In a Stanley Cup playoff season that can best be described as bizarre to date, we wonder if we have only scratched the surface, and that more odd developments could be on the horizon. That would include a pair of teams looking to rally back from 0-3 playoff deficits for just the fourth time in NHL history.
In another future update, we’ll get to one of those in the Western Conference where Vancouver hosts Los Angeles in Game 5 on Sunday at Rogers Arena, as the Canucks look to continue that climb against the Kings. On Friday night, however, the ongoing trek from 0-3 focuses on Pittsburgh where the Penguins host Philadelphia in Game 5 at Consol Energy Center. The Pens kept alive and avoided the sweep with an emphatic 10-3 win in Wednesday’s Game 4.
They’ll drop the puck Friday at 7:30 p.m. (ET), with TV coverage provided by NBC Sports Channel. A check with the Don Best odds screen notes Pittsburgh at -180 on the win at the majority of Las Vegas wagering outlets, with the take-back on the Flyers hovering around +165. Puck Line prices show the Pens mostly at +165 when laying the extra goal, with Philly at -185 or thereabouts plus a goal.
It’s the total that has opened most eyes, however; as expected, oddsmakers have been forced to post a 7, slightly shaded to the “under” at -110, for Game 5.
A 7-goal total is rare, but wholly justified for a series that has more resembled NHL All-Star Game scorelines than traditional Stanley Cup playoff action. Through four games, a staggering 45 goals have been scored; over the last three games, that total is a hard-to-comprehend 38 goals. The combination of wide-open play, plenty of goal scorers, poor defense and goaltending has contributed to the unique offensive fireworks we have thus far witnessed in each game of this wild series.
This is also now the highest-scoring Stanley Cup series, through four games, in NHL history, exceeding by one goal the shootouts between Wayne Gretzky’s Edmonton Oilers and the Chicago Blackhawks from way back in 1985.
Leads are also risky in this series, as the winning side has come from behind in each of the first four games. Pittsburgh is also due to get high-scoring winger James Neal and another winger, Craig Adams, back from suspension for Game 5. Physical winger Arron Asham, however, still has three games remaining on his suspension for roughhouse antics in Game 3.
Pittsburgh might have reason to be encouraged after Game 4, mainly because goalie Marc-Andre Fleury finally asserted himself over the final two periods Wednesday night. MVP candidate Evgeni Malkin, after a slow start in the series, finally scored his first goal in the postseason in the 10-3 romp, which set a Penguins franchise record for playoff goals.
The Flyers are not too concerned about the trip to the new Igloo, where they’ve won seven of eight visits since it opener a year ago. But what might worry coach Peter Laviolette is the meltdown suffered by GK Ilya Bryzgalov in Game 4. Backup Sergei Bobrovsky does not appear to be a better option after getting shelled himself when Bryzgalov was pulled in the Pittsburgh onslaught at Wells Fargo Center.
Meanwhile, much like Pittsburgh, Detroit is facing a close-out game on Friday night in Nashville against the now-confident Predators, fresh off a pair of grinding wins at Joe Louis Arena. Consultation with the Don Best odds screen notes Nashville priced mostly between -130 and -135 on the win at various Las Vegas wagering outlets, with the take-back on the Red Wings hovering between +110 and +115.
The 5-goal total is shaded to the 'over,' priced roughly at -135; note that there have been five goals scored in three of the first four games of this series, with four goals scored in the other in a recurring pace and flow to proceedings.
For those interested in Puck Line prices, the Preds are being quoted as high as +240 when laying the extra goal, with Detroit laying between -275 and -290 when receiving the extra goal. Face-off time at Bridgestone Arena will be 8:00 p.m. (ET), with TV coverage provided by CNBC.
Nashville, which prior to this season had won just one playoff series in its existence since entering the league as an expansion franchise in 1998, is on the precipice of advancing to the second round, based largely upon solid defense and superb goaltending from the big Fin, Pekka Rinne, who has proven difficult for the Wings to solve. Rinne, who has pulled yeoman duty this season, appreciated the extra day off between Games 4 and 5, and has stopped at least 35 Detroit shots in each game of this series. Thus far, Rinne has stopped 130 of 138 shots vs. the Wings for a sold .942 save mark.
Rinne, who notched an NHL-high 43 wins for goalies this term, remains the key to Nashville’s advancement. But he is certainly not the only element that has been giving the Red Wings fits, as coach Barry “The Vampire” Trotz’ famed trapping defense continues to muck up proceedings at mid-ice and prevent Detroit from crossing the blue line with any manpower advantages.
The Preds are getting real contributions from late-season additions Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexander Radulov, each flanking David Legwand in Trotz’ number one line. Secondary scoring options, however, have come in handy for the Preds in this series, especially from winger Gabriel Bourque, a member of the fourth line along with Nick Spaling and Patrick Hornqvist and already having scored three goals.
No one has similarly risen in this series for the Wings, who continue to bear little resemblance to the side that once won 23 straight games at home this season. With that home-ice edge having been shattered in this round, Detroit looks in serious trouble and might not return to Motown for Game 6unless GK Jimmy Howard, who has been outplayed by Rinne in this series, rises up with a big effort.