While I have been picking the winners at a close-to 70 percent clip all season, it is very important for my summer well-being to close out the final two Saturdays of the season just as strong. Intensity each team will put forth due to their playoff picture is a key factor in late season games. Teams already secure in the playoffs and their seed will not be as hungry as a team fighting for their playoff lives. Teams that have been eliminated on the other side of the coin, have players fighting for jobs next season. Intensity is a motivating factor in my late season picks and should be in yours as well. Good luck with your picks, but in all honesty, just mirror my Saturday selections below if you want a happy and winning Easter of hockey prognostication.
Atlanta at Pittsburgh 1:00 PM EDT
The Thrashers – with only 4 games left in the season are only 2 points back of 3 teams for the final spot in the Eastern playoff picture. Although Atlanta is 6-3-1 in their last 10, they are struggling lately by letting 7 of their last 12 points slip away in losses to Boston, Toronto, Carolina and Washington. Two of Atlanta's final 4 games are against Pittsburgh – a team they have already lost to in both of their games this season. Chris Chelios has played 5 games for the Thrashers down the stretch with no success as they are 0-5 with the 48-year old in the lineup. In goal, with Hedberg and Pavelec splitting duties recently, let's look at the career numbers for both goalies against the Pens.
Hedberg is 1-2 with a 3.45 GAA and an .862 SV%. Yikes! Pavalec is 0-4 and sports a 5.22 GAA and a dismal .843 SV%. Not good! The Pens are struggling lately as well and in their last 11 games have gone 4-4-3. Pittsburgh is playing their 4th game of a season long 6 game homestand. Malkin has missed his last 5 games with a bruised foot (probably heel) and has always targeted this afternoon game as his possible return date. We will see. The Thrashers haven't had many mid-day games this season, but don't seem to mind them as they are 3-1-2 before dinner. The Pens are very familiar with early games going 7-4-3 overall, this after starting the year 0-3. As motivated as Atlanta will be in this game, Pittsburgh should be able to match the Thrashers intensity as the Pens are trying to win their division.
Pittsburgh by 2 or more – Home plus Win – H+ (ProLine)
Ottawa at NY Islanders 2:00 PM EDT
Ottawa will be a dangerous 4th or 5th seed if they can roll into the playoffs as hot as they are right now. Winners of their last 6 games, Ottawa plays the Isles, Panthers, Lightning and the Sabres to close out their season. While it is unlikely the Sens can catch the Sabres for the division title, the last game of the year against the Slugs may mean something as far as th