The Ducks showed no signs of slowing down yesterday, taking down a good Blackhawks team rather easily in game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. The Ducks just appear to be too fast and too strong for anybody to pose a serious threat to them. The Stanley Cup is theirs to lose. While we have seen the Ducks play timid in the playoffs in previous years, they are taking full advantage of their size this time. Which is really the way it should have always been with them, but I feel like after so many years of choking in the playoffs they are playing with an added sense of urgency. Notably the stars like Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry who are finally earning their wages this time of year. However, with only a 1-0 lead in the series and an experienced Blackhawks team, there is no room for the Ducks to revert back and play like they are content. We know how quickly a series can change, and the Ducks should be familiar with what happens when you take the foot of the gas pedal by now.
The N.Y. Rangers are three games away from a meeting with the Hawks or Ducks for the Stanley Cup. The Lightning are of course four wins away from that becoming a reality. The Rangers won game 1 in part due to a late goal with minutes remaining over the Lightning. That was the Lightning game to win. It was the kind of game you thought to yourself if the Lightning don’t pull this one out it’s going to be tough sledding for them the rest of the series. Making it to this point in the playoffs has been a big step for these Lightning players, but this is when you have to put the big boy pants on and realize there aren’t any room for mistakes at this point. Going up against Henrik Lundqvist in net? Yeah, forget about it, the chances for mistakes are minimized even more with him between the pipes. And after how it felt to lose in the finals last season, Henrik isn’t going to be an easy one to solve after the Rangers got this deep again. The Lightning would be in great shape if they could pull a win out of the hat tonight, heading back to Tampa where they were 1st in the NHL during the regular season. It should prove to be an exciting matchup tonight in game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Tampa Bay Lightning @ N.Y. Rangers
Like everyone else that follows hockey, the Rangers are aware it is imperative they don’t go back to Tampa Bay with a 1-1 tie in the series. It isn’t an easy place to win there in Tampa. The Lightning were 36-11-0-1 at home during the regular season. Split here and lose a couple there and they fall behind 3-1 just like that. However, at the beginning of the series I suspected that both teams would hold serve the first four games at home. One down, three more games to go for that to come true. It wouldn’t be a surprise of the century if another scenario plays out, but both teams play their best hockey at home.
The ultimate deciding factor for me in this series if Bishop vs. Lundqvist in net. I have nothing against Bishop, he can be a great goalie at times. In a sense though, there in lies the problem. Being great just in times instead of a complete dominator, like say Henrik, can be the downfall in the playoffs at this point. Simply put, I feel much more confident investing my money on somebody that presents a wealth of evidence that supports my pick. Bishop was good last game, and may very well be good again this game, but I find it hard for me to put money on him on the road against King Henrik in Madison Square Garden. I see the Rangers winning tonight, and then we’ll see what this series has in store for us in game 3 after the series shifts to Florida.
PICK: RANGERS TO WIN -135 5DIMES – BEST ODDS