Back-to-back overtime games in this year’s Stanley Cup Finals have made this hockey can’t miss TV. The first two contests between the Blackhawks and Bruins have been thrilling and entertaining affairs, with both teams well aware of what is on the line. Both squads possess a ton of pride, veteran leadership, and talent, three factors which will likely result in this series going the distance. At the outset, we predicted a Boston victory in 7 hard fought games, and see no reason to deviate from our initial projection. For tonight’s game, the series shifts back to Beantown for a crucial Game 3. Boston now has the momentum and the home crowd, and after looking like the much better team throughout Game 2’s overtime period, tonight’s clash could just be a continuation of Saturday’s final moments. Read on below for our official selection for Game 3.
Chicago Blackhawks (+105) @ Boston Bruins (-125)
Why the Boston Bruins are continually disrespected and undervalued by oddsmakers remains beyond me. This is a team loaded with talent and grit, and right now possesses the three most dominant figures in the series in Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask, and David Krejci. When Chicago came out flying on Saturday night, it was B’s star netminder Tuukka Rask that kept his team alive. Heard of Jonathan Toews this series? Me neither. That’s because of Boston’s blue-line behemoth in Chara. And whenever Boston needs a clutch play or a big goal, it’s top-line centre David Krejci and his line that’s going to steal the show. This Boston group is as balanced a squad in recent memory, and until the sportsbooks realize this, playing them in this spot tonight is solid value.
One of the main reasons we favoured the Bruins entering this series was their knack to bring the physicality. Thus far, they’ve lived up to their billing and until Chicago proves they can handle it, Boston will continue to run rampant on the ice. Boston has dominated the key areas of the rink, doing it mostly with their size and physical advantages. Chicago’s skilled, but smallish defense corps cannot handle Boston’s big forwards beneath the goal-line or on the cycle. As a result, the B’s have created a wealth of zone time and scoring chances from their increased possession. With the home crowd spurring them on tonight, don’t expect that to change. Boston knows the blueprint to beat these skilled teams (see: Pittsburgh), and if they stick to coach Claude Julien’s gameplan, they’ll emerge with a 2-1 series lead.
Much like the Blackhawks, Boston too has been dominant on home ice these playoffs. Since Game 5 against the Leafs in the opening round, Boston has yet to lose at the TD Garden and we expect that streak to continue tonight. It’s also important to note that Boston is likely the more well-rested of the two teams. These overtime games have certainly worn down both squads, but Boston is likely fresher. They coasted by both the Rangers and Penguins without really physically exerting themselves, while the Hawks had to go to a 7th game with Detroit, and engage in a physical war against a big L.A. Kings team. You’ve got to wonder what Chicago has left in the tank at this point.
For tonight’s contest I expect more of the same from a Bruins team that steadily improved throughout Game 2. They held on at first, but slowly gained confidence as the game wore on and started to take it to the Hawks. They proved in that overtime period they are the better team, and when they get on the body, they have the ability to physically dominate Chicago. The Hawks’ big stars in this series have yet to arrive, and with last change and Zdeno Chara playing half the game, tonight won’t be any different. Tuukka Rask will continue to hone in on the Conn Smythe trophy, and expect a convincing Bruins victory (without overtime!) in Game 3.
PICK = Boston (-125)