The Pittsburgh Penguins have overtaken the Washington Capitals as Bovada Eastern Conference favorites, with the Pens at +140 and Caps at +150 entering Monday's Game 3 of their tied series in the Steel City. Both are +375 to win the Stanley Cup.
But the Capitals will be without one of their key players in Games 3-5 as defenseman Brooks Orpik was suspended for three games for a late hit to the head of Pittsburgh defenseman Olli Maatta in Game 2. Orpik received only a two-minute minor for interference on the play. Maatta was injured on the play and wasn't likely to play in Game 3.
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The Capitals are at least used to playing without Orpik. He missed 40 games from Nov. 12 to Feb. 13 because of a lower-body injury and the Capitals went 30-6-4 in that span. He also was out the final three games of the first-round series against Philadelphia with an upper-body injury. In five postseason games, Orpik is scoreless with six penalty minutes. He had three goals and seven assists and was plus-11 during the regular season. To his credit, Orpik accepted his suspension and called the league's decision "fair.'' He used to play on the Penguins with Maatta and considers him a friend.
The Game 3s in the other three series are all on Tuesday. The Lightning and Islanders drop the puck in Brooklyn with that series tied at one. The Bolts are -130 series favorites on BetOnline with New York at +110. Tampa star defenseman Victor Hedman has largely kept Islanders star John Tavares in check, but New York will have the last line change at home and thus Coach Jack Capuano should be able to keep Tavares away from Hedman more. Tavares was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft and Hedman was No. 2. In two games, the Islanders have recorded just 42 shots. Tampa is +525 to win the East and New York +650.
San Jose can take a commanding 3-0 lead against the Predators as that series shifts to Nashville on Tuesday. The Sharks are -700 on the series line and the Preds +525. San Jose probably deserved to lose Game 2 as it was outshot 39-25 and outhit 46-26. But Joe Pavelski scored the tiebreaking goal with 2:40 left in the third period. The Predators went 0-for-3 on the power play Sunday and are 2-for-31 in the playoffs. Pavelski certainly is in the running for the Conn Smythe Trophy thus far as he has had a hand in 10 of the Sharks' 21 total goals. He has scored six and assisted on four others. San Jose is now the +175 Western Conference favorite. Nashville is +1600.
Finally, the Stars-Blues series moves to St. Louis tied at one. The Blues are -135 on the series line and the Stars +115. Dallas' second-leading scorer Tyler Seguin has yet to play in the series but did skate with the team on Monday. Last Friday, general manager Jim Nill said Seguin would not be able to play until four to five days after he starts skating.
Stars coach Lindy Ruff could change goalies for Game 3. Kari Lehtonen made 31 saves in a 2-1 win in Game 1 on Friday but was pulled for Antti Niemi after allowing three goals on five shots in the first period of Game 2. Niemi made 19 saves before allowing the game-winner to David Backes in overtime. Dallas is now +200 to win the West as is St. Louis.
Maple Leafs' Rebuild Gets A Huge Boost
Bovada no doubt will have some NHL draft props available the week of the event, which is June 24-25 in Buffalo. And the big winners of the NHL Draft lottery held over the weekend were the long-suffering Toronto Maple Leafs. They finished with the fewest points in the league and won the lottery (only seventh team with fewest points to do so), meaning also the chance to draft top prospect Auston Matthews, a center.
The Arizona-born Matthews has compared favorably with Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid, the two super prospects from last year's draft. Both those guys lived up to the hype. Matthews. who starred with Zurich in the National League A, the top professional league in Switzerland, will be joining William Nylander, Mitch Marner, among others, on a franchise that is stockpiling young talent. Matthews would be the first American-born player since Patrick Kane in 2007 to be selected first. The 18-year-old is also set to represent the United States at the upcoming world championship.
The Leafs haven't picked first since the 1985 draft, when they selected defenseman/left wing Wendel Clark. Now the question in Toronto is if this makes it more or less likely that Tampa's Steve Stamkos will sign with his hometown Leafs in free agency (some think perhaps less likely because Stamkos considers himself a No. 1 center, which is where Matthews projects). The Winnipeg Jets moved up from sixth to second in the lottery, and the Columbus Blue Jackets moved from fourth to third.
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