There’s nothing like playoff hockey and every series in the conference semifinals has been a barn-burner. We’ve seen speed, goals, hard hits, and some chippy play, but that defines what it means to play for Lord Stanley’s cup. The Pittsburgh Penguins vanquished the Washington Capitals in the second round of the last two postseasons and they evened their series at 2-2 with a crucial win on Thursday night with a little inspiration from Caps’ forward Tom Wilson, who was suspended for a vicious hit in Game 3.
Meanwhile, the top two teams in the Western Conference continue their battle after splitting the first four games. After giving up seven unanswered goals in a Game 3 loss, the Nashville Predators tightened the screws and escaped Winnipeg with a split behind 32 saves from Pekka Rinne. Both series are now a best-of-three, and the way they’ve been played, seven games is likely for both.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Washington Capitals – Game 5
Date and Time: Saturday, May 5, 2018, 7 p.m. ET
Location: Capital One Arena, Washington, DC
Opening NHL Game Odds: (Click here)
Penguins at Capitals TV Coverage: NBC
The Capitals have put together some strong teams over the past few years, but they haven’t been able to get past the Penguins in the last two. Pittsburgh went on to win the Stanley Cup both times and they put themselves into a series tie by keeping the explosive Alex Ovechkin in check. Known for the offense behind Sydney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel, the Pens did the job defensively on Thursday, holding Ovie shotless and allowing just one goal after surrendering eight total in the previous two encounters.
The suspension of Wilson may have cost the Caps more than they realize. Without the burly winger on his line, Ovechkin didn’t get a shot on goal and as a result was held off the scoresheet. It’s hard to know if Wilson’s absence was responsible for the lack of production, or if the Pens just decided to play some defense. The latter appears to be the favorite. The Pens blocked 13 shots and allowed just three shots on goal in the third period, making Matt Murray’s job that much easier.
10 – With all the star power on the Penguins it’s Jake Guentzel who leads the team in scoring and the NHL in postseason points. Guentzel scored twice on Thursday, giving the Pens an early lead with his first and salting the game with an empty-netter. He’s scored three times in the last two games and has 4 goals and 4 assists in the series. On the strength of his 4-goal, 5-point night against the Flyers in Game 6 of the first-round, Guentzel leads the NHL with 21 playoff points on 10 goals and 11 assists.
Penguins vs Capitals Free Picks
Home ice hasn’t been an advantage for the Caps in the playoffs and the loss of Wilson impacted the top line on Thursday. Washington is just 2-3 at home, though they did have a dominant 4-1 win over the Pens in Game 2. More importantly, the Caps need to figure out how to dent the Pens defense. They had just three shots in the third period and 21 total in Game 4 with few scoring chances. The Caps will figure it out and Ovechkin will be more of a factor as Washington gets the edge in the series with a big win.
Penguins vs Capitals ATS Pick: Capitals
Penguins vs Capitals Score Prediction: Capitals 5, Penguins
Winnipeg Jets vs Nashville Predators – Game 5
Date and Time: Saturday, May 5, 2018, 9:30 p.m. ET
Location: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN
Opening NHL Game Odds: (Click here)
Jets vs Predators TV Coverage: NBCSN
The series had been surprisingly wide-open in the first three contests with the teams combining for 25 goals. But we got more of what we expected in Game 4 when the Preds knotted the series with a scintillating 2-1 victory. With two Vezina-worthy goalies, that was more like it. The Jets had been the better team offensively scoring 15 goals in the first three games behind their top line of Nikolaj Ehlers, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler. And they seemingly wrested momentum by scoring seven unanswered goals in Game 3. Now, the Jets will have to win at least one more on the road if they want to advance.
Nashville’s Game 3 meltdown didn’t carry over and as a result the Preds head back home for the pivotal Game 5 in a tied series. Numerous breakdowns left Rinne on an island over the final two periods of that 7-3 loss and the Jets appeared to have all the momentum. However, the Preds tightened up and kept the explosive Jets off the board until the final minute when they scored with a two-man advantage. Nashville was second in goals against during the regular season and Rinne had a nice bounce-back outing after surrendering 12 goals in the first three games.
Player to Watch
P.K. Subban was Nashville’s third leading scorer and he had more goals and points than teammate Ryan Johansen during the regular season. So his slow start to the postseason was a bit alarming to the Preds. Subban was held without a goal and tallied just three assists in the first round and he didn’t record a point while going minus-3 in the opener of the Jets series. But the Norris candidate has picked up the pace over the past three games, scoring a power-play goal in each while totaling five points. He had the eventual game-winning goal on Thursday and played 26 minutes of strong defense in the 2-1 win.
Jets vs Predators Free Picks
It’s been a whacky series so far and you could flip a coin to determine who’s going to win Saturday’s matchup and the series. But I have to give the edge to the Preds, who played a strong game on Thursday after blowing a 3-0 first period lead in Game 3. That loss was unlike what we’ve seen from them this year and they tightened up after allowing 15 goals in the first three games. Winnipeg will attack, but Subban, Roman Josi and Rinne appear to be dialed in. And having home ice is important.
Jets vs Predators ATS Pick: Predators
Jets vs Predators Score Prediction: Predators 3, Jets 2
Check out the latest NHL Playoffs betting odds.