Tampa Lightning (+140) at Chicago Blackhawks (-155, 5.5 o/u)
Down two games to one in the best-of-seven series, the Chicago Blackhawks (48-28-6) will look to get back on even terms tonight as they host the Tampa Bay Lightning (50-24-8) in Game 4 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals (8:00 PM Eastern at the United Center).
After stealing Game 1 (2-1) on the strength of two late third-period goals, Chicago has dropped two straight (4-3 and 3-2). The lack of production from leading scorers Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane is a huge concern for the Hawks. Both have been held goalless through the first three games.
But Toews is confident he’ll respond to the pressure, as he’s done so many times in the past. “If you don’t want that challenge, if you don’t want that spotlight almost, then you shouldn’t be here,” Toews said to the Associated Press. “I think we all work for that. We want to play those important games.”
Chicago’s 2013 Stanley Cup final triumph over Boston will prevent Toews and company from hitting the panic button just yet. The Hawks trailed the big bad Bruins 2-1 before storming back to take the series in six. Moreover, Chicago already faced elimination in these playoffs, needing to win two straight to oust the Ducks in seven.
The Lightning, meanwhile, will come into tonight riding a wave of momentum. The team went down 2-1 early in the third in Game 3 – and could have crumbled on the road. But the “Triplets” line of Ondrej Palat, Nikita Kucherov, and Tyler Johnson stormed back to even the game just nine seconds later. Cedric Paquette netted the game winner 12 minutes later, finishing off a pretty rush from defenseman Victor Hedman.
For coach Jon Cooper, the quick response epitomized his team’s current identity.
As Cooper told the AP, ”I truly believe we’ve grown as a team through some of our struggles. … You just think of last night’s game. We’re in a pretty hostile environment. It’s a 1-1 game. We go down in the third. There was no hang the head. It was, `OK, now we got to dig the heels in and go get this one.”
Chicago hasn’t dropped two home games in a row in these playoffs, and it’s hard to think such an experienced group will do so now, knowing that a 3-1 series deficit will all but seal their fate.
Pick: Blackhawks (-155).
(Photo credit: By Leech44 (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)