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NHL Picks: June 24

By Michael Harty

The Stanley Cup will be in the building Friday night for Game 5, as the Avalanche try to finish the Lightning off. Coming off a “controversial” Game 4 winner, Jon Cooper’s crew will have to try to find a way to rally in hopes of keeping their season alive. The battered and bruised Lightning could most likely be without defenceman Erik Cernak, as well as Brayden Point. On top of all the guys knowingly playing through injuries, the Lightning roster is very thin. 

The always controversial Nazem Kadri was the benefactor of the potential too many men missed call, as he gutted it out playing through his injury to score the game-winner, sending the series back to Denver. After a first period that was seemingly dominated by Tampa, the Avalanche star Nathan Mackinnon finally joined the scoring party in the second, as a puck deflected off his skate and past Vasilevsky to tie the game at 1. With the Avalanche top guns firing on all cylinders, it will be a tall task for this veteran Tampa team to extend the series.

Coming off his first Norris Trophy, Cale Makar was simply exceptional. Registering 5 Shots on goal and 12 shot attempts over 34 minutes of ice time. If Colorado hoists the cup, expect to hear his name called shortly after as the Conn Smythe Winner. Makar, a Junior A product has not only turned himself into the league’s best defenceman but like his teammate, Mackinnon has said, he’s making a case for one of the top players in the entire league. 

In front of what should be a raucous crowd on Friday night, I don’t see how this young Avalanche team doesn’t come out of the gates on fire. Although you never want to count out this Tampa crew, coach Cooper all but admitted defeat in his post-game presser after Game 4. Admitting how proud he was of this group and how hard they fought, doesn’t sound like a guy who is too optimistic about his crew’s chances at staging a comeback. I wouldn’t fault anyone for laying the juice with Colorado, or if they wanted to take them to win in regulation at a cheaper price, however, I will be going a different route. As someone who is already holding Avalanche futures, I don’t plan on doubling down on them and instead will go back to Cale Makar well. Given his absurd level of volume over the course of the series, the 2.5 line is seemingly far too low in my opinion. 

Recommended Wager: Cale Makar OVER 2.5 Shots on Goal at Caesars (-169)

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