NHL Odds and Picks: Washington Capitals at Boston Bruins, Game 7
by Alan Matthews - 4/24/2012
The first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs has been nothing short of terrific. We’ve had plenty of physical play (some of it questionable), key injuries and suspensions, and seemingly every game decided by a one-goal margin – with most of those going to overtime.
What we haven’t had, however, is a series that has gone to a winner-take-all Game 7. But the first one arrives on Wednesday night in Boston when the reigning Cup champion Bruins, the East’s No. 2 seed, host the seventh-seeded Washington Capitals.
Naturally, every game of this series has been decided by just a goal, with three going into overtime. The Bruins kept their repeat chances alive with a 4-3 overtime win in Washington on Sunday thanks to Tyler Seguin’s goal at 3:17 of OT. Seguin led the Bruins during the regular season with 29 goals and 67 points but was scoreless in the playoffs until Sunday (he also had an assist). The Caps battled back three times from one-goal deficits only to see Seguin send it back to Beantown for this decisive game.
Capitals at Bruins Betting Story Lines
The Bruins have yet to win two straight in this series. But Washington won’t be intimidated playing in Boston, having won Games 2 and 4 there. The Caps also won twice there in the regular season.
The Bruins know a thing or two about winning Game 7s. On their way to last season’s Cup, they won three Game 7s, including in the finals against Vancouver. It was the first time a team won the Stanley Cup by winning a seventh game three times along the way. Two of those were one-goal wins and the player who scored the winner in both, Nathan Horton, is out for the season for Boston because of post-concussion syndrome.
The Capitals have long been playoff underachievers in the Alex Ovechkin Era and Game 7s have not been kind to them as Washington dropped Game 7s to the Flyers in 2008, the Penguins in 2009 and the Canadiens in 2010.
There is a key injury to be aware of. Boston’s Patrice Bergeron, a finalist for the Selke Trophy, was the only Bruin to miss practice Tuesday, due to an upper-body injury. But he will suit up. Bergeron was hurt in Game 5. He played the entire Game 6, but was moved to the wing because he was not healthy enough to handle faceoffs. Bergeron, you may remember, had two goals in the 4-0 Game 7 finals win over the Canucks last year.
The big story of this series has been the performance of Caps third-string goalie Braden Holtby, who has for the most part outplayed reigning Conn Smythe and Vezina winner Tim Thomas. Holtby, 22, actually was pulled from an American Hockey League game last month. He has only gotten his chance due to injuries to the Caps’ top two goalies. He has faced 216 shots in six games - the most among goaltenders in the playoffs - and turned away 93.5 percent of them. And he would be facing even more shots, but the Caps lead all teams in blocks. In addition, the Capitals have been great on the penalty kill, allowing just two Boston goals on 20 opportunities.
Capitals at Bruins Betting Odds and Key Trends
Boston is a -200 favorite with Washington at +170; the total is at 5.0 on NHL odds. The Capitals are 4-1 in their past five as a road dog. Washington is 7-2 in its past nine games as a dog of at least +151. Boston is 1-4 in its past five games playing on two days’ rest. The under is 7-2 in the past nine meetings in Boston. The Bruins are just 7-17 in their past 24 games following a win.
Capitals at Bruins Betting Prediction
This is the first playoff series in NHL history where each of the first six games has been decided by a single goal. I would be shocked if Game 7 is any different. The biggest lead at any one time has been two goals, and that lasted less than three minutes.
Boston big guns appear to be waking up. Through Game 4, Milan Lucic, Seguin, David Krejci and Brad Marchand had zero points, and Bergeron had just one assist. In Game 5, Marchand (goal, assist), Lucic (assist) and Krejci (assist) all finally got on the scoresheet. And in Game 6, you had Seguin’s big game, while Krejci had a goal and assist, Lucic had two assists and Bergeron added an assist.
Between that and the vast experience that Boston has in this situation, especially in net, everything points to taking the Bruins. And about 60 percent of the early lean is on the B’s. But these playoffs have been all about what’s not supposed to happen. So I’m going with the value and taking the Caps at that fat number. I definitely like the under.
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