Well last night’s pick ended up as a winner, but boy did we have to sweat to get through it. The Ducks opened up a comfortable 3-0 lead in their Western Conference Game 5 tilt against the Chicago Blackhawks, only to see the Blackhawks score two in the second period to cut the lead down to 3-2 entering the third. Anaheim would get their ‘insurance’ goal with about five minutes remaining in regulation, and it’s a good thing they did. Jonathan Toews would cut the lead to 4-3 with just under two minutes left and in stunning fashion banked one in off of Ducks goaltender Frederick Andersen to tie the game with under 40 seconds left in regulation time. With all of the momentum seemingly on the Blackhawks side entering yet another overtime game in this series, Anaheim would score the game winner just 45 seconds in to the extra frame and put themselves one win away from the Stanley Cup Finals in the process. The rollercoaster of emotions from both teams in this game was unlike any other I have seen and what a game it was. Anaheim seems to have a knack for playing some of the wildest games we have seen in this postseason and last night’s win perhaps tops them all. We will take the win any way we can get it as tonight’s focus shifts back to the Eastern Conference final where the Lightning can punch their ticket to the finals with a win on home ice.
New York Rangers @ Tampa Bay Lightning
My Pick – LIGHTNING (-135)
The Tampa Bay Lightning will attempt to do what has proven to be so difficult over the last couple of years and that is put away the New York Rangers with a Game 6 victory. The Rangers stormed back from a 3-1 series deficit to eliminate the Penguins in last year’s postseason and did so again this year to the Washington Capitals, so needless to say the Lightning will have their hands full with the defending Eastern Conference champs tonight. However, Tampa Bay was the best team on home ice in the regular season and I believe they get the job done tonight at Amalie Arena. I have essentially spoken all year long about how deep and powerful this Lightning forward group is and this group has only put an exclamation point on that attribute in the postseason. Tyler Johnson has already set a franchise record with 12 goals in a single postseason while his running mates Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov have continued their success from the regular season right alongside Johnson on the Tampa Bay second line. I say second line but Steven Stamkos is still the go-to guy in the Lightning lineup and the Captain has seven goals and 17 playoff points after a slow start in round 1. He now has four goals in as many games and will be tough to stop moving forward. This gives Tampa two extremely formidable offensive lines while they still are receiving contributions from the bottom six group as well. Ben Bishop has been just as reliable, if not more reliable than his counterpart Henrik Lundqvist as his 2.08 goals against average and .922 save percentage are impressive, and his shutout of the Rangers in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden has the Lightning within one game of the finals. A Rangers team that has struggled to get consistent offense from their top players all playoffs long just reiterated that point in their Game 5 shutout loss and I don’t see how they can outscore this Tampa Group in this venue tonight. Similar to last night’s pick, let’s go with the powerful home team tonight, this time to punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup finals for the second time in franchise history.