While some people might prefer basketball and baseball over hockey, I am a firm believer that the Stanley Cup Playoffs are the best postseason in any sport and the addition of the qualifying round has added to the intensity. Luckily, only one of the eight matchups resulted in a sweep, so there is still a lot on the NHL card for the next few days.
Without further ado, let’s breakdown the Stanley Cup Qualifier matchups for Thursday:
Vancouver Canucks vs. Minnesota Wild
Pick: Minnesota Wild ML (-111)
Even though Vancouver won game two of this series, I was a little bit concerned with the way that the Canucks closed that game out. Allowing two goals in the final minute showed to me that Vancouver struggles a bit to close out games and it makes sense when one factors in the youth of this squad.
Minnesota is the significantly more experienced team and the veterans know just how important this game is if the Wild plan on advancing to the next round. As a result, I think that there is some value on the Wild as the slight favorite.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Pick: Under 5.5 Goals (-126)
While both teams have been successful at different points in this series, one consistent variable has been the lack of goalscoring from both sides. The first two games have only totaled five goals combined so I am okay with laying a bit of juice on a total this high.
Columbus seems content to play a counter-attacking style of hockey against Toronto and I think that the low-scoring trend will continue through game three as this game should feature around four goals once again. As a result, I will take the under.
Calgary Flames vs. Winnipeg Jets
Pick: Calgary Flames -1.5 (+170)
Even though Winnipeg is facing elimination, Calgary has looked like the much deeper and more talented team so I think that this is a mismatch.
Winnipeg is also most likely going to be without Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine, who are their best two offensive players. That gives Calgary significantly more offensive firepower, which makes me concerned about Winnipeg’s ability to keep up if this game turns into a high-scoring affair. Plus, Winnipeg has committed a ton of penalties so far this series and I expect that trend to continue in game three. As a result, I think that Calgary will win this game by at least two goals.