The NHL has really gotten into the back-to-back game thing after easing the playoff teams into bubble action. We had two back-to-backs Tuesday, and now we have two of them Wednesday as, well. Since the first round is best-of-five, we're getting close to these series all starting to wrap up, so get your picks in while you can.
Here's some insights for Wednesday's slate...
Philipp Grubauer, COL at DAL ($37): Grubauer was having a very good season (2.63 GAA, .916 save percentage) until he got hurt. There seemed to be no health issues for the German upon his return to action, as he made 31 saves on 32 shots in a win. The Stars only averaged 2.58 goals and 30.6 shots on net per game, and the Avalanche should be able to give Grubauer offensive support he needs to earn a win.
GOALIE TO AVOID
Tuukka Rask, BOS vs. TAM ($38): Rask wasn't able to play in Boston's first playoff game due to an undisclosed reason, which is concerning. Sure, he had a .929 save percentage this season, but is he up to full speed? Even if he is, the Lightning scored 3.47 goals per game this year. That was tops in the league, making this a tough matchup for any netminder.
Brock Nelson, NYI at FLA ($19): Even in a shortened season, Nelson had a career-best campaign. It only took him 68 games to score 26 goals and notch 54 points, one more than he had last season. The Panthers had a 3.25 GAA and allowed 32.3 shots on net per contest, and they are on the second day of a back-to-back. Sure, so is Nelson, but I trust an offensive player more in that scenario than a defense, and the Panthers have some questions in net as well.
CENTER TO AVOID
Tyler Seguin, DAL vs. COL ($23): This was a rough year for Seguin, though you can blame that partially on his 6.9 shooting percentage. And yet, the start to the playoffs were not encouraging. In Dallas' first game, Seguin only played 17 minutes, didn't put a single shot on goal, and was a minus-3. He hasn't notched a point since February. Sure, for most of that time the NHL was on hiatus, but it's been a while since Seguin was on his game.
Phil Kessel, ARI vs. NAS ($17): What does Phil Kessel do? He gets points on the power play, of course. Even in a down year — his first with Arizona — he had 17 points with the extra man. That was a major step down for him, which means there is even more upside here. Now he's facing a Nashville team that had the 29th-ranked penalty kill, which is perfect for his skill set.
Alex Chiasson, EDM at CHI ($14): Chiasson is on Edmonton's top power-play unit. That's all you need to hear, right? He's getting time alongside Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl with the man advantage. This has been a high-scoring series so far, and the fact the Blackhawks have allowed 35.1 shots on net per contest means that probably won't change.
WINGS TO AVOID
Filip Forsberg, NAS at ARI ($20): I trust the Coyotes more on the second leg of a back-to-back than most, because they have quite the goaltending duo. Darcy Kuemper started Tuesday, but all that means is Antti Raanta in net for Arizona, who had a 2.63 GAA and .921 save percentage. The Coyotes also had the fifth-ranked penalty kill, so it's unlikely Forsberg will notch two power-play goals in a game again.
Ondrej Palat, TAM at BOS ($15): Yes, Tampa's offense was tops in the league, and Palat was part of that. However, he's not quite on the level of, say, Nikita Kucherov or Brayden Point. The Bruins did have the league's lowest GAA this year, so even if I am suggesting not to select Rask, it's not like I am expecting a high-scoring game.
Kris Letang, PIT at MON ($25): There are some strong defenses and goalies in action Wednesday, so I figured I would just grab a defenseman that may be pricey but is also reliable. Letang managed to score 15 goals on 177 shots in only 61 games, and he added 29 assists as well. He's routinely been one of the best offensive defensemen in the NHL, so I trust him. Plus, Montreal had a 3.10 GAA and the 19th-ranked penalty kill, so this isn't necessarily a terribly tough matchup.
Jakob Chychrun, ARI vs. NAS ($18): Chychrun had gotten hot before he got hurt right before the hiatus, and he finished the year with 12 goals in 63 games. That includes five goals with the extra man. As I previously noted, the Predators had the 29th-ranked penalty kill, and they also had a 3.10 GAA.
DEFENSE TO AVOID
Cale Makar, COL at DAL ($22): Makar had a rookie season to remember, as he managed 50 points in only 57 games. Of course, that was with a 9.9 shooting percentage, which is awfully high for a defenseman. The Stars collapsed in the third period against the Golden Knights, but this is still a team with a 2.52 GAA and .920 save percentage. I still consider this an extremely difficult matchup.
Torey Krug, BOS vs. TAM ($20): I talked about Tampa's formidable offense, but its goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy is no slouch either. He posted a 2.52 GAA and .917 save percentage this year, and he had rounded into form in 2020. The Russian netminder already made 31 saves on 33 shots in a shootout win over the Capitals in these playoffs. He can certainly stymie Krug and the Bruins, as well.