The Philadelphia Flyers lost their last meeting with the Boston Bruins, but they'll begin the Stanley Cup playoffs with a chance for payback in Saturday's round-robin opener.
While 16 other teams fight to get into the NHL postseason's Round of 16, these clubs have already qualified. Boston won the East, and Philly was fourth. The top four teams in each conference play a three-game, round robin to determine final seeding.
Can the Flyers bounce back from being shut out versus the Bruins the last time around? Or will the B's remind everyone why they're the beasts of the East? To better answer these questions as it pertains to betting, check out abe Insights' preview of this potential Eastern Conference Finals matchup.
Date: Sunday, August 2
Time: 3 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Flyers 47%; Bruins 56%
Spread: PHI +1.5 (-210); BOS -1.5 (+210)
Moneyline: PHI +115; BOS -127
Big news broke on this front Saturday when the Bruins revealed superstar goalie Tuukka Rask was feeling under the weather and didn't practice. Unclear if this is related to COVID-19, but it's nevertheless a big concern. Hopefully Rask isn't down for long, because the Bruins deserve to be a full strength for the playoffs.
Although some might view Boston to be at a disadvantage at the all-important netminder spot due to the presence of Flyers prodigy Carter Hart between the pipes, that's not necessarily the case. Rask's backup is Jaroslav Halak, and all he did was go 18-6-6 with a 2.39 GAA. That latter total happens to be identical to Halak's playoffs GAA in 30 games.
.671 vs. .515: Considering this game will be played on neutral ice in Toronto's Scotiabank Arena, it's worth noting that the Bruins had a far superior point percentage than Philadelphia on the road this season. The home-reliant Flyers may find it especially tough not playing in Philly — and not having fans around.
2.37 vs. 3.56: To further emphasize how underwhelming the Flyers were away from home, their goals allowed per contest is the second number in this stat duel. The first number is the Bruins' average, which was easily tops in the NHL.
4.42 vs. 3.00: Lastly here, that initial set of digits is the goals scored average for Philly across the 14 games leading up to its last encounter with Boston. The next stat is what the Flyers averaged in three games against the Bruins — even including the 2-0 shutout loss.
Expounding more on the goalies for a beat: Halak was in net for the two losses Boston suffered to the Flyers this season. It was Rask who notched a 36-save gem to avoid a season series sweep. The big question mark for Hart is experience, and he can't help that. Sometimes goalies can thrive in an "ignorance is bliss" type of situation. It definitely helps Hart's cause that the Orange and Black have such an explosive offense to support him.
But it can't be ignored just how much better Hart was at home versus away. When the 21-year-old conceded two goals to Boston the last time around, that was at home. How about another number set, though? Hart's home/away GAA splits are 1.63/3.81. That's more than a two-goal difference per game, which is just too vast a divide to ignore.
Meanwhile, the Bruins are actually a little statistically better in terms of playing defense when they don't have the benefit of a friendly arena. They have a more battle-tested core of players, but of course Rask is about as good as it gets guarding the crease. If he can't play, that changes the complexion of Sunday's game.
Halak is certainly no slouch despite the defeats to this particular Sunday's opponent, and has 28 postseason starts under his belt, including 18 for Montreal en route to the 2010 Conference Finals. Granted, that was many moons ago — and funny enough, against the Flyers — and he last appeared in the playoffs with the Islanders back in 2015.
Due to the uncertainty surrounding Rask's status and the significant drop-off in form Hart has shown outside of Philly's Wells Fargo Center, look for bets to migrate rather heavily toward the Over goal total.
The moneyline and spread are indicative of how good both these clubs are, but Boston owns clear favorite status. Again, check in on whether Rask suits up or not, so wagers should reflect a penchant for the Flyers moneyline and a no-brainer hedge with the great odds for Bruins at -1.5.
One more fact worth knowing: Philadelphia had a 16-18-3 road record overall in 2019-20. That could wind up pushing the action toward Boston as the outright winner, regardless of who starts between Rask and Halak.
Note: Odds current as of 6:00 a.m. ET on Sunday, August 2.
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