I missed the mark with last night’s NHL pick as the New York Rangers displayed why they are such a tough team to eliminate from the playoffs as an unexpected offensive explosion pushed the Eastern Conference final to a deciding Game 7 to be played Friday night at Madison Square Garden in New York. The Rangers tallied the game’s first two goals before Tampa Bay got on the board and had a few chances to even the game at two’s over the course of the next period and a half. However, the score would remain 2-1 through the second period before the onslaught began in the third. New York rattled off three goals in the first seven minutes and change of the third period which essentially put the Lightning away. The final score of 7-3 was out of no where and a quiet Rangers offense erupted in the third period to make my pick of Tampa Bay to win look pretty bad even though the game was a one goal game through 40 minutes of play. With that series headed for Game 7, let’s take a look at another Game 6 elimination game tonight, this time from the United Center in Chicago.
Anaheim Ducks @ Chicago Blackhawks
My Pick – DUCKS (+125)
After one of the craziest games this postseason has seen in Game 5 between the Blackhawks and Ducks we are back at the United Center in Chicago to see if the Ducks can punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals or perhaps the Chicago Blackhawks have even more resiliency left in them. It is a minor miracle that this Chicago blueline in particular has anything left in the tank at this point as the barrage of Anaheim hits has to be taking their toll on an already thin Blackhawks blueline. On top of the physicality the Ducks forward corps brings to the table, they have displayed several times in these playoffs and throughout the regular season that they can also put the puck in the net. After scoring another five goals in Game 5, the Ducks are now averaging a jaw-dropping 3.71 goals per game in the postseason. While they did give up four goals themselves in Monday night’s overtime win, they are only giving up 2.29 goals per game, almost a full goal and a half difference between the two numbers. Their penalty kill has been second to none against a talented Blackhawks powerplay as they sit with an 86% mark in the playoffs compared to just 77.3% for Chicago. Chicago is also scoring goals at a nice clip, averaging 3.07 per game in the playoffs, however they are surrendering 3 goals per game and have shown an inability to handle the big boys up front for Anaheim. That of course would be referring to Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and to an extent Ryan Kesler who has been battling with Jonathan Toews all series long. Perry has nine goals and 17 points in just 14 postseason games while Getzlaf has played the roll of distributor with 17 assists in 14 playoff games. There is no doubt Chicago has just as much talent as the Ducks do, if not more, but this time of the year size, speed and skill all have to come in to play and the Ducks boast a better combination of those three attributes than the Blackhawks do. This game can go either way just like a few of the games in this series could have, but I like the underdog Ducks tonight at great odds to knock off the pesky Blackhawks and earn their way to the Stanley Cup Finals.