The Stanley Cup Playoffs roll on as every quarterfinals series now has one game in the books. On Thursday’s docket, we have four Game 2’s to enjoy. Here are our Best Bets from each of the matchups.
(9) Blue Jackets vs. (2) Lightning (TB Leads Series 1-0) — 3:00 PM EST
The traditional 16-team Stanley Cup Playoff got off to a roaring start when Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals needed five overtimes to find a winning goal. What is in store for Game 2 of this series that is surely to turn into a war of attrition after playing nearly three games in one night? That will most certainly be the most interesting thing to observe in this series going forward.
A loss in quintuple-OT does wonders for morale in addition to fatigue. The Lightning are determined to make up for last season’s embarrassing first-round sweep at the hands of this same Columbus Blue Jackets team, and they will put up enough offense in this game to survive the dead legs that are sure to hit each team as the game goes on.
We like the Lightning to begin to pull away in this series, as it took an otherworldly performance from Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo to keep the Jackets in the game for eight periods of play.
Prediction: Lightning 3, Blue Jackets 1
The Hook’s Best Bet: Lightning -1.5 (+140)
(12) Blackhawks vs. (1) Vegas Golden Knights (VGK Leads Series 1-0) — 5:30 PM EST
After a somewhat surprising beat-down of the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup Playoffs Qualifying Round, the young 12th seeded Chicago Blackhawks had a sudden ‘return to Earth’ moment in their Game 1 matchup against the Vegas Golden Knights, the top-seed in the Western Conference.
The Blackhawks were able to get past the Oilers in the qualifying round in large part because the Oilers were a two-man show of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, which is something the Vegas Golden Knights are not, as they boast what could be the deepest roster in all of hockey.
The Blackhawks are mostly configured in the same manner as Edmonton was before them. They are still a very top-heavy roster behind the play of veteran mainstays Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, with a questionable defense and a goalie that is also quite inconsistent.
For Chicago to have any chance in this series against Vegas, they will need Corey Crawford to stand on his head and outright steal games. In Game 1, he was nowhere near in the form he will need to be for this series to last longer than four or five games.
We believe the Hawks will come out playing with more of a sense of urgency today, but VGK is just too deep, too talented and too well-coached to allow themselves to let Chicago back in the series. The moneyline price for the Golden Knights will be a bit too steep, so we’ll stick with VGK on the puck-line.
Prediction: Golden Knights 4, Blackhawks 2
The Hook’s Best Bet: VGK -1.5 (+125)
(6) Hurricanes vs. (4) Bruins (BOS Leads Series 1-0) — 8:00 PM EST
Thanks to the marathon 5OT game between Tampa and Columbus, the Hurricanes and Bruins get to play on no rest in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal.
The Bruins had a rough showing in round-robin play, going 0-3 in their three matchups. They seemed to figure it out in Game 1 against Carolina though, as the rematch from the 2019 East Finals got off to a tremendous start with the Bruins surviving in double-overtime with a 4-3 Game 1 victory.
For the first time since the NHL resumed play after a four-month layoff, the Bruins looked like their old selves on Wednesday. The Bruins smothered the Canes on defense, holding them to only 28 shots across over four periods of play, and scored all four of their goals at even-strength.
For Carolina, they were able to get past an inexperienced Rangers team in the Qualifying Round despite playing that series without their best defenceman Dougie Hamilton. Hamilton is back for this series, but in Game 1 the Carolina defense looked like it wasn’t ready for the early-morning start.
In Game 2, we expect the Canes defense to tighten up to their usual form when Hamilton is in the lineup, and we think tired legs will start to enter the equation after being a day removed from playing a double-overtime game. The Bruins may have their number though, as they are now 5-0 against the Canes in the last two playoff series between the two teams, so for now we’ll ride the under in this one.
Prediction: Bruins 3, Hurricanes 2
The Hook’s Best Bet: Under 5.5 goals (-136)
(8) Flames vs. (3) Stars (CGY Leads Series 1-0) — 10:30 PM EST
Despite the Flames finishing in the 8-spot in the Western Conference, they are about the worst matchup the Stars could have hoped to face in the quarterfinals, and this was once again apparent in the Flames 3-2 Game 1 victory over the defensive-minded Stars.
The Stars are still waiting for that smothering defense that they rode to victory throughout the regular-season to show up to the bubble in Edmonton, as they have surrendered four goals per game in their three losses so far.
On paper, the Flames possess the best scoring threats in this series with the likes of Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk, but Dallas has the edge on defense and a big edge at goaltender.
This series has seven games written all over it, and while it may be somewhat risky to take a flyer on a Stars team that is 1-3 since play resumed and has not looked anything like their pre COVID-19 pandemic form, we think all the value here is on the Stars to figure it out and even up this series.
Prediction: Stars 3, Flames 2
The Hook’s Best Bet: Stars ML (-115)