2013 NHL Stanley Cup Finals: Boston at -1.5 on Game 3 Betting Line

boston-chicago-nhl-finalsThrough two games, the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Finals has been a real nail-biter. The Chicago Blackhawks won a triple-overtime thriller in the first game. But the Boston Bruins were able to even the series thanks to a Brandon Bollig goal during overtime in Game 2.

It’ll be interesting to see if things remain this close as we head to Boston for Game 3 of the NHL Finals. GTBets.eu has the Bruins favored on the betting line, as you can see below:

Chicago  +1.5  (-290)
Boston  -1.5  (+245)

This is definitely a conundrum since Boston needs to win by two or more goals for a successful wager, but bettors stand to win $145 in profit ($245 total) for every $100 wagered. Many people might find Chicago an attractive bet in Game 3 since they’re being spotted 1.5 points. However, you’re also risking $290 to earn $100 in profit, which could be risky since the Blackhawks are in unfriendly territory.

Assuming you’re looking for some analysis on tonight’s game, which airs at 8:00pm EST, you can take a look at our thoughts below.

Expect Another Close One

boston-chicago-nhl-finals-1If the first two games of this series are any indication, you can expect another tight contest. Now this isn’t to say that Game 3 won’t eventually be decided by two goals; but you can expect it to remain tied or within one goal for the bulk of the contest.

Of course, for the game to stay close, we think Chicago needs to weather the storm in the first period. Boston will have an emotional boost since they are playing their first 2013 NHL Finals game at home. And the TD Bank Garden crowd will no doubt be going crazy in the beginning. But with how well Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford has been playing in the playoffs, don’t expect Chicago to get overwhelmed early.

Will Boston’s Four-Line Attack Return?

boston-chicago-nhl-finals-2One of the Bruins’ biggest strengths throughout the 2013 NHL Playoffs has been their vaunted four-line attack. This is a really deep team that’s used four lines to wear down and, at times, dominate opponents. But with such tight contests against Chicago, we’ve really only seen Boston employ a three-line attack.

Many people are wondering whether the Bruins will go back to four lines again in an attempt to keep everybody rested and playing at full capacity. As for our thoughts on the matter, Boston may be better off just sticking with three lines for the remainder of this series. The point of playing four lines is to keep your team healthy throughout a long regular season. And since there are just 3-5 games left for Boston, they’ll likely continue putting their best players on the ice again and again.

Can Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews get going Again?

Both Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were instrumental in the latter half of the Western Conference Finals against the L.A. Kings. However, they’ve been extremely quiet in the Stanley Cup Finals after combining for 1 point. If Chicago is going to win in Boston, it’s very important that they get Kane and Toews going. These two need to provide Patrick Sharp with some support on offense and get the puck past Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask.

Of course, this is going to be a lot easier said than done because Boston has the best penalty-killing team in the NHL. So the series could ultimately come down to how well Chicago’s big guns do against the Bruins on the power play. This is strength vs. strength, so it’s difficult to predict who’ll emerge victorious.

Good Season for Pittsburgh Penguins, Terribly Disappointing End

pittsburgh-penguinsThroughout the lockout-shortened 2013 NHL season, one thing was clear about the Pittsburgh Penguins: they could score goals. All year, opposing defenses and goalies had to deal with a nightmare lineup that included Sidney Crosby (56 points), Chris Kunitz (52 pts), Pascal Dupius (38 pts), Kris Letang (38 pts), James Neal (36 pts) and Evgeni Malkan (33 pts). This being said, if there was one thing Pittsburgh was destined to do right in their Eastern Conference Finals series against the Boston Bruins, it was score goals….at least in theory.

However, theory definitely didn’t meet reality in this series as Boston pulled off an improbable sweep. Not only is it amazing that the Penguins failed to win a single game in this matchup, but they only scored two goals over the four-game stretch. Sure Boston’s defense is good, but is it this good!?

As their series against Pittsburgh showed, Boston’s defense is better than good – it’s exceptional. They did pretty much everything right defensively and Tuukka Rask was outstanding in the goal. Rask was especially noteworthy here because he faced the league’s best offense for four straight games and came out with two shutouts and 0.5 GAA.

Sidney Crosby, Anton KhudobinAnother point worth making here is how the Penguins were rendered completely ineffective on the power play. Boston is one of the best penalty-killing teams in the league, and they put these talents on display after holding Pittsburgh scoreless on power plays.

Of course, it’s worth mentioning in all of this that, despite not winning a game or ever having a lead, the Penguins did make the series much closer than it appeared. Only Game 2 got out of hand (6-1 loss), and Pittsburgh fought hard to keep every contest close.

Boston coach Claude Julien hit upon this topic during the Game 4 post-game press conference. “This series here against Pittsburgh was not a 4-0 series,” he said. “I really felt that the breaks went our way in this series on a lot of occasions. You just have to look back right at the end of the game, where Malkin has the open net and Zdeno (Chara) makes the arm save. They dinged some shots off the post. If those go in, it’s a different series.

sidney-crosby“That’s the unfortunate part of this game, you know, sometimes as a team, you don’t get the breaks and you wonder what you have to do. I think that’s where Pittsburgh was a little snake-bitten that way, and we were the team that was taking advantage of our breaks. That’s not to say we didn’t play well, because when you allow two goals to a team like that in four games, your team certainly deserves some credit. I think defensively our guys did a great job against their top players of taking away time and space.”

Crosby also offered some post-series analysis and gave Boston credit for their defensive pressure. “You know what? There weren’t times where we were worried, to be honest with you,” he stated. “Where we felt like we were losing momentum. There’s times where you get three, four shifts where they’re hemming you in and you feel like they’ve got a lot of pressure. There wasn’t really any point besides that second game where we felt like that.

“If you look back and chances are there, I mean, you try to fight, you try to get through to the net and get rebounds, and sometimes they come to you and sometimes they don’t. Obviously, you score two goals as a team in four games, and personally to go without any points, it doesn’t sit very well.”

Now the Pittsburgh Penguins organization has a long offseason to think about what went wrong in a season that was otherwise so right. We’re likely to see changes on the roster, although it’s not clear what changes are coming.

dan-bylsmaGoalie Marc-Andre Fleury is likely headed somewhere else after being pulled in the first round of the playoffs. He didn’t play again until spelling relief in the 6-1 Game 2 loss to the Bruins. Defender Kris Letang is another guy who might not be back. He’ll be a free agent this year and will command top-dollar in the free agent market. Based on how he was mostly a non-factor in the Eastern Conference Finals, there’s no given that Pittsburgh would be willing to pay him a huge contract.

Finally, there’s head coach Dan Bylsma, whose job security isn’t exactly the greatest right now. Following a Stanley Cup title in 2009, Bylsma’s Pittsburgh teams have been underwhelming after two first round exits, a second round exit, and this season’s disastrous Boston series. Seeing as how he’s had plenty of talent to work with in recent years, nobody is giving Bylsma a pass for poor playoff performances.

Whatever changes are made to Pittsburgh’s roster/coaching staff from now until next season, you can bet that the focus will be on propelling one of the NHL’s most stocked teams into the Stanley Cup Finals – a place where many people thought that they’d be this year.

2013 NHL Playoffs: Conference Finals Predictions

sidney-crosbyWe’re now just one round away from the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals as the playoffs have been whittled down to four teams. In the Western Conference, the defending champion Los Angeles Kings face off against the Chicago Blackhawks. This is truly a battle of two worn-out clubs since the Kings and Blackhawks each survived grueling seven-game series. Interestingly enough, they both won their Game 7 matchups by a score of 2-1.

As for the Eastern Conference Finals, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins will do battle in yet another series against each other. Unlike Chicago and L.A., these teams coasted by their Conference Semi-Finals opponents. The Bruins took out the New York Rangers in just five games, while Pittsburgh won their series over the Ottawa Senators by the same margin.

With four talented teams remaining, it’s anybody’s guess as to who will be moving onto the Stanley Cup Finals. And we’d like to guess ourselves with the following Conference Finals previews.

L.A. Kings vs. Chicago Blackhawks

corey-crawfordThis is a pretty tantalizing matchup that pits the ’10 NHL champion Blackhawks against the ’12 champion Kings. Chicago comes into this series via a dramatic comeback that saw them down 3-1 against the Wings. The Blackhawks were able to reestablish control of the puck later in the series to win and set up this matchup.

For the most part, Chicago goalie Corey Crawford has played pretty well in these playoffs. However, L.A. goalie Jonathan Quick appears to have regained his form from last season’s championship playoff run. He has a .948 save percentage, which is slightly better than his .946 mark from ’12. So when it comes to the net, we have to give the Kings an advantage.

However, even Quick hasn’t been able to help Los Angeles win on the road. The Kings are a disappointing 1-5 away from their home ice, which doesn’t bode well as they travel to Chicago. They were able to overcome a 2-0 deficit against the St. Louis Blues in the first round; don’t expect the same forgiveness from the Blackhawks.

jonathan-quickOn offense, Chicago really needs Jonathan Toews to regain form. The Chicago captain has scored just six points through the first 12 playoff games – a mark which only places him fifth on his own team. Patrick Kane is another Blackhawks player who needs to pick up his production. The winger has nine points thus far, which isn’t bad; however, it’s definitely off his regular season pace of 55 points in 47 games.

Los Angeles presents a pretty tough frontline of Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. These guys have been solid throughout the playoffs and will look to overwhelm Crawford in the net. And the Kings’ frontline vs. Crawford could be the deciding factor in this series.

Prediction: L.A. wins the series 4-3

Boston Bruins vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

This is definitely a case of offense vs. defense, with Pittsburgh easily playing the role of offensive juggernauts. Sidney Crosby has scored 15 points in 10 playoff games, but he isn’t the only one doing damage. As a team, the Penguins have averaged 4.27 goals in the postseason, which is easily a league-best.

sidney-crosbyBut Pittsburgh does have chinks in their armor, and they start with goaltending. The Penguins had to switch from Marc-Andre Fleury to Tomas Vokoun in the first round because of this issue. And while Vokoun has done a great job (1.85 GAA, .941 SV%) through six games, it’s never good when you need to switch out a starter mid-playoffs.

Moving to Boston, they feature an aggressive, defensive-minded approach. Veteran Zdeno Chara has logged 29 minutes per game and is critical to stopping the opposition. This defense can pack an offensive punch too, as rookie Torey Krug showed against the Rangers. He was incredible after scoring four goals and dishing out five assists in just five games.

Boston goalie Tuukka Rask has been solid with (2.22 GAA, .928 SV%) in the 2013 NHL Playoffs. However, solid won’t be enough to stop the Penguins’ extremely deep attack. Expect Pittsburgh to overcome their goalie and defensive issues while overwhelming Rask in the process.

Prediction: Pittsburgh wins the series 4-2

2013 NHL Playoffs heat up in Second Round

sidney-crosbyOne great thing about hockey is that it breeds exciting first round matchups and major upsets. Such was the case in the 2013 NHL Playoffs, as five out of the eight lower seeds won their series.

It was especially a good time to be a lower seed in the Western Conference, where the seventh-seeded Detroit Red Wings upended the Anaheim Ducks, the six-seeded San Jose Sharks swept the Vancouver Canucks, and the fifth-seeded L.A. Kings beat the St. Louis Blues.

The Eastern Conference saw its share of upsets too with the seventh-seeded Ottawa Senators taking down the Montreal Canadiens, and the New York Islanders edging out the Washington Capitals.

Will the upsets continue as we forge ahead into the second round of the 2013 NHL Playoffs? So far it looks like the favorites are on top, though we’re only one game into each series. Every matchup is still anybody’s game, so let’s discuss who has a good shot of prevailing in the Conference Semifinals.

#1 Seed Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #7 Seed Ottawa Senators (Pens lead 1-0) – The Penguins survived a closer than expected series against the New York Islanders. Seeing as how Ottawa can skate just as well as New York, this figures to be a pretty tough matchup too. The Senators feature the best scoring defender in Erik Karlsson and one of the league’s top goalies in Craig Anderson.

However, Pittsburgh boasts six of the top seven scorers in the playoffs and has a habit of overwhelming opposing goaltenders. If the Pens can continue getting production from multiple players outside of Sidney Crosby, they should be able to score on Anderson enough to win this matchup.

Prediction: Pittsburgh wins the series 4-2.

#4 Seed Boston Bruins vs. #6 Seed New York Rangers (Bruins lead 1-0) – It almost looked like Boston wouldn’t be in this position after nearly blowing a 3-1 series lead against the Toronto rick-nashMaples Leafs. Even on their home ice, they were down 4-1 in Game 7 and appeared destined to collapse. However, the Bruins stormed back thanks to a pair of goals by Patrice Bergeron.

As for the Rangers, their offense was pretty sporadic, but goalie Henrik Lundqvist was there to bail New York out. He’ll have to be even better against Boston because the Bruins should have little trouble shutting down New York’s struggling offensive leaders in Rick Nash, Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan. Boston will need to win this series quick though to avoid the fatigue factor from their grueling Toronto series.

Prediction: Boston wins the series 4-2

#1 Seed Chicago Blackhawks vs. #7 Seed Detroit Red Wings (Hawks lead 1-0) – A few years ago, the seeding would’ve been reversed in this matchup as the Red Wings corey-crawfordwere dominant throughout the late 90’s and into the late 2000’s. However, times are far different today and Chicago was the regular season’s best club. But it’s also worth mentioning that Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk still have plenty left in the tank, as they proved in their upset of Anaheim.

This Original Six matchup could come down to who’s got the fresher legs, and Chicago definitely has the edge here. They dispatched Minnesota in just five games and goalie Corey Crawford looked magnificent. Detroit should give Crawford a little more trouble since they have guys who can score on every line. But the Blackhawks have even more depth and should cruise in this matchup, provided Patrick Kane can get going in this round.

Prediction: Chicago wins the series 4-1

#5 Seed Los Angeles Kings vs. #6 Seed San Jose Sharks (Kings lead 1-0) – There was no championship hangover for the Kings since they were able to beat St. Louis in six games. jonathan-quickSan Jose was even more impressive after they pulled out the brooms in a sweep of Vancouver. San Jose held the Sedin brothers scoreless in four games, while overwhelming Canucks’ goalie Cory Schneider on the other end.

As for Los Angeles, goalie Jonathan Quick struggled throughout most of the regular season, but has pulled things together in the playoffs. The key here will be if he can continue showing the same dominance that he showed in last year’s postseason. Look for frontliners Jeff Carter and Dwight King to have been games against San Jose in this series too.

Prediction: L.A. wins the series 4-2

Chicago Blackhawks are Already a Team for the Ages

chicago-blackhawks-1Last year the Chicago Blackhawks were a mediocre team with goaltending issues. And these issues would haunt the Blackhawks as they were bounced out of the playoffs in six games by the Phoenix Coyotes.

However, this year’s Blackhawks literally can’t be beaten since they’ve gone 21-0-3 en route to taking firm control of the Western Conference. Chicago currently holds a 10-point lead over second place Anaheim and has outscored opponents by 32 goals this year. Their overall performance has been so successful that even NBA superstar LeBron James had to show some love by tweeting:

Hey Chicago Blackhawks, u guys are AWESOME!!

Perhaps more important than all of this though is that the Blackhawks have smashed the previous NHL record for the best regular season start after scoring in 24 consecutive games. This being said, it doesn’t matter if Chicago fails to win the Stanley Cup because they’re already a team for the ages. Based on their record-setting run so far, it’s worth looking at what’s changed for the Chicago Blackhawks from last year to this season.

corey-crawfordUnbelievable Goaltending

As mentioned in the introduction, the Blackhawks struggled with keeping the puck out of the net. The goalie duo of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery combined to allow over 2.7 goals per game last season and were constantly interchanged in an effort to fix the problem. But looking at this season, both goalies have been outstanding.

Crawford is allowing a league-leading 1.53 GAA, while Emery has a very respectable 2.03 GAA. Furthermore, Crawford is also leading the league with a 0.940 SV% while Emery is fourth with a 0.925 SV%. The latter has gone an unblemished 10-0 thanks to these numbers, and Crawford is 11-0-3. We know these guys can’t go undefeated forever, but what they’ve done up to this point definitely deserves some respect.

Shot Blockers

Crawford and Emery can’t take all of the credit for their undefeated records because the defense has prevented a lot of shots on goal. Three Chicago brent-seabrookdefenders rank within the top 15 in blocked shots as Brent Seabrook (57 BS), Niklas Hjalmarsson (55 BS) and Johnny Oduya (50 BS) has all chipped in major contributions.

And it’s not just the actual defenders who are helping the cause since some of Chicago’s offensive players have shown strong puck-stopping skills as well. Toews has especially been good with a team-best plus-12 rating and 59.5% faceoffs-won.

High-Powered Offense

Chicago’s offense have given the goaltending plenty to work with when it comes to winning games. Nobody has disappointed in this offense since RW Patrick Kane has 27 points, C Jonathan Toews has 21 points, RW Marian Hossa has 18 points, C Patrick Sharp also has 18 points, and LW Viktor Stalberg has scored 13 points.

patrick-kaneIt’s not always common to see the puck distributed so evenly when you have this many good offensive players. But Chicago has found a way to get the job done and keep everybody happy.

Road Warriors

If ever there were a team that would set the NHL record for most consecutive games with a point to open the season, you wouldn’t have bet on the Blackhawks. That’s because Chicago began the year by playing 10 out of their first 12 games on the road.

Once they got through this stretch with an undefeated record, people knew that something special was going on. Chicago has since added road victories against tough teams in Detroit and St. Louis.

How Long will the Streak Continue?

The Blackhawks had to pull out a come-from-behind win over the Colorado Avalanche last night, and had many people wondering how long they can keep their incredible streak up.

Odds are that the run will end some time within the next week and a half. After all, Chicago goes back on the road for five out of the next six contests and two of these games are at Colorado. As if this isn’t bad enough, the road trip ends at second place Anaheim’s Honda Center – a rink where the Ducks have only lost once this season.

Of course, the Chicago Blackhawks have already done the unthinkable again and again. So what’s to prevent them from coming out of the next six games with a perfect record too?