Hockey Today April 17

Hockey Today April 17

Thursday's Playoff Action
By Judd Hall

Thursday’s slate of playoff hockey is full once again with five games. These are the same contests that we got to watch on Tuesday. And if those showings will be a precursor to what we’re going to see, then it will be a long night as a fan, but not as bad as it could be for the bettors out there.

Favorites went 4-1 in Tuesday’s preludes to this evening. We also got to see the ‘over’ post a 3-1-1 record for the night, but the scoring was more one-sided than anyone could have anticipated.

Can that happen again on Thursday? Let’s take a look and find out.

Washington Capitals at Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers picked up Daniel Briere for one thing and one thing alone, to bring offensive pop in the playoffs. He found a way to score two goals, while putting in an assist in Philadelphia’s 6-3 win over the Capitals. Briere now has four lamp lighters in this first round series…his best output in an opening round since 2006 as a member of the Buffalo Sabres.

Washington now finds itself walking on eggshells right now as it’s very close to being forced into the offseason. Of course, this club was put in that position several times during the final weeks of the regular season and passed with flying colors.

The Caps must find a way to get the shackles off of Alex Ovechkin for them to be able to even up this Eastern Conference Quarterfinal at two wins apiece. It’s not that Ovechkin isn’t getting the shots on goal, he is averaging four SOG per game in the playoffs. What isn’t happening for him and the Capitals is Philly’s defense failing to lapse for stretches as they did ad nauseum during the year.

So can the Capitals even this series up? If the game were being played in any other place than the Wachovia Center, then I’d say “yes.”

Philly has registered a 15-5 SU record at home in the playoffs recently, while the Caps are 12-10 SU on the road in the postseason.

Boston Bruins at Montreal Canadiens

The more Carey Price plays in goal, the more I realize how great of a talent he is going to be in this league.

The 20-year old phenom stopped all 27 shots fired his way for a 1-0 victory in Game 4 against the Bruins last Tuesday. His overall GAA for the playoffs is now a stellar 1.19 and stopping 96 percent of all the shots Boston has made so far.

Boston needs to do a lot to get back into this series right now, but goaltending isn’t one of the issues now. Tim Thomas has gotten his act together in the last two starts, allowing just two goals on 56 shots. Compare that to him saving just 89 percent of the SOG in Games 1 & 2 to notice he’s got his wits about him now.

The Bruins need to bolster an offense that is not looking all that formidable at the present. Unfortunately for Boston fans, the one guy who can help move the puck, Patrice Bergeron, won’t be available until a Game 7…and that certainly doesn’t appear to be in the cards.

Let’s not forget that Montreal hasn’t lost to the B’s at home since December 2006…that streak won’t get snapped on Thursday either.

Colorado Avalanche at Minnesota Wild

Just when you think the Avs and Wild are playing the tightest hockey of any of the first round series, they post a blowout.

Colorado used its size and grit to push around the Wild all night long. And don’t think the refs didn’t notice it either…The Avs got hit for 43 penalty minutes. I guess that should be expected in a game where you beat a bitter division rival 5-1.

As good as things looked for the Avalanche, they weren’t perfect. They couldn’t get their power play going as evidenced by two special teams goals in 14 chances…that includes a pair of five-on-three shifts.

Take a close look at playing the ‘under’ in this contest. Minnesota has watched the ‘under’ go 9-5-4 in its last 18 home matches following a defeat on the road.

Anaheim Ducks at Dallas Stars

It took a while to see, but the Ducks finally looked like the defending Stanley Cup champions.

Anaheim fired early and often against Marty Turco, racking up four goals in 25 minutes. More impressive than the Ducks’ offense was their blue line showing up for the first time in this postseason.

Sammy Pahlsson, Francois Beauchemin and Scott Neidermayer were able to push the Dallas forwards around with ease during their Game 3 victory. Their dominance led to Jean-Sebastien Giguere stopping 31 of 33 shots.

If you’re wondering about the chances that the Stars can lose two straight at the American Airlines Center, it’s pretty good right now. Dallas had dropped back-to-back home spots three times since the end of January, which includes a three-game skid as well.

Calgary Flames at San Jose Sharks

I’ve ragged on Joe Thornton and his inability to do anything of consequence in the playoffs for as long as I can remember. Well, he gets a reprieve after scoring a clutch game-winning goal with under 10 seconds left to help the Sharks level their series with Calgary two wins apiece.

It also helps when the Flames take just 10…that’s right 10 shots on goal! That is Calgary’s lowest output since Nov. 20, when they took just 15 SOG at home versus the Avalanche.

The Sharks definitely won’t be able to put on a defensive display like that in two straight contests. Especially not against a pure scorer like Jarome Iginla, who took one shot last Tuesday and scored on it as well.

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NHL LONG SHEET

WASHINGTON (44-33-0-8, 96 pts.) at PHILADELPHIA (44-30-0-11, 99 pts.)

There are no Top Trends with records of significance that apply to this game.

Head-to-Head Series History
WASHINGTON is 8-7 (+2.0 Units) against the spread versus PHILADELPHIA over the last 3 seasons
WASHINGTON is 8-7-0 straight up against PHILADELPHIA over the last 3 seasons
11 of 15 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons . (Over=+6.7 Units)


BOSTON (42-31-0-13, 97 pts.) at MONTREAL (50-25-0-11, 111 pts.)

There are no Top Trends with records of significance that apply to this game.

Head-to-Head Series History
MONTREAL is 23-5 (+17.1 Units) against the spread versus BOSTON over the last 3 seasons
MONTREAL is 23-5-0 straight up against BOSTON over the last 3 seasons
12 of 25 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons . (Over=-2.2 Units, Under=-1.0 Units)


COLORADO (46-31-0-9, 101 pts.) at MINNESOTA (46-29-0-11, 103 pts.)

There are no Top Trends with records of significance that apply to this game.

Head-to-Head Series History
MINNESOTA is 14-14-0 straight up against COLORADO over the last 3 seasons
12 of 22 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons . (Under=+1.0 Units)


ANAHEIM (48-29-0-8, 104 pts.) at DALLAS (47-31-0-7, 101 pts.)

There are no Top Trends with records of significance that apply to this game.

Head-to-Head Series History
DALLAS is 17-10 (+7.2 Units) against the spread versus ANAHEIM over the last 3 seasons
DALLAS is 17-10-0 straight up against ANAHEIM over the last 3 seasons
13 of 23 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons . (Under=+1.7 Units)


CALGARY (44-32-0-10, 98 pts.) at SAN JOSE (51-25-0-10, 112 pts.)

There are no Top Trends with records of significance that apply to this game.

Head-to-Head Series History
CALGARY is 9-7 (+3.2 Units) against the spread versus SAN JOSE over the last 3 seasons
CALGARY is 9-7-0 straight up against SAN JOSE over the last 3 seasons
6 of 10 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons . (Over=+1.9 Units)

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NHL SHORT SHEET

First Round
Game Four
Flyers Lead, 2-1
Washington at Philadelphia, 7:05 ET

Washington:
18-9 SU playing with revenge
7-1 Under Away revenging road loss

Philadelphia:
10-3 Under at home off home win
15-20 SU as home favorite of -200 or less


First Round
Game Five
Montreal Leads, 3-1
Boston at Montreal, 7:05 ET

Boston:
3-22 SU Away after having lost 4 of their last 5
1-13 SU at Montreal

Montreal:
23-5 SU vs. Boston
7-1 Under off road division win


First Round
Game Five
Series Tied, 2-2
Colorado at Minnesota, 9:05 ET

Colorado:
3-16 SU Away off home game
11-4 Under Away vs. division

Minnesota:
6-0 SU off loss by 4+ goals
18-8 SU off BB road games


First Round
Game Three
Dallas Leads, 2-1
Anaheim at Dallas, 8:05 ET

Anaheim:
10-25 SU at Da
1-5 SU after BB losses by 2+ goals

Dallas:
11-5 SU revenging home loss
41-14 SU off division loss by 2+ goals


First Round
Game Five
Series Tied, 2-2
Calgary at San Jose, 10:05 ET

Calgary:
13-30 SU Away off loss
3-13 SU Away off home loss

San Jose:
48-20 SU off one-goal win
42-26 Under off BB home games

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Flyers outscored Washington 8-3 in winning last couple games after they blew two-goal lead in Game 1; Flyers outshot Caps in Game 3, 33-19. Ten of last 14 series games went over total, with underdog winning four of last six. Fedorov was 11-15 in Game 3 on faceoffs; rest of Caps were 18-44.

Montreal is 14-1 in last 15 games vs Boston, winning last nine games at Molson Centre; last three series games were decided by one goal. Boston is 1-17 on power play in series; goals that lost Games 2 and 4 for them were both power play goals by the Canadiens. Under is 4-0 in this playoff series.

Colorado evened series with 5-1 win Tuesday, going 2-13 when man up; they had power play for incredible 19:13, almost entire period. Game 4 was first time in last six series games there was no OT. Avalanche lost six of its last seven visits to Minnesota. Wild is 0-9 on power play the last two games.

Road team is 3-0 in Anaheim-Dallas series; underdog won six of last seven series games. Ducks grabbed 3-0 lead in first 15:00 of Game 3, then went into shell; they were outshot 33-19 for game. Pahlsson was 15-22 on faceoffs for Ducks; rest of team lost 25 of 38 faceoffs. Under is 6-2 in Ducks' last eight trips to Dallas.

High drama when San Jose won Game 4 at Calgary with :07 to play; series is tied 2-2- Sharks were +61 in shots in games 1-2-4 outshooting Calgary 32-10 Tuesday (shots were 27-25 Sharks in Game 3). Flames are 5-2 in their last seven series games, 3-1 in last four at Shark Tank. Pressure here on favored Sharks.

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NHL Trend Sheet

7:00 PM BOSTON vs. MONTREAL
Boston is 0-5 SU in its last 5 games when playing on the road against Montreal
Boston is 1-4 SU in its last 5 games
Montreal is 14-1 SU in its last 15 games when playing Boston
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Montreal's last 5 games when playing Boston


7:00 PM WASHINGTON vs. PHILADELPHIA
The total has gone OVER in 5 of Washington's last 6 games when playing Philadelphia
Washington is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games when playing on the road against Philadelphia
Philadelphia is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games
Philadelphia is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games at home


8:00 PM ANAHEIM vs. DALLAS
Anaheim is 4-8 SU in its last 12 games when playing Dallas
Anaheim is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games on the road
Dallas is 6-2 SU in its last 8 games when playing at home against Anaheim
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Dallas's last 6 games when playing at home against Anaheim


9:00 PM COLORADO vs. MINNESOTA
Colorado is 1-6 SU in its last 7 games when playing on the road against Minnesota
The total has gone UNDER in 7 of Colorado's last 10 games when playing on the road against Minnesota
Minnesota is 6-3 SU in its last 9 games
Minnesota is 7-1 SU in its last 8 games at home


10:00 PM CALGARY vs. SAN JOSE
Calgary is 5-2 SU in its last 7 games when playing San Jose
San Jose is 6-1 SU in its last 7 games at home
San Jose is 19-6 SU in its last 25 games

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Hockey Today

Boston at Montreal (7 p.m. EDT). The Canadiens, who have beaten the Bruins 10 times in 11 tries this season, will advance to the second round with a victory in Game 5.

STARS

-Marc Staal, Rangers, scored the tiebreaking goal with 3:13 left to help the New York Rangers beat New Jersey 5-3.

-Dan Hamhuis and Shea Weber, Predators, scored in a 32-second span in the first period to help Nashville defeat Detroit 3-2.

SWEEP

Pittsburgh completed the four-game sweep of its first-round series with Ottawa after a 3-1 win on Wednesday night. The Penguins recorded their first sweep in 16 years and first playoff series win since 2001 while avenging last year's first-round loss to the Senators.

GOAT TO HERO


Rookie defenseman Marc Staal helped the New York Rangers take a 3-1 series lead in the quarterfinals by scoring his first NHL playoff goal with 3:13 left to key a 5-3 win over New Jersey on Wednesday night. The Devils won Game 3 on Sunday when John Madden's centering pass went off Staal's skate and into the net for a 4-3 victory.

QUICK WORKERS


Nashville scored two goals in less than a minute for the third straight game on Wednesday night, tallying twice in 32 seconds during the first period of a 3-2 victory over Detroit that evened the quarterfinal series at two games apiece. The Predators scored 11 seconds apart in a Game 2 loss before becoming the first team to go from trailing to leading in less than 10 seconds by getting two goals in nine seconds late in the third period to take Game 3.

DUCK ON THE MEND

Corey Perry, Anaheim's top goal scorer (29) despite missing the last 12 games of the regular season, went through another full practice Wednesday without any apparent setbacks and hopes to play in Game 4 on Thursday night, when the Ducks will try to even the series against Dallas before returning home. Perry hasn't played since March 6, when the quad tendon above his right knee was lacerated by the skate of Colorado goalie Jose Theodore.

SERGEI STAYING

Sergei Samsonov, a midseason waiver-wire pickup who blossomed as the right wing on Carolina's second line, signed a three-year, $7.6 million contract Wednesday to remain with the Hurricanes. He had 14 goals and 18 assists in 38 games with the Hurricanes, who claimed him Jan. 8 after he was waived by Chicago.

SPEAKING

``There's a bunch of guys that aren't being hard enough and not giving enough effort. That's when things start breaking down and the puck ends up in the back of the net.'' - Calgary defenseman Robyn Regehr on the Flames blowing a two-goal lead in the final five minutes of Tuesday night's 4-3 loss to San Jose.


``You couldn't get much lower than last game. To silence 20,000 people is not a good feeling,'' - New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal on scoring the game-winning goal three days after a puck clipped his skate and went in for New Jersey's winning goal in overtime of Game 3. The Rangers beat the Devils 5-3 on Wednesday to take a 3-1 series lead in the quarterfinals.

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Ducks hoping to get top goal scorer back tonight; still underdogs
By ASSOCIATED PRESS

DALLAS (AP) - The pain was agonizing for Corey Perry.

Not the physical aspect of recovering from a freak quad injury. Instead, it was not being able to help his Anaheim Ducks teammates when they dropped into an early hole in their first-round Western Conference playoff series against Dallas.

''It was like pulling teeth out. ... Half the time, I was talking to myself,'' Perry said Wednesday, explaining how he felt watching the Ducks fall in a 2-0 hole. ''It was one of those things, I want to be out there so bad, it hurts.''

The Ducks got new life with an impressive 4-2 victory in Game 3 on Tuesday night, when they scored three goals on only four shots in the first 14 1/2 minutes. And now the defending Stanley Cup champions look like they are going to get another huge boost.

Perry, their top goal scorer (29) despite missing the last 12 games of the regular season, went through another full practice Wednesday without any apparent setbacks. The 22-year-old right wing hopes to play in Game 4 on Thursday night when Anaheim will try to even the series against the Stars before returning home.

Oddsmakers still have the Stars favored, however, at -125 and the total is set at five.

''It's getting better every day. I've been doing quite a bit to build up strength and get the leg back where it was,'' Perry said. ''Today, it felt pretty good. ... I've been pushing it pretty hard to get back it game shape. It's playoff time.''

Perry hasn't played since March 6, when the quad tendon above his right knee was lacerated by the skate of Colorado goalie Jose Theodore.

''Obviously, if he's able to go, it will be good for us,'' said Ryan Getzlaf, the Ducks' leading scorer and one of Perry's primary linemates. ''He's been great. He's getting all his strength back. Today, he looked really good.''

A final decision on if Perry will play in Game 4 won't be made until after the Thursday morning skate.

While coy about the plans for Perry, coach Randy Carlyle expects it to take some time for the former first-round pick to get back to top form whenever he's back on the ice.

''If we decide to play Corey Perry, we will ease him in. I wouldn't say that it would be a lock that he's going to start,'' Carlyle said. ''The guy's missed a lot of hockey and we're putting him in a real tough situation if we decide to use him. ... Sometimes it takes time for a player to get his feet underneath them. That's understandable.''

Especially with the intensity level ratcheted up in the playoffs.

The Stars, first-round flops the last three playoffs, will try to regain control of the series after a horrendous start before an initially raucous home crowd. They have lost seven of their last eight home playoff games.

''That's in the past. Those were different teams. This team has one loss at home,'' Steve Ott said.

''We have to get off to a better start,'' captain Brenden Morrow said. ''It's not a fear of playing at home. We're all comfortable here. I know expectations are high. Maybe it took us too long to get motivated. Our competitive level was nowhere near what it was on the road but it has nothing to do with the arena.''

But after playing nearly flawless and outscoring Anaheim 9-2 in the first two games on the road, the Stars came home with a 2-0 series lead for the first time since moving to Dallas 15 years ago - and allowed three quick goals.

So instead of taking a commanding lead in the series, the Stars ensured a quick return trip to the West Coast for Game 5, the night after Game 4 and a three-hour flight.

''(Game 3) was good for us and our confidence, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us,'' Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere said. ''Not just because we won is everything going to be easy now. Every game gets harder and harder to win and play.''

Giguere stopped 31 shots, four during a four-minute power play late in the third period after a double minor penalty, not long after Morrow scored two power-play goals in a 99-second span for Dallas.

Perry has gone through several practices in the past week, and is ready to play after his unexpected hiatus. When he got cut, he figured it would only take a couple of stitches to get him back in the game. Instead, it took surgery and five weeks of rehabilitation.

''It was a freak accident that happens one in a million times. That was the million-and-first,'' Perry said. ''If (doctors and coaches) give me the OK, it will be a huge relief. I just want to get out there and help the team.''

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Thursday's best NHL bets
COVERS.com

Colorado vs. Minnesota -125, 5

The Avs broke a string of three straight 3-2 games in this series when they hammered the Wild 5-1 in Game 4 in Denver. And then things got ugly.

The Wild started gooning and gave up 13 power plays to the Avs. Derek Boogard got tossed in the third with a misconduct and Stephane Veilleux mucked it up with just about everybody. Veilleux also served Paul Stastny with a nasty hit from behind that easily could have caused some damage.

This is playoff hockey. You might win a game with ease on the scoreboard, but it’s tough to walk away from those ones unscathed.

The series now turns back to Minnesota where Colorado should have a tougher time putting up goals.

Pick: Wild -125

Anaheim vs. Stars -125, 5

The Ducks looked like a new team in Game 3 when they topped the Stars 4-2 as +108 underdogs.

The Stars looked a little sluggish in the loss, but a huge key for Anaheim was special teams. The power play has been the biggest factor in this series all season long and the Ducks managed to at least tie that battle with the Stars when both teams scored two power play goals in Game 3.

Dallas had outscored the Ducks 6-1 on the power play in the first two games when the Stars jumped to a 2-0 series lead.

Anaheim’s PP should get another boost tonight if Corey Perry returns. Their leading scorer (29 goals) has been out since early March after getting his a tendon in his leg sliced open by a skate.

Pick:  Ducks +110

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