Let’s look at two potential upsets on the first day of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. As a handicapper/bettor, I’m confident both series will be 1-1 after two games and taking a shot here.
Because Pittsburgh has been here so many times (13 straight), they are going to get the benefit of the doubt, especially against a team that with limited playoff experience and one nobody thought would be here.
Pittsburgh’s numbers aside from wins and losses are not that much different from when they have won Cups with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang. The Penguins were 6th in scoring, 5th in power play percentage and slightly above average defensively. However, the depth and consistency from the non-stars have not been there all season and goalie Matt Murray has not been the same since surprise showing during the Cup run, both injured a great deal and less effective when playing.
The New York Islanders went from a sloppy defensive group that was more interested in getting up ice than playing actual defense. Enter jilted coach Barry Trotz who came to New York after Washington won the Lord Stanley’s trophy and one could only surmise he was deemed expendable. Trotz turns the Isles to the best defensive unit in the NHL and an eyebrow rising 2nd in the Metropolitan. To give an indication as to how unusual this finish was AFTER losing franchise cornerstone John Tavares to free agency, this is the first time in 31 years the Islanders have a home-ice series advantage!
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These teams split four games this season with the Pens taking the last two, however, they have not met since Dec. 10th. The crowd will be jacked for the Islanders and they will have a shot at winning, but we’ll go with experience and playmakers for NHL picks and take Pittsburgh.