Swinging Johnson - NHL Record (11-6-1, +18.4 units)
*Games assigned 1 to 5 units.
When last I put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, in my NHL picks the Bruins and Rangers were previewed in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semi-final series. I flatly stated that the winner was too close to call and sure enough, the B’s wound up winning a hotly contested affair that took an extra period to determine the outcome.
However, I did believe there would be value in Under 5 goals scored and after a scoreless first period, I was feeling pretty good about our prospects. Unfortunately, the offense picked up and Boston prevailed 3-2 which left us kissing our sister. A push is better than a loss and we will try to find value in our NHL picks for not only this game but the other playoff preview I’ve written, featuring the Bruins/Rangers clash on Thursday night as well.
After the Hawks dropped Game 3 in Detroit, I could almost hear them collectively utter, “Don’t they know who we are?!” Apparently the Red Wings don’t much care that Chicago led the league in points (77), were tops in goals against thanks to the heroics of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery, and were second only to Pittsburgh in scoring. Hey, speaking of backup Ray Emery, here’s a guy who only went 17-1 with a 1.94 GAA, a .922 save percentage and he’s your backup!
Well NHL fans, this series is officially interesting as the Blackhawks were stunned on Monday night by the score of 3-1 and now trail the Wings as they head into Game 4. Chicago’s captain Jonathan Toews has been rendered impotent in the postseason. He is on a nine-game playoff scoring drought dating back to last year. This is the same Jonathan Toews who tied sniper Patrick Kane for the team lead in scoring with 23 during the regular season. If the Hawks are to advance, Toews needs to produce.
Detroit Red Wings
I wrote that the Red Wings were just happy to be invited to the postseason but now it seems they actually believe they belong. A pair of second period tallies, 31 seconds apart, vaulted Detroit into the driver’s seat and drove them straight into a 3-1 victory on Monday night. The Red Wings were backboned by a superb 39-save effort by Jimmy Howard which was the first playoff victory by a Detroit goaltender facing 40 or more shots and allowing no more than one goal since Greg Stefan did it way back in 1987.
Henrik Zetterberg was shut out of the scorer’s sheet but won 56% of his faceoffs and launched five shots on net. He has not netted a goal against the Blackhawks but was instrumental in Detroit’s Game 2 victory with two assists, one of which proved to be the game winner. Team regular season scoring leader Pavel Datsyuk notched the backbreaking goal on Monday night with his third tally of the postseason.
Unlike Game 2, when the heavily favored Blackhawks came out flat and fired only 20 shots on the Detroit net, their Game 3 offense was far more energized. If not for the stellar play of Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, Chicago could be looking at a 2-1 series advantage instead of a 2-1 deficit.
Here’s the thing. Detroit is riding a wave of euphoria but that could come crashing down the moment their bodies and legs suddenly realize they have played a ton of hockey in a short period of time. They went seven games with the Ducks including four overtime sessions! The Blackhawks went only five games with the Wild and won fairly easily. While I glance at the NHL odds I can’t help but believe that the Blackhawks will be locked, loaded and much less tired on Thursday night.
Free Picks: Chicago -140 for 3 units at Bet365.com