The NHL is set to begin with their return to play schedule. This is set to be the qualifying series between the five seed Pittsburgh Penguins against the 12 seed Montreal Canadiens.
Game 1 is set to take place Saturday, and the Penguins are heavy favorites to take the series.
One of the biggest keys of this series for the Canadiens will be the play of their goalie, Carey Price. When the Canadiens succeed, he is usually a big part of the reason.
But he hasn’t been like his old self as of late. He has struggled this season, having a 2.79 GAA. He hasn’t been used to having a number that high in his career in the net.
In positive news for the Canadiens, most of their injured players are back and ready to go. Max Domi had a few days off for medical attention due to his diabetes, but he has announced that he has decided to play.
Jesper Kotkaniemi suffered a spleen injury in March but has now fully healed.
The Canadiens will need to improve on limiting chances during the power play when the Penguins get the opportunity. The Pens have the ability to get to the net, and the Canadiens haven’t been great on limiting these chances during power-play situations.
The pressure is on the Pittsburgh Penguins in this series. Their moneyline is -152 for the game and -192 for the series.
They have plenty of talent and scoring to create some trouble for the Canadiens goaltender, Carey Price. This includes their star Sidney Crosby, who has enjoyed getting back to playing hockey after the break.
“I felt good physically. I felt good, I felt strong, just anticipating and making plays and that kind of stuff,” Crosby said after their first game back. “That’s just going to come with time. But for the most part, I felt really good. It was fun to be back out there.”
Jake Guentzel was able to use the time off to completely heal his shoulder injury. Nick Bjugstad and Dominik Simon will be out for the entire restart.
The Penguins need to take advantage of scoring opportunities in this one. They can create plenty but have had trouble capitalizing. Their head coach, Mike Sullivan, realizes the work to do in order for them to succeed.
“We need to be a whole lot better,” said Sullivan. “We’ve got a ways to go before we’re firing on all cylinders.”
In this NHL restart, anything can happen. It will be no surprise to see a couple of underdogs end up winning a qualifying round or two, but not sure it will happen in this matchup.
I don’t believe that Carey Price and the Montreal defense will be able to slow down the talent of Pittsburgh. This is a lopsided opening matchup in which most experts are riding with the Pens to win, as am I.
I’ll go with the Penguins puck line in this one for the price. -1.5 (+170)