Chicago Blackhawks (+115) at Anaheim Ducks (-135, 5 o/u)
Some players and teams thrive under the pressure of a Game 7. (Think Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers.) Others seem to shrink when the lights are brightest. Unfortunately for the Anaheim Ducks, they have recently trended to the latter end of the spectrum, losing all three Game 7s they’ve played since 2007 (including two at home). Tonight, the Ducks will look to buck the trend as they host the Chicago Blackhawks at the Honda Center (8:00 PM Eastern) with a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals on the line .
Anaheim’s most recent Game 7 heartbreak came just last season, losing on home ice to the eventual Cup champions, Los Angeles, in the second round.
Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau is wisely ignoring history and focusing on the here-and-now.
“I’m not bringing that up to them at all,” said Boudreau said to the Associated Press. “Every year is a different entity. The guys who have been here those three years know what’s happened. If we have to draw on extra motivation for a Game 7 with a chance to play for the Stanley Cup, then we’ve got the wrong guys. And we have the right guys in here.”
Anaheim had the chance to close the series on Wednesday, but fell 5-2 in Chicago. Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford stopped all ten shots he faced in the first period to keep it scoreless; then his teammates broke the game wide open in the second frame with three goals (from Brandon Saad, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Kane) in just over three minutes.
Defenseman Duncan Keith assisted on all three and was named the game’s first star.
Looking at tonight’s game, the Blackhawks are the more experienced team and have had more playoff success recently. The team has hoisted Lord Stanley’s mug twice (2010 and 2013) since the Ducks lifted it for the last time (2007), and they have largely the same core intact from those championship teams (including Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Brent Seabrook, Kane, Keith, and Hossa). Add in the fact that the Hawks have won four of their last six at the Honda Center and Anaheim’s Game 7 woes and Chicago looks like better value.
Pick: Blackhawks +115.
(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.)