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RANDALL THE HANDLE

Stick to value for Stanley Cup final betting: Randall the Handle

Randall the Handle

By Randall The Handle

It is a gruelling path to get here. 

Both Chicago and Tampa are deserving qualifiers.

Teams don’t limp into the Stanley Cup final. They earn every inch of it.

Both of these squads have displayed grit and tenacity, each producing impressive Game 7 victories in their respective conference final games to qualify for this concluding series.

The Blackhawks bring the stronger resume. After all, this will be Chicago’s third trip to the final in six seasons and it was successful in both prior attempts — defeating Philadelphia in six games in 2010 and needing the same six games to knock off Boston in the 2013 championship. Several players from those triumphs remain on Chicago’s roster.

Many experts will note the tremendous experience that could favour the Hawks.

We wouldn’t dare dispute that. This Chi-town bunch is loaded with talent and its core players are a dangerous assembly that knows how to play this time of year. The seasoned group that includes Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp has combined for 82 points in Chicago’s 17 playoff games so far. Each guy is in the plus with Keith leading the way at plus-13.

Slowing down these guys will not be an easy chore.


STANLEY CUP FINAL

Chicago Blackhawks vs. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

Series price: Chicago -145


However, we think Tampa is up for the task. The Lightning is an impressive group in its own right. In addition to having stud centre Steven Stamkos, the Bolts feature an array of explosive forwards. Most notable is the young Triplets Line of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov.

No trio has been more exciting — and more playoff productive — than these three, accounting for 55 points combined in Tampa’s 20 post-season games played to date. It’s frightening to think that including Stamkos, none of these players are more than 25 years old.

Like in most championships, defence can be the difference. It figures to be particularly relevant in this series. Seeing that we can comfortably call the offences to be a saw-off, the edge in defence has to go to Tampa. Banged up for much of the year, a healthy defensive corps arrived just in time for the post-season.

Adding veteran defencemen Anton Stralman, Jason Garrison and Braydon Coburn, the Bolts upgraded their backline, affording defenceman Victor Hedman to be most effective with his offensive style. Yes, Chicago has a great defenceman in Keith, but his squad does not have the depth at the position that the Lightning has.

Goaltending commonly plays a key role at this time of year and while Chicago’s Corey Crawford has played well, it should be noted that Tampa’s Ben Bishop was able to shut out the Rangers in consecutive games at Madison Square Gardens. We don’t see a distinct advantage for either side between the pipes.

While Tampa has gone 12-8 in these playoffs compared to Chicago’s 12-5 mark, we have to put more merit in the Lightning’s course to get here. The Blackhawks knocked off the Predators, Wild and Ducks for their ticket here, but despite all three clubs being respectable opponents, it doesn’t quite compare to the assignment that Tampa was given.

Tampa not only had to play in difficult venues of Original Six teams, but they were 7-3 combined when travelling to Detroit, Montreal and the Rangers. Let’s also not forget that the Bolts had to get past two of the league’s best goaltenders, the Canadiens’ Carey Price and the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist.

This has the makings of a great series, but as we always preach value, there is no question where it lies in this series. The Blackhawks are a capable and respectable squad, but they certainly do not have a 1½ times better chance, as this price would indicate, to win this thing.

We also find it odd that despite having home-ice advantage and that the Lightning is favoured in Game 1, Chicago is a significant favourite to take home the Cup.

Perhaps popularity has influenced this line and that’s just another reason to stick to the value side.

RANDALL’S PICK: Tampa +125 

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