The playoff field for the holy grail of hockey has been cut in half and the two best teams in the Eastern Conference took different routes to get to the second round. Teams value rest at this point in the season and the Tampa Bay Lightning had a few days to savor their first-round victory over New Jersey. Meanwhile, the Boston Bruins needed a third period rally in Game 7 to dispatch the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Atlantic Division rivals, who were separated by just one point in the standings, will get their series started on Saturday afternoon.
The expansion Vegas Golden Knights have done things no other first-year team has done this season, and they have yet to lose a playoff game after smoking the Sharks in Game 1 of their series. It’s just one game and it takes four wins to advance, but Vegas has to be feeling good after their 7-0 win on Thursday to extend their streak to five in a row while allowing just three goals.
Boston Bruins vs Tampa Bay Lightning – Game 1
Date and Time: Saturday, April 28, 2018, 3 p.m. ET
Location: Amalie Arena, Tampa, FL
Opening NHL Game Odds: (Click Here)
Bruins vs Lightning TV Coverage: NBC
The Bruins are coming off a rough seven-game series with the Leafs and have to turn around and start the next chapter with a trip to Florida. They got the Game 7 win behind an unlikely hero, who helped out a suddenly leaky defense. Jake DeBrusk scored a pair of goals, including the eventual game-winner in the third period, as the Bruins scored four times in the final 20 minutes to erase a 4-3 deficit. The Bs allowed four goals in the first two periods of that game and surrendered 11 in the last three contests, which is very un-Boston like.
Tampa lost three of four regular season meetings, but their one victory was the biggest. With the Bruins closing in for the division crown late in the year, the Lightning posted a 4-0 win behind 33 saves from Andrei Vasilevskiy. That win helped supply the difference between first and second place in the Atlantic, and Tampa took advantage by routing the Devils in the opening round. And the Lightning, who led the league in scoring during the regular season, tallied 18 times in five games.
4.0 – While the Bruins had some difficulties defensively against the Leafs in their first-round series, they had no problem finding the back of the net, scoring 28 times in the seven games. They’ll need to score against the high-flying Lightning and the Bs have the weapons. Five players averaged at least a point per game against Toronto with David Pastrnak leading the way with five goals and eight assists for 13 points. His linemates, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, were among the scoring leaders as well with nine and eight points respectively.
Bruins vs Lightning Free Picks
There is plenty of firepower on both sides in this series and the goalies will get a workout. Tampa had the luxury of resting for a few days after dispatching the Devils and that goes a long way at this juncture. Especially when near the end of the regular season Vasilevskiy claimed that he was tired. Tampa’s goalie was at the top of his game in the opening round though, as was Nikita Kucherov, who scored in every game while totaling 10 points. Tampa uses the rest to its advantage to get a jump in the series.
Bruins vs Lightning ATS Pick: Lightning
Bruins vs Lightning Score Prediction: Lightning 4, Bruins 3
San Jose Sharks vs Vegas Golden Knights – Game 2
Date and Time: Saturday, April 28, 2018, 8 p.m. ET
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, NV
Opening NHL Game Odds: (Click Here)
Sharks vs Golden Knights TV Coverage: NBC
The Sharks had their bubble burst in a big way on Thursday, suffering the worst playoff loss in team history in the 7-0 shellacking. The good news is that it’s only one game and San Jose can get back in the series with a better showing on Saturday. The bad news is that Vegas just might be that much better. San Jose scored 16 goals in their sweep of Anaheim and Evander Kane had a team-high tying three. But Kane is likely to face a suspension after a vicious cross check to the head of a Vegas player. For a team that failed to score in Game 1, that’s not a good scenario.
The Golden Knights scored a total of seven goals in their first-round series against the Kings and they matched that in Thursday’s victory. And much like the regular season, the offense was spread out with seven different players hitting the back of the net, and they even had an apparent goal from James Neal disallowed. Vegas won three of four regular season meetings with its only loss coming in overtime. They continued their magical run behind the stingy netminding of Marc-Andre Fleury, who posted his third shutout in five playoff games.
0.54 – A hot goaltender can carry a team, especially in the playoffs. And Fleury is as hot as the Vegas sun in the middle of July. Of course the goalie needs some help to post the numbers Fleury has this postseason, but he’s made the big stops when he’s had to and his playoff experience and three Stanley Cup championships are helpful. Fleury has allowed just three goals in five games for a miniscule 0.54 goals against average and he’s stopped 98.2 percent of the shots he’s faced.
Sharks vs Golden Knights Free Picks
The Sharks got frustrated in the third period of Thursday’s game and it cost them. They gave up a pair of power play goals after Kane and Joe Pavelski were penalized at the same time. Kane will hear from the DPS regarding his cross check to the head of an opponent and he could be suspended, which will impact San Jose’s ability to score against a goalie who hasn’t given up much this postseason. Vegas is for real folks, they played a crisp game after nine days off and will only get better, and they jump on the Sharks for 2-0 series lead.
Sharks vs Golden Knights ATS Pick: Golden Knights
Sharks vs Golden Knights Score Prediction: Golden Knights 4, Sharks 1
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