Tampa Bay Lightning (+144) at Chicago Blackhawks (-160, 5.5 o/u)
After a 2-1 Game 5 victory, the Chicago Blackhawks (50-24-8) are one win away from their third Stanley Cup in six years. The Hawks can claim the cup on home-ice tonight when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning (48-28-6) in Game 6 at the United Center (8:00 PM Eastern).
The best-of-seven series has been uber-close through five games with neither team holding more than a one-goal lead at any point in time.
Chicago went up 1-0 early in Game 5 thanks to Tampa goalie Ben Bishop running into his own defenseman by the hashmarks and allowing Patrick Sharp to waltz in alone on an empty net. The Lighting were able to even the game in the second on a goal by Valtteri Filppula, but Antoine Vermette put Chicago up for good two minutes into the third.
Corey Crawford was excellent between the pipes for the Hawks, stopping 31 of 32 shots, including all 15 in a frantic third period.
For Chicago captain Jonathan Toews, tonight’s game represents an exciting opportunity to claim the cup in front of friendly fans. (The deciding games in Chicago’s 2010 and 2013 cup runs both came on the road.)
“Obviously there’s a lot of buzz, a lot of excitement, a lot of things going on around the entire event,” Toews said to the Associated Press. “I think we’re just going to do our best as individuals to focus on our job as players and focus on the game and nothing more.”
Tonight the Lightning will hope to counter Chicago’s big-game playoff experience with its own blend of youth and speed. The highest-scoring team from the regular season remains confident, despite struggling to beat Crawford all series long.
“We’ll find a way,” Tampa captain Steven Stamkos said to the AP. “There’s really no choice that we have.”
The bad news for Tampa Bay is that, under head coach Joel Quenneville, the Blackhawks have a 9-0 record in Game 6s when they have a chance to clinch a series. Chicago is also 9-4 SU in its last 13 games at home against Tampa Bay. And, though the Hawks have already taken two games in Tampa, the playoff-tested squad will be keen to avoid a Game 7 on the road.
Pick: Blackhawks (-160).
(Photo credit: Lisa Gansky from New York, NY, USA (IMG_7545) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)