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Four days into the Stanley Cup playoffs, six of the eight first-round series are tied at 1-1. The Carolina Hurricanes and Colorado Avalanche are the only teams that have 2-0 leads, and both of those favorites appear well on their way to advancing to the second round.
As for those six series that are tied? Many of those could truly go either way. There are four Game 3 matchups on Friday’s schedule, and three of those are from series that are knotted up. So these could be important games in deciding how the rest of those opening-round series will unfold.
Here’s a look at Friday’s slate of games, followed by some predictions and storylines for several matchups.
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Game 3: Carolina Hurricanes (+110; bet $ 100 to win $ 110) at Boston Bruins (-135; bet $ 135 to win $ 100), 7 pm ET, TNT
Game 3: Toronto Maple Leafs (+100) at Tampa Bay Lightning (-120), 7:30 pm ET, TBS
Game 3: Minnesota Wild (+100) at St. Louis Blues (-120), 9:30 pm ET, TNT
Game 3: Edmonton Oilers (-140) at Los Angeles Kings (+120), 10 pm ET, TBS
Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook
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Karl B DeBlaker / Associated Press
The Hurricanes have had the Bruins’ number all season, and not just since the playoffs began. During the regular season, Carolina went 3-0 against Boston, winning the trio of matchups by a combined score of 16-1.
Now, the Hurricanes have jumped out to a 2-0 lead in their first-round postseason series against the Bruins, winning each of the first two games on their home ice. Carolina opened the set with a 5-1 win. Then, it took further control with a 5-2 victory in Game 2. That means the Hurricanes are now outscoring the Bruins 26-4 this season.
One thing to monitor for Carolina is the status of goaltender Antti Raanta, who exited Game 2 with an upper-body injury. The Hurricanes still won despite Raanta’s early departure, and the netminder could be back for Game 3 in Boston, as he was on the ice during Thursday’s off-day. Head coach Rod Brind’Amour said it was “a good sign,” per NHL.com’s Kurt Dusterberg.
Whether it’s Raanta or backup Pyotr Kochetkov in the net, Carolina is the better team. And it’s likely going to keep on rolling, as it is clear that this matchup against Boston is a favorable one for the Hurricanes.
Expect Carolina to keep building momentum, winning Game 3 and then going on to sweep Boston, which can’t find any way to slow the Hurricanes’ offensive attack.
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The first two games of the series between the Wild and Blues were completely different. In Game 1, Minnesota goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury allowed four goals in a lopsided 4-0 loss. But he bounced back in Game 2 and recorded 32 saves as the Wild evened the series with a 6-2 win.
Even though Fleury struggled in the opener and Minnesota could have switched to Cam Talbot in the net, it stuck with Fleury, who looked more like the netminder who is a three-time Stanley Cup champion in Game 2. It also helped that the Wild’s offense got going, in large part thanks to a hat trick from Kirill Kaprizov.
“It was a fun game to play, and hopefully we have many more,” Fleury said, according to Dave Campbell of the Associated Press.
Now, the series shifts to St. Louis for Games 3 and 4. And now that Fleury had a strong performance, it would not be a surprise to see him string a few together. If that happens, Minnesota could get on a roll, too.
That’s why the prediction here is that the Wild will go on the road and notch a Game 3 victory to take the lead in the series for the first time. It’s quite possible the Blues will later respond and this series will go six or seven games. But for now, Minnesota seems poised to start a winning streak by carrying over its success from Game 2.
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It was incredibly difficult for opponents to score against Oilers goaltender Mike Smith in April. Over nine games, he had a 1.66 goals-against average and a .951 save percentage, and Edmonton won every time he started during the month.
Yet in Game 1 of the Oilers’ first-round playoff series against the Kings, Smith allowed four goals in a 4-3 loss. That came after Smith had allowed two or fewer goals in seven of his final eight regular-season games. So it was a bit of a surprising showing to open the postseason.
But in Game 2, Smith rebounded by tallying 30 saves and shutting out Los Angeles in Edmonton’s 6-0 win.
“To be honest, I did not really feel too bad in Game 1. I made one bad play and it cost us the game,” Smith said, per NHL.com’s Derek Van Diest. “I think I just carried the same kind of mindset into tonight and wanted to put in a good showing, especially after you feel like maybe you’re the cause of a loss.”
Now, perhaps Smith could do it again. The Oilers are back on track, and they should continue to have success against the Kings. Smith will likely play well again on Friday, and a second consecutive shutout should be a possibility.
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