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The first round of the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs is nearly complete. There's still the matter of Wednesday's Game 7 between the No. 1 Washington Capitals and the No. 8 Montreal Canadiens. Great goaltending will take you far in life, and Jaroslav Halak has given Montreal just that with a .931 save percentage. The Habs are up 4.5 units in this series; they've been the underdogs in every single game, home and away.
The netminding hasn't been as sharp at the other end. Jose Theodore was given the quick hook in Game 2 after giving up a pair of goals in seven minutes. Semyon Varlamov replaced him, and while last year's playoff hero has posted a respectable .912 save percentage, that includes a few softies here and there. Halak, meanwhile, stopped 53 shots in Monday's 4-1 victory over the Capitals (-195) at the Bell Centre.
Despite being taken to the limit by the Habs, Washington was 3-1 on the Stanley Cup futures market as we went to press, down from 7-2 when the playoffs began. Montreal has moved up slightly from 40-1 to 35-1. Both teams benefit in this case from the elimination of the seven first-round losers. Here's how it all went down.
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No. 2 New Jersey Devils vs. No. 7 Philadelphia Flyers: Brian Boucher gets the last laugh. The embattled Flyers netminder was a rock, allowing a combined four goals in Philadelphia's four wins over the Devils. The Flyers earned 4.17 units and the UNDER went 2-1-2. Forward Ian Laperriere (20 points in 82 games) is expected to miss the rest of the playoffs for the Flyers with a brain contusion after blocking a shot in Game 5.
No. 3 Buffalo Sabres vs. No. 6 Boston Bruins: Once again, the underdog prevails thanks to brilliant goaltending. Tuukka Rask barely got the better of Ryan Miller in this one, winning all three games in Boston and keeping the Sabres power play off the scoresheet. The B's came out ahead 3.45 units. Marc Savard (33 points in 41 games) has been cleared to play in the next round for Boston.
No. 4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 5 Ottawa Senators: The Sens were able to give the defending Stanley Cup champions a run for their money, but lost all three games at home as Pittsburgh advanced in six. Ottawa still came out 0.76 units ahead. The OVER was 5-1 in this series as both teams struggled in net; Marc-Andre Fleury had a .890 SV% but was victimized by some unlucky bounces as well.
No. 1 San Jose Sharks vs. No. 8 Colorado Avalanche: The Sharks were well on their way to another playoff flop, but they found another gear in a pair of convincing wins over the Avalanche to take the series in six, earning half of a unit with the UNDER at 4-2. Dany Heatley (82 points in 82 games) suffered a lower-body injury in Game 2, but recovered to set up three goals for San Jose in Games 5 and 6.
No. 2 Chicago Blackhawks vs. No. 7 Nashville Predators: The Blackhawks also came back from a 2-1 series deficit by winning the last three games for a tiny 0.24 units of profit. But it was hardly with the same swagger as San Jose. Antti Niemi was hot and cold in net for Chicago, blanking the Predators twice but struggling in three of the other four games.
No. 3 Vancouver Canucks vs. No. 6 Los Angeles Kings: Once again, the top seed was down 2-1 before winning three straight. Vancouver went medieval on the Kings with 17 goals in those last three games to lift the OVER to a 4-1-1 record and set up a rematch of last year's Western Conference semifinal with the Blackhawks. Vancouver fans will be concerned (as they always are) about the goaltending of Roberto Luongo, who has an .893 SV% in these playoffs after a long season.
No. 4 Phoenix Coyotes vs. No. 5 Detroit Red Wings: The Coyotes were the underdogs in this series, and they were up 2-1 after three games. Detroit won the next two; however, Phoenix forced a Game 7 in the desert before coming up dry in a 6-1 loss. The Wings dropped 0.71 betting units and sent the OVER to a 4-1-2 record with some occasionally shaky goaltending by Jimmy Howard. That won't do against the Sharks.