April 17, 2023
Three suggestions for early-in-the-week action
Florida Panthers at Boston Bruins
TD Garden – Boston, MA
7:30 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Boston -200
There’s no doubt that Boston had a historically great regular season, setting all-time NHL records for both wins (65) and points (135) on their way to the most-dominant year in league history. And while they only skated off the ice losers in 17 games, two of those came against Florida.
The Panthers got them 5-2 on Nov. 23 for one of the Bruins 12 regulation defeats and 4-3 in overtime on Jan. 28. That’s remarkable, considering Florida had to sneak into the playoffs as the last wild card in the East, topping the Penguins by just one point, 92 to 91.
But maybe last year’s Presidents’ Trophy winner can skate loosely without all that pressure? After all, Boston is a ridiculous -360 to win this series and overwhelming favorites to win the Stanley Cup at +300. But the Panthers proved they can hang with the Bruins during the regular season, as shown by their two wins.
Florida was hot down the stretch, winning six in a row to claim its spot before Pittsburgh eventually bowed out and their last two games weren’t quite as significant. During that streak of victories, the Panthers outscored their opponents 28-9, clearly putting their foot on the gas at the right time.
Matthew Tkachuk lived up to all the hype this season. The winger recorded 109 points, with 40 goals and 69 assists, and will need to be great for his team to have a chance in this series.
Sure, this is taking a chance, but Florida is playing with house money, while all expectations are on Boston, trying to break the Presidents’ Trophy curse. It’s worth a shot, as Florida steals Game 1 and this series gets instantly spicy.
Norm LaChatlier’s pick: Florida M/L (+190)
Brooklyn Nets at Philadelphia 76ers
Wells Fargo Center – Philadelphia, PA
7:30 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Philadelphia -10.0
Philadelphia has had Brooklyn’s number this year, going a perfect 4-0 against the Nets in the regular season. The Sixers continued that dominance in Game 1, winning with ease by 20 points to move to 5-0. It didn’t make a difference if it was the Kevin Durant / Kyrie Irving version of the Nets or the version that looked so different after the trade deadline, the 76ers were simply the better team.
In Game 1, they won every single quarter by at least three points, methodically building a lead and never leaving a doubt who was going to win the contest. Likely MVP Joel Embiid didn’t even have that great of a game, putting up 26 points and just five rebounds. That should be a concern for Brooklyn, given the fact Embiid didn’t play out of his mind and they still got cooked.
But the Sixers were balanced, as James Harden had 23 points and 13 assists, while Tobias Harris chipped in 21 points of his own. While 10.0 points is a big spread, the reality is Philadelphia is simply the better team.
Teams need stars to win in this league, and the Nets have exactly zero of them after shipping both their top players out of town. Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson and Spencer Dinwiddie are all fine players, but they’re best suited to play a role, not have to lead a team.
Unfortunately for fans in Brooklyn, that’s just not a group that will ever hoist a trophy or even win a playoff series. Heck, they might not win a playoff game. The 76ers will start to think about busting out their brooms after crushing the Nets by double digits on Monday night.
Jason Schlefsky’s pick: Philadelphia -10.0 (-110)
Golden State Warriors at Sacramento Kings
Golden 1 Center – Sacramento, CA
10:00 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Golden State -1.5
For all the talk about Golden State’s road record in the regular season (and it deserved to be talked about because 11-30 is awful), the Warriors looked up for the task of playing away from home on Saturday night in Sacramento. Sure, they lost, but Steph Curry had a look to tie it at the buzzer that feels like it’s going to go in more often than not. Steve Kerr will take his chances with that shot any day of the week.
So, are the defending champions really going to go down 2-0 in this series? They went 5-5 on the road in the playoffs a season ago, including at least one road victory in every series. That’s impressive, as Golden State earned wins in Denver, Memphis, Dallas and Boston on their way to yet another championship.
Every time they had to play back-to-back road games in each of those four series, they earned a split. That’s what good teams do in the postseason, protect homecourt and find a way to win half the contests on the road.
The atmosphere in Sacramento was absolutely electric for Game 1, but the young Kings went just 23-18 at home this year. No matter how great a crowd is, that’s a product of their youth.
That inexperience will show up on Monday night, as the Warriors lean on their veteran experience to get this series tied 1-1. This is shaping up to be the best showdown in the entire NBA in Round 1.
Jason Schlefsky’s pick: Warriors -1.5 (-110)
Today’s best packaged deal
- Carolina Hurricanes M/L (-170)
- Dallas Stars M/L (-140)
- Edmonton Oilers M/L (-180)
Norm LaChatlier’s Three-Leg Parlay = +316
While Florida looks like a team that could get a road win to start their series with Boston, the other home teams should take 1-0 leads tonight. Carolina had the second most points in the NHL this season. The Stars had the best goal differential in the Western Conference. And Edmonton is riding a nine-game winning streak.
Three Things We Learned…
Takeaways from a weekend full of great games and performances
Gerrit Cole is the best pitcher in baseball
The Yankees ace has been great all season, highlighted by a dominant performance on Sunday. Against the Twins, Cole surrendered just two hits en route to a complete-game shutout. He struck out 10 Minnesota hitters in the dazzling performance. He’s now 4-0 on the season, with a paltry 0.95 ERA. Less than a month into the season, Cole is clearly the Cy Young favorite in the American League.
The Nuggets can flip a switch
Since the All-Star break, the Nuggets were a pedestrian 12-11. Yes, they captured the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, but they were less than inspiring down the stretch. They just didn’t look like the same team that once had a seven-game lead over their nearest competitor out West. As a result, most people were picking the Suns, Warriors or even the Lakers to reach the NBA Finals. But in a Game 1 win over the Timberwolves, the Nuggets looked like themselves, dominating Minnesota in 109-80 blowout victory.
Light the Beam!
It had been 17 years since the Sacramento Kings had been in the playoffs. That was the longest postseason drought in NBA history. So, it wasn’t surprising that fans were ready for their first-round opener against the Warriors. People were lined up outside Golden 1 Center hours before the game. And once inside the building, the atmosphere was electric. In a world where sports have gotten more and more corporate, it was nice to see that a team can still bring a community together. What’s happening in Sacramento is special