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East Game 3s Ready to Thrill

There’s a frantic feel to this season’s NHL playoffs. Whether it’s because of the lockout-shortened season creating a quick postseason turnaround or that all 16 teams feel they have a shot at it this year, the playoffs are rough and ready and firing on all cylinders.

Monday night sees a pair of Eastern Conference Game 3s with plenty of riveting storylines and guaranteed actions. First up, Boston heads north of the border looking to break a surprising series tie with the Maple Leafs. Then Washington heads to Broadway looking to take a 3-0 lead over a New York Rangers side that perhaps has more reasons to win than any other team taking to the ice.

Read on for the BettingSports.com preview of this pair of must-see games.

Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs

(Series tied 1-1)

Toronto's upset of Boston in Game 2 has given life to this opening round series.

Toronto’s upset of Boston in Game 2 has given life to this opening round series.

Matchups between ‘Original Six’ sides are always worth tuning in for. Playoff series between ‘Original Six’ sides should be mandatory viewing for hockey fans. Monday night sees Game 3 between NHL originals Boston and Toronto.

It’s been 39 years since the Bruins and Maple Leafs last met in the playoffs (1974) and the two teams seem intent on making this series a remarkable one.

Boston got off to a strong start, thumping the Leafs 4-1 at TD Garden in Game 1. Much to the chagrin of the Bruins, and to the surprise of many onlookers, Toronto – making its first postseason appearance in nine years – rebounded with a tough display, and an even tougher 4-2 score line, nabbing home ice advantage in the process.

The Maple Leafs will now host their first playoff game in Toronto since 2004, ensuring an air of excitement north of the border, where the city’s only recent sporting bright spot was the Argonauts winning the Grey Cup last November.

Toronto will need to build on its solid Game 2 if it’s to stand any chance of advancing to the conference semifinals. Meanwhile, Boston will be intent on taking at least one, if not both games in the Queen City, and taking a step closer to making up for last season’s disappointing first round loss to Washington, which was hardly the follow-up to 2011’s Stanley Cup-winning season the team had wished for.

Despite returning home, the Maple Leafs are underdogs heading into Game 3. The opening line has the side at +114 while Boston sits at -126.

While Toronto (13-9-2, 28pts home) was fairly solid at Air Canada Center this season, the side actually scored one more point on the road. Boston (12-9-3, 27pts road) meanwhile was almost as good on the road as Toronto was at home, one of the reasons the Bruins finished five points ahead of the Maple Leafs in the Northeast Division.

Toronto will be without D Mike Kostka (broken finger) while Boston will be at full-strength.

Game 4 is scheduled for Wednesday, May 8 (7:00 pm ET).

Washington Capitals at New York Rangers

(Washington leads series 2-0)

Washington goaltender Braden Holtby has proven dominant so far this postseason.

Washington goaltender Braden Holtby has proven dominant so far this postseason.

Looking to avenge a 4-3 defeat to the Rangers in last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals, the Washington Capitals will make the journey up I-95 to Madison Square Garden Monday night (7:30 pm ET) for Game 3 of this first round series.

The third-seeded Capitals arrive in Manhattan with a 2-0 lead, thanks to Mike Green’s overtime effort in Game 2. With the scoreboard reading 0-0, the defenseman struck a 55-footer at goal at 8:00 of the overtime period, beating veteran goalie, Henrik Lundquist and sending the team home victorious.

The narrow victory accompanied a 3-1 Game 1 win which saw the Caps’ defense put the halters on the Rangers, who entered the series having scored 51 goals in 14 games (3.64 per game). That one goal came with 3:16 left in the first period, meaning it’s been 5+ periods and an overtime session (or 111mins 16secs) since the Manhattan side scored.

At 2-0, Washington looks good to advance to the conference semifinals for the third straight year and fourth in five years. It also looks good to make it three eliminations of the Rangers since 2009. However, things could change.

The Rangers are returning home and will be desperate to salvage something from a season of (mostly) disappointment. Favorites to win the Stanley Cup ahead of the season, losing this early will leave a lot of questions, not to mention a bad taste in the mouth.

If the Rangers are to get anything from the series they’ll need to tackle the conundrum that is Braden Holtby. Washington’s goalie has looked sharp, giving-up just one goal on 60 shots (.983 save percentage). In addition, the Caps’ penalty kill has seen off all seven of New York’s power play attempts. That needs to change also.

With the series switching back to New York, the Rangers open as the favorite heading into this game. New York is -142 on the moneyline, compared to Washington at +129.

The Rangers (16-6-2, 34pts home) fared well at Madison Square Garden this season, and will be happy to get back to Midtown after two tough games at the Verizon Center. Washington (12-10-1, 25pts road) kept a steady ship away from the capital this season, and registered a 3-2 OT win in its last trip to the ‘World’s Most Famous Arena’ back on Mar. 24.

For New York, RW Ryan Clowe (undisclosed) and D Marc Staal (eye) will be game time decisions. For Washington, C Brooks Laich (sports hernia) is out.

Game 4 is scheduled for Wednesday, May 8 (7:30 pm ET).

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