Surprised to see me again? Welcome everyone to my new playoff special segment, the long awaited (but not really since they were only announced four days ago) Wednesdays picks by Vlad! Playoff hockey is an important enough part of the year to deserve itself a special treatment like that, so I'm excited for even more picks.
Now, if you're looking for an over-confident young man who thought he could tame playoff predictions as if they were a small helpless kitty, look no further. I stepped into last Saturday's games as if I had found the ultimate formula that won me the Nobel prize in hockey predictions, and I got brought back to Earth quite fast.
As a result, we'll enter today more grounded and simple-minded, to see where the trends are leading us.
Pittsburgh Penguins @ New York Rangers – Pick: Rangers
As disappointing as they've been so far this postseason, the Rangers won't dare get eliminated in five, at home, in front of their fans. That would be a tough blow for the city. Expect a newfound rejuvenated Igor Shesterkin, who's been a shell of his regular season for the past four games. He's posting a .905 save percentage and even had to be taken out of the game two days ago as he let in six goals in 30 shots on net. That being said, what do I always say about elite talent? They know how to get up from an embarrassing performance. Clearly, this postseason has exposed Shesterkin's lack of playoff experience and his capacity to perform on the biggest stage, but he's still more than elite. Expect a huge game from him to keep his team alive. I also predict New York's depth players to make the difference in this matchup. While your Artemi Panarin's and Chris Kreider's have performed adequately so far, I expect names like Filip Chytil, Kevin Rooney and Alexis Lafreniere to come up big and score the crucial goals to get the victory. These young guns may be lacking experience, but they certainly make up for it in talent and ferocity, which should give them an edge in the matchup tonight.
Washington Capitals @ Florida Panthers (Over/under 6.5) – Pick: Over
Many people consider game five of a series to be the most important one. Now, "many people" mostly refers to my dad and I, but everyone should. The losing team ends up having the herculean task to win two games in a row in order to move on to the next round. You know who I'm quite sure shares my opinion about the importance of this game? Florida and Washington players, as well as every other player in the league. These two teams specifically though will both be coming out hungry and untamed. So far, the Capitals have had two convincing wins, but guess who's only scored one goal in four games so far? Ohh that's right, recent 50-goal scorer Alex Ovechkin. Meanwhile, Florida are coming off a tough win, and they should be looking to bring back the offensive dominance they've displayed all season long. With Carter Verhaeghe being the only player having scored multiple goals so far, there's a plethora of forwards who'll be looking to light it up tonight.