route to the Stanley Cup final, a task they must repeat against the host Penguins beginning on Saturday afternoon.
Much like the matchup in 2013-14, New York’s situation looks bleak following a pair of lopsided losses at home as Pittsburgh took a commanding 3-1 lead with a chance to close out the series at home. “You can’t think that because you’ve done it in the past you’re necessarily going to do it,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “But you can believe a little bit.” The Penguins manhandled New York at Madison Square Garden, winning the two games by a combined 8-1, and have won 17 of 20 contests dating to the regular season. “Overall, I think we have an opportunity to do something good and I think we have to step on it,” Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang said.
TV: 3 p.m. ET, NBC, Sportsnet 360, TVAS
PROBABLE GOALIES: Rangers – Henrik Lundqvist (0.919%), Penguins – Matthew Murray (0.935%)
ABOUT THE PENGUINS (51-27-8, 38-33 O/U): Evgeni Malkin expressed concern that he could upset the team’s chemistry after he returned from an injury absence of more than a month in Pittsburgh’s Game 2 loss, but any worries were allayed after his dominant performance in Thursday’s 5-0 romp. Malkin scored a pair of goals and assisted on two others to tie a career high with four points and give him six over three games in the series. “Geno wants to win,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “He’s a competitive guy. He cares about this team. And he knows he’s a big part of this team having success. He’s a self-driven guy. He wants to be on the ice. He wants the puck in the crucial situations.”
ABOUT THE RANGERS (47-30-9, 38-29 O/U): New York has surrendered eight unanswered goals after seizing a 1-0 lead in Game 3, but a bigger worry may be the play of the typically unflappable Henrik Lundqvist, who was injured in the series opener and yanked in the second period of Thursday’s romp after permitting four goals on 18 shots. “Well, you can’t look at the big picture. That’s when you get lost a little bit,” Lundqvist said. “But at the same time, last time we were in there we managed to win (Game 2). So we just need to do everything right and we’ll have a good chance of winning.” One of the focal points of Friday’s practice was the dismal power play that has converted on only 1-of-16 opportunities.
* Rangers are 1-6 in the last seven meetings.
* Road team is 5-1 in the last six meetings.
* Over is 7-1-4 in Rangers last 12 road games.
* Over is 4-1-1 in Penguins last 6 games following a win.
Nashville Predators at Anaheim Ducks (A: +122, H: -135, O/U: 5)
Series tied 2-2
The home team has yet to win in the Western Conference first-round series between Anaheim and Nashville, a trend the Ducks hope to reverse when they host the Predators on Saturday night in Game 5. Anaheim rebounded from a pair of one-goal losses at home to win twice in Nashville to level the best-of-7 series at two victories apiece.
Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said there was no panic among the team in facing an 0-2 series deficit, a mindset forged after Anaheim rebounded from a wretched 1-7-2 start to the season to win its fourth straight Pacific Division title. “You have an ability to look around in the room and have confidence in each other, even when you’re in tough times,” Getzlaf said. “We got ourselves back in the series. That’s what we accomplished here.” Now the Predators are in the situation of having to regroup after squandering a glittering chance to deliver a knockout blow to the Ducks, losing Games 3 and 4 by a combined 7-1 tally. “This is not what we envisioned, but we’ve played good in their building,” Predators center Mike Fisher said. “It’s not going to get any easier. We know that. We have to respond and be quick.”
TV: 6 p.m. ET, NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVAS
PROBABLE GOALIES: Predators – Pekka Rinne (0.907 %), Ducks Frederik Andersen (0.922 %).
ABOUT THE PREDATORS (43-29-14, 33-34 O/U): One of the reasons for Nashville’s offensive struggles is the lack of production from the top line of Ryan Johansen, James Neal and Calle Jarnkrok, who have failed to hit the scoresheet since Neal potted a goal 35 seconds into the series opener. “I think it’s more about us,” Johansen told reporters following Thursday’s loss. “I felt a little better, but we still need to notch it up another gear. It’s going to be a good test for us as far as a line, and we need to go out there as a group and really amp our game up.” Forward Craig Smith (lower body) sat out Thursday, ending a streak of 243 consecutive games played (postseason included).
ABOUT THE DUCKS (48-27-11, 32-35 O/U): Although Anaheim had the league’s top-ranked penalty kill during the regular season, coach Bruce Boudreau said his team is “playing with fire” by given so many power-play chances to the Predators, who were stifled on six chances Thursday to fall to 1-for-19 in the series. “I think it’s the same. We’re doing exactly what we’ve done all year,” Ducks forward Chris Stewart said. “The PK’s been stepping up like it’s doing all year. Guys are blocking shots and sacrificing their body. That’s what it takes to win this time of year.” Frederik Andersen has been magnificent since supplanting John Gibson in net, turning aside 57-of-58 shots.
* Ducks are 1-4 in their last five home games.
* Road team is 4-0 in the last four meetings.
* Over is 5-0-2 in the last seven meetings in Anaheim.
* Under is 3-0-3 in Predators last six games overall.
St. Louis Blues at Chicago Blackhawks (A: +129, H: -143, O/U: 143)
Blues lead series 3-2
After falling short in double overtime, the visiting St. Louis Blues face an arduous task on Saturday if they are going to oust the defending Stanley Cup champion-Chicago Blackhawks from the playoffs. Although St. Louis still holds a 3-2 edge in the first-round series, Chicago has emerged victorious in 14 of its last 15 Game 6 contests under coach Joel Quenneville – including eight straight since 2013.
Patrick Kane picked a fine time to score his first goal of this postseason, doing so 3:07 into double overtime to secure Thursday’s 4-3 win for the Blackhawks and send the tight first-round series back to Chicago. St. Louis won Games 3 and 4 at the United Center, perhaps prompting defenseman Alex Pietrangelo to provide bulletin board material with a rather confident statement after his three-assist performance on Thursday. “It’s going to be a tough place to win, but we won the last two there, so go there and (do) more of the same. … It’s going to be fun here to win it in Chicago,” the 26-year-old Pietrangelo said. Little margin of error exists in this series, as each contest has been decided by one goal and two games have ventured past regulation.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, TVAS2
PROBABLE GOALIES: Blues – Brian Elliot (0.931 %), Blackhawks – Corey Crawford (0.923 %)
ABOUT THE BLUES (52-25-10, 34-41 O/U): Pietrangelo’s five points in the series have him tied for the team lead with Vladimir Tarasenko as well as Jaden Schwartz, who scored in his third straight contest on Thursday to extend his point streak to four games (three goals, two assists). Former Blackhawk Troy Brouwer, who has been held without a point in seven straight contests, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that eliminating Chicago will not come easily. “My last playoff series with them (in 2011) is when we were down 3-0 to Vancouver and lost Game 7 in overtime,” Brouwer said. “So I know firsthand from a long time ago what these guys can do and when they don’t have a whole lot of options.”
ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS (49-28-10, 32-33 O/U): Although Kane was able to find the net on Thursday, captain Jonathan Toews still is looking for first goal of the postseason. “The time is now. I’ve been telling myself that all series,” said Toews, who joined Kane in assisting on rookie Artemi Panarin’s goal with 0.4 seconds remaining in the second period on Thursday to give Chicago a 3-1 lead. Defenseman Duncan Keith, who leads the team with three tallies, added to his legacy as a workhorse by skating in a game-high 42 minutes on Thursday.
* Blues are 7-0 in their last seven road games verus a team with a home winning % of greater than .600.
* Blues are 5-1 in the last 6 meetings in Chicago.
* Over is 8-2-6 in Blackhawks last 16 games following a win.
* Over is 10-0-3 in Blues last 13 games playing on 1 days rest.