NHL playoff picks: Columbus closes it out, Minnesota stays alive
Mark Blinch / National Hockey League / Getty

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We seem to be going back and forth here. After sweeping the first few days of the playoffs, we've flip-flopped between perfect and winless nights.

We were winless Thursday, so Friday sounds like 3-0 to me.

Edmonton Oilers (-135) @ Chicago Blackhawks (+115)

I was on the Blackhawks in Game 3 and was feeling a bit fortunate to have cashed given the nature of their win. The Oilers gift-wrapped the victory late and now face a must-win situation.

As sloppy as these games have been, things tend to change in a hurry when the prospect of elimination creeps into a series. We should see a drastic shift in tempo in Game 4. The Oilers can't afford to make life more difficult by playing so carelessly in their own end. What they've been doing thus far hasn't been working and adjustments are necessary.

Pick: Under 6.5 (-110)

Toronto Maple Leafs (-160) @ Columbus Blue Jackets (+140)

When Nick Robertson scored to put the Leafs up 3-0 in Game 3, I had this whole thing written about how it broke the Blue Jackets. It was a brutal goal that Joonas Korpisalo saves 99.99% of the time, and it had Columbus' playoff hopes hanging by a thread.

But the thing I forgot - and it's kind of huge - is you can't break the Blue Jackets. This is an incredibly resilient bunch - they battled through countless injuries this season - but to battle back from 3-0 down in a decisive Game 3 to put the Leafs on the brink of elimination is their biggest show of resiliency yet. This team is tough as nails, and Toronto is anything but.

The Leafs are, to put it delicately, a fragile bunch. This team can't close out a game, let alone a series. The weight of the world is on their shoulders, and as history has proven, this is not a group to come out swinging with their backs against the wall. With Elvis Merzlikins dialed in and significantly fresher for this back-to-back, Columbus finishes the job in Game 4.

Pick: Blue Jackets (+140)

Vancouver Canucks (+100) @ Minnesota Wild (-120)

I'm going back to the well with the Wild. Maybe this stubbornness will be my undoing, but even with Minnesota down 2-1 in the series, I'm still a firm believer its the better team. The Wild's second defensive pairing would be the Canucks' first and they have the sort of forward depth Vancouver could only dream of.

Game 3 was unquestionably the Wild's worst in the series, yet for a third time in three games they posted a higher expected goals for total. They've been the considerably better team at five-on-five throughout the series, and the underlying numbers back that up. Even on Thursday in a 3-0 loss, the Wild created 41 scoring chances to Vancouver's 21. Jacob Markstrom was incredible, but in a back-to-back with fatigue setting in, don't expect a repeat. The Wild will find a way to solve the netminder and force a winner-take-all Game 5.

Pick: Wild (-120)

(Odds source: theScore Bet)

Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.

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NHL playoff picks: Columbus closes it out, Minnesota stays alive
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