After a big victory last night with the Sharks, we now move to a solid 11-9 record in the post-season with our featured selections. While betting in the playoffs on a game-to-game basis can be tricky given the knack of big favorites cashing of late, we’ve done well and will look for that to continue until the end of June with the Stanley Cup Finals.
There are just two series remaining, both in the West. With the Sharks and Kings Game 7 slated to go tomorrow, the Blackhawks look to stay alive in a huge Game 6 tonight. Chicago was by far the most dominant team in the NHL this year, but have run into some serious trouble against the Wings. While we did foresee this series going 6 or 7 games, we never could’ve imagined Detroit taking a 3-1 series lead. Chicago did get Game 5 however and will look to send it back to Illinois for a deciding Game 7. Read on below for further thoughts on tonight’s featured play.
Chicago Blackhawks (-130) @ Detroit Red Wings (+110)
The Red Wings have finally earned some respect around the NHL. Heading into the series, and especially after a sub-par outing in Game 1, many people had already written off the veteran-laden group. But here we are, the day of Game 6 and the Wings have yet another chance to close out the President’s Trophy winners, this time on home ice. It’s not going to be easy though, as the Hawks looked dominant Saturday evening and know if they get eliminated early in Round 2, mass changes could be awaiting this group in the off-season. Chicago is simply too good, too deep, and too talented to bow out this early against an over-achieving and aged Wings’ squad. While many of Chicago’s top players haven’t performed like it, Chicago has two games to prove to themselves and the rest of the league, they remain one of the sport’s best core groups. Their talent has dynasty-like potential, but whether or not they realize that will be seen over the course of the next two games.
Expect Game 6 to be much different from how Game 5 was played on Saturday night. Both of these teams are much better on home ice, the Wings especially. Look for Detroit to once again push the play, keeping much of Chicago’s talented players to the outside in an attempt to limit prime scoring opportunities. Whether or not they can do that once again for a full sixty minutes will be the challenging part. Detroit’s defensemen have really overachieved. Chicago is so dynamic with their forward group and have the ability to make defenders look silly on a shift-by-shift basis. Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa are two of the NHL’s most skilled forwards, and their arrival in this series has yet to be truly seen. Much like James Neal’s breakout for Pittsburgh against Ottawa, expect big games out of these two stars. Jonathan Toews led by example in Game 5, and it’s time the secondary scoring of the Blackhawks make a statement in what will be a hostile, pro-Detroit environment.
While the Blackhawks haven’t really dealt with much adversity this season, they are certainly facing it head-on right now and should thrive with it for the remainder of this series. Remember that much of this squad has Cup experience and they know what it takes to get there. For Chicago to be successful, expect them to go with a gameplan similar to Saturday night’s. They got to the front of the net, creating rebounds and traffic in front in order to make Jimmy Howard look human once again. Brent Seabrook was reunited with Duncan Keith on the blueline, a back-end tandem that is the best in hockey when both are on top of their respective games. Expect another solid outing from that duo against the Datsyuk line for Detroit.
Another complete performance, this time on the road, is what’s expected from the battle-tested Blackhawks tonight. There’s a reason this is the favoured team, as they are loaded with talent and when they want to be, they’re the best in the league. Chicago’s size and strength must continue to wear down a very questionable defense of Detroit. If the Blackhawks get physical, the Wings will be unable to match that intensity. Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell can’t be answered by anyone on Detroit, and that pair needs to get in on the forecheck and force turnovers every single shift. Look for Keith and Seabrook to once again shut down Detroit’s top forwards, and expect a solid performance to send this great series to a seventh game. It’ll be a tight game, but back the Blackhawks as slight favourites tonight.
PICK = Blackhawks (-130)