Two wins in a row for the Bruins, and two wins in a row for us here at The Sports Geek as we prepare for a pivotal Game 4 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals. If you have been with us all the way through this series, we’ve firmly backed the Bruins and thus far, that’s proven to be a wise move. Right now they carry all the momentum and are frankly having their way with a Blackhawks team that is struggling to match Boston’s physicality. Tonight is again a big clash for both sides. Boston threatens to take a 3-1 stranglehold, while the Hawks will look to wrestle back some of the momentum and head home all square. We enter the evening a solid 17-14 with our featured post-season picks, and now sit with a 51-37 record with those plays over the entire season. Just like the Bruins, we’re looking to finish strong, and read on below for our official Game 4 betting pick and additional thoughts.
Chicago Blackhawks (+110) @ Boston Bruins (-130)
The surprise of Chicago not having Marian Hossa for Game 3 was certainly unexpected, but ultimately worked out in our favour. Hossa is one of, if not the best Blackhawks forward and has been a stellar contributor throughout this post-season. The big Slovakian can play in all situations and is one of the few Chicago attackers with the necessary physicality to match up against the likes of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg. While his return Is expected for tonight’s Game 4, you have to wonder about his level of health. Even if he plays, he likely won’t be as effective as usual, resulting in another big boost for a Boston team that possesses all the momentum entering this one.
You’d think after losing Game 1 in triple overtime it could deflate a group, but not this Boston team. The Bruins knew they were the better team for much of that opening affair, and have proven that for the most part throughout the remainder of the series. Like we figured, the size and physicality of Boston’s forwards has wreaked havoc on a susceptible Blackhawks blue-line beyond Duncan Keith, and Chicago is simply having match-up nightmares. On home ice, scoring on Zdeno Chara has proven to be more difficult than solving a rubik’s cube, just ask Jonathan Toews. The team leader for the Hawks has just one playoff goal and is struggling mightily. Sure the multi-dimensional centre can contribute in many other ways, but scoring is a big part of Toews’ game, and right now he’s not helping his team all that much. His struggles have formed a black cloud over the team, becoming more and more of a distraction with each passing game. And it’s definitely not going to get any easier against Chara with the last change at the TD Garden.
Though it seems redundant to our previous pre-game write-ups here, we have to back the Bruins once again tonight. The sportsbooks and oddsmakers have continually shown them little respect, and at a small home favourite price, they represent solid value. The Bruins right now are the better team in too many facets of the game to go against. Tuukka Rask is doing quite the Jonathan Quick impression of last year’s playoffs, and Boston is just so stingy, Chicago seems suffocated by their pressure. Boston looks, fresher, hungrier, and more motivated, and right now the Hawks look resigned to defeat. That’s not to suggest this series is by any means over, but based on perception, Chicago has faded from their early season form and look tired at the moment. Boston under Claude Julien has never been a team to back off and expect a killer instinct tonight. They know a 3-1 series lead gives them quite the advantage, and despite their past failures in closing teams out, this was a team that truly changed the night they came back against the Leafs on May 13th. They haven’t lost in regulation since that opening round against Toronto, and we can’t see that happening anytime soon.
The Chicago Blackhawks are a very good team that has simply run into a juggernaut. The Bruins are a force – as complete a group as we’ve seen in the post-season in recent memory. Their top two lines have a great blend of skill, size, and awareness, while their defending and goaltending seems impenetrable. Jonathan Toews is one of the best players in the league, but Zdeno Chara has made him look ordinary. The Hawks’ often potent powerplay has been rendered meaningless, netting just four shots in roughly eight minutes of PP time in Game 3. Corey Crawford has silenced his detractors for sure, but he’s still nowhere close to the level Tuukka Rask is at. Chicago knows they really need this game tonight. “We have to win,” exclaimed head coach Joel Quennville. Sure, but not if the Bruins keep playing like they have been. Boston is focused, and just better right now in every facet. And until the line-setting catches up in this series, the value continues to be with the Bruins. At home, I’ll take the red-hot team at -130 to take a 3-1 series lead.
PICK = Boston (-130)