There are only two games on the NHL slate tonight and one game that stands out. The Boston Bruins are in a back-to-back as they take on the Washington Capitals. This will be the regular season finale for both teams. Nothing is on the line, unfortunately.
The Bruins can tie the Capitals in points for the #2 seed, but Washington has the tiebreaker. The Capitals can tie the Penguins in points for the #1 seed, but Pittsburgh has the tiebreaker. So, both teams will go through the motions to a degree in what will be an appetizer for their best-of-seven playoff series.
Washington is the small -112 favorite at Bookmaker Sportsbook with a total of 5.5 heavily juiced to the over.
The starting point for this handicap is to point out that Jeremy Swayman will get the start for the Bruins. Tuukka Rask backstopped the B’s to a win last night, so it would have made sense that Jaroslav Halak would get one final tune-up for the playoffs. The 35-year-old is 9-6-4 with a 2.53 GAA and a .905 SV% on the season. He hasn’t been nearly as good as Rask, but has gotten ample time with the timeshare format that the Bruins have used.
He won’t, though. It will be Swayman, who is 7-2 with a 1.44 GAA and a .946 SV% in his nine games played. Perhaps Swayman has usurped Halak on the roster as the backup goaltender for the playoffs. He’s certainly played well enough in limited action to put up some fine numbers.
There are some individual benchmarks in play tonight for the Bruins, depending on who plays and who doesn’t. Brad Marchand needs one goal for 30. Patrice Bergeron needs two goals for 25. David Pastrnak needs two points for 50. Players like those round numbers, so that may be something you want to consider from a player props standpoint in a game like this, where individual numbers are going to overshadow actually winning the game.
As mentioned, the Bruins and Capitals will play in the postseason when that begins later this week. Boston was 4-1-2 against Washington up until this point, so the Bruins have matched up well in the head-to-head meetings, securing 10 of 14 possible points.
Who knows what the Washington lineup will look like tonight. Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and TJ Oshie have all been nursing injuries and Oshie has also been processing the death of his father. The Capitals have been so up against the salary cap that they haven’t been able to recall players to fill in, so they’ve gone with a shortened roster a few different times.
There would be no point in putting anybody at risk, so the Capitals may end up giving a lot of young guys and depth guys big minutes tonight. Only 11 forwards dressed for the Capitals on Sunday with six defensemen in the 2-1 win over the Flyers. Craig Anderson got the start in that one. It remains to be seen whether we’ll see Vitek Vanacek, Ilya Samsonov, or Anderson tonight.
Vanacek is 20-10-4 with a 2.74 GAA and a .907 SV%. Injuries are a problem for the Capitals up front right now, but the goaltending has been an issue all season long and one that could play a big role in the playoffs. Samsonov was injured early in the year, but has a 13-4-1 record with a 2.69 GAA and a .902 SV%. Anderson has only appeared in four games.
This is such a tough handicap not knowing who will play, but with only one other game tonight between Vancouver and Winnipeg, the pickings are slim on the ice at most US sportsbooks.
Bruins vs. Capitals Free Pick
The Capitals probably won’t be too interested in this one, as their goal is to try to get to the playoffs healthy. A guy like Swayman has a lot of incentive to play well and the Bruins are more likely to be engaged in support of the young guy to give him another big moment in his rookie season. I’ll take the Bruins here.
Pick: Boston Bruins