Columbus +110 vs. WashingtonSeries Recommendation: Columbus
The Washington Capitals have been a perennial playoff team in the Alex Ovechkin era since 2008 as the Capitals have made the playoffs in nine of their last 10 seasons but they have not advanced beyond the second round in their previous nine playoff appearances during that span. Regular season success has not equated to playoff success for this team and that is despite multiple coaches being behind the bench. Washington will look to finally shake those playoff demons this time around but I think they will be in tough to even advance past the very opening round matched up against a Columbus Blue Jackets squad that played its best hockey in the final month of the season winning 13 of their last 16 regular season games excluding their final game against Nashville in which head coach John Tortorella opted to rest most of his top players in a meaningless season finale. Washington head coach Barry Trotz is rolling the dice with his goaltending entering the playoffs opting to go with Philipp Grubauer in net who had a good season but has no playoff experience over veteran netminder Braden Holtby who has started many playoff games in his career but is in the midst of one of his most uneven and inconsistent seasons in between the pipes for Washington.
Columbus has a lot more offensive depth up front among their four forward lines than in past seasons where as Washington's offensive depth drops off quite a bit once you get beyond their top six forwards and top two lines. Columbus has had a massive uptick offensively of late scoring 3+ goals in 14 of their last 17 games entering the playoffs. Their blue line is young but getting better and better with each game. 1st round draft pick Seth Jones has stepped up big time into a #1 defenseman role for Columbus and has thrived in it. The Blue Jackets might own the goalie edge here with Sergei Bobrovsky who had a very good season and was particularly sharp down the stretch when the Blue Jackets started to catch fire. Bobrovsky lost each of his two most recent playoff appearances for Columbus but he was tasked with facing Pittsburgh in the 2014 and 2017 Playoffs in what turned out to be a pair of opening round series losses for the Jackets and that is no easy task for any goalie. I think Bobrovsky is ready to learn from those experiences and take that next step forward and play at a high level in this year’s playoffs. The Stanley Cup title window is closing on Washington and it might just be opening for a very young and energetic Columbus squad. Washington is -130 and Columbus is +110 as the current series prices for this Eastern Conference first round series. The Blue Jackets currently listed as a small underdog on the series price to take down the Capitals is a bet that is worth making.
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