John's Past Picks
The Oilers haven’t really found their stride to start this season yet and they lost earlier this season to the Blues 2-0. Jordan Binnington should be back in net after getting the last game off and the Blues have won all three games he has started. I like the Blues at home.
The Wild have looked brutal to start the season while the Canadiens are playing well. This is pretty much a value play, the Canadiens are solid at home and Marc-Andre Fleury has been awful to start this season.
The Penguins are coming off a game last night in Edmonton where they lost 6-3 and then they had to travel late last night to Calgary. The Flames have had three days off and they are 3-1-0 at home this season. Casey DeSmith should be starting tonight after Tristan Jarry got the start last night, I like the Flames at home.
The Red Wings were significantly better at home last season and it has proved true so far this season with the Red Wings going 2-0-1 at home. The Devils are coming off a game last night at home that they lost to the Caps and they will most likely be going with their backup goalie in Vitek Vanecek after he was off last night.
Why are the Yankees still favored? Lance McCullers Jr. is starting this game for the Astros and he didn’t allow a run in his first postseason start. He has plenty of playoff experience. Nestor Cortes Jr. has pitched well in his first two games but he hasn’t been able to go more than five innings. He also allowed 3 ER in 5 IP against the Astros earlier this season. Honestly, Cortes is the exact type of pitcher the Astros crush. They love facing lefties, especially lefties that pitch to contact like Cortes does. The Astros bullpen has been unhittable this postseason and the Astros were able to save their top bullpen arms last night in the win. The Yankees have scored 4 runs in the three games this series and they really don’t have anyone going right now. I like the Astros to break out the brooms for the sweep.
Zack Wheeler straight up dominated the Padres in Game 1 of this series allowing just 1 hit in 7 innings pitched. He was only at 83 pitches too, so he could have gone longer. Yu Darvish pitched well, but allowed two home runs that ended up being the difference. The Phillies are 4-0 at home this postseason and they were able to win last night while saving their top bullpen arms in Jose Alvarado and Seranthony Dominguez. They are in a great spot at home here to finish the series, I really don’t think they want to even chance a trip back to San Diego so they will go all in trying to win this game.
Christian Javier pitched extremely well in his two starts against the Yankees this season allowing just 1 run in 12 innings pitched. Gerrit Cole allowed just 1 run in 7 innings when he faced the Astros this season. However, Javier has pitched just 1.1 innings since October 1st so who knows how sharp he will be. Cole pitched really well in both his postseason starts, but the Astros lineup is much tougher than the Guardians. However, this is a must win game for the Yankees with Lance McCullers Jr. going Sunday for the Astros now. They can’t go down 3-0 in this series with their ace on the mound so I think if the Yankees are going to win a game this series, it has to be this one.
The Phillies will be amped up to play this game at home where they have yet to lose this postseason, but this play is mainly about Joe Musgrove. Musgrove has been dominant lately allowing just two runs in his last 24 innings pitched. He allowed just 1 hit against the Mets and pitched a quality start against the Dodgers. Ranger Suarez on the other hand has struggled to get deep in games, and that could prove a problem in extending the Phillies bullpen. The Padres struggle against lefties but Suarez has pitched just 3 and 3.1 innings in his last two starts. He only allowed 1 run in 3.1 innings to the Braves, but the bullpen was left very susceptible. Both bullpens have been pitching extremely well so I think whoever is winning going into the bullpens will end up winning this game, and I have to back the Padres and Joe Musgrove for that reason.
The Panthers were able to finally win a playoff series last season but then they were swept by the Lightning in the second round. The Lightning have gotten off to a slow start this season and it’s understandable. They know when to turn it on for the playoffs, they won’t make or miss the playoffs in the first month. I think the Panthers will also have revenge on their minds after the series last season while the Lightning won’t necessarily look at this game any different than any other. The Panthers were 34-7-0 at home last season, I like them at home tonight.
The Devils were 11-26-4 on the road last season so they really struggled, and they lost their only road game this season. The Islanders were better at home going 20-16-5 last season and they have won two of their three games this season. All were at home, and their loss was to the Panthers so that's understandable. The Isles have scored 7 and 5 goals their past two games, I like the Isles at home.
Framber Valdez and Luis Severino both pitched well against the opposing team during the regular season. So I actually think that matchup is closer to even. However, the Astros have the big bullpen advantage in both depth and quality. They also have the big lineup advantage as we saw the bottom of their order produce their runs yesterday. Valdez is a groundball pitcher while the Yankees are fly ball hitters, so it will be interesting to see which aspect wins. But I like the Astros to hold serve at home tonight.
These two teams have started the season in completely opposite directions. The Blues have played just one game so far, but they won it handily. The Kraken have played four games and lost three of them. They have also lost both their home games and allowed 5 goals in three of their four games. The Kraken were 16-22-3 at home last season while the Blues were one of the best teams on the road at 27-14-6. I like the Blues on the road.
Both these starters really struggled in their first appearance this postseason. Verlander allowed 10 hits and 6 ER in 4 IP to the Mariners while Jameson Taillon allowed 3 hits and 2 ER without recording an out. However, the Yankees had to play last night and travel. They also used all their top relievers to get here. Not to mention, they won a series last night so they were having fun in their clubhouse celebrating which can really only hurt them in terms of being hungover and the plane getting into Houston at a later hour. The Astros have the best bullpen in the league, and they are well rested in Houston. They have the much better lineup as well, the Yankees actually just won that series against the Guardians with the 5th lowest batting average ever to win in a Division Series or later at .182. This team relies on home runs, and I don’t think they will succeed too much against the Astros pitching staff.
The Padres were able to muster all of one hit in last night’s game and it was a single, so they will obviously need to pick it up to have a chance in this series, because they can’t go down 2-0 at home then play three games in Philadelphia. Aaron Nola will be tough to do it against though because he hasn’t allowed a run this postseason. He also pitched well against the Padres in the regular season. Blake Snell was much better in his last playoff start, but he struggled before that against the Mets. He also struggled both times he faced the Phillies this season. The Phillies also crush lefties so there really is a lot going the Phillies way in this game, but I think it will be a close game decided by a swing, so I think the Padres manage to even this series at home.
Both these teams have played well to start their seasons and it has led to both teams being undefeated so far. However, the Flames were dominant at home last season at 25-9-7 while the Knights just struggled overall last season missing out on the playoffs for the first time in their franchise history. Jacob Markstrom should be back in net after getting the last game off, and I just don’t think the Knights are for real. The Flames beat the Oilers and the Avs to start the season while the Knights beat the Kings, Blackhawks, and Kraken. I like the Flames at home.