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NHL: Stanley Cup Finals Betting Preview - Chicago vs. Philadelphia

Written by:
Payton
Published on:
May/29/2010
 

The routes that Chicago and Philadelphia took to reach the Stanley Cup are very different; however, not the methods. This doesn't apply to just this season either, it goes back in time. Chicago is a -250 favorite to win its first Stanley Cup Trophy in 49 years, according to Sportsbook.com. Let's take a look at the series.

As speed has overtaken hockey, a further premium is being placed on blueliners who can skate and be physical to disrupt offenses. Both teams rank high in this department with Philadelphia having the likes of Chris Pronger, Kimmo Timonen and Matt Carle as its top defenders and Chicago countering with Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson.

The Hawks have been getting superior goaltending from rookie Antti Niemi, while netminder Michael Leighton (actually drafted by Chicago in 1999) is the perfect person to have between the pipes for this fairy tale playoff run for the Flyers. Niemi has permitted two or less goals in seven of last nine starts, while Leighton has hung four zeros since taking over for injured Brian Boucher.

Offensively, the Blackhawks have been lighting the lamp like a traffic corner, scoring 3.8 goals per game since Game 5 against Nashville. The line of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Dustin Byfuglien has been virtually unstoppable. Kane has everyone on the edge of their seats when he has the puck. Captain Toews is a Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP) candidate with 26 points in 16 contests and Byfuglien has eight goals in his last eight games, with his 257-pound frame making him a human bridge - you can run into him but you suffer the damage to this immovable object.

Philadelphia has an ample supply of scoring power with Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne and Danny Briere. As Boston found out late and Montreal throughout the series, the Flyers had scoring depth over three lines, with youngsters Claude Giroux and Ville Leino making important contributions to keep the pressure on opposing defenses.

On paper this looks like mismatch. Chicago was one of the best teams from day one of the season, while Philadelphia underachieved most of the regular season before making late run to sneak into the playoffs on the final day.

The Blackhawks biggest edge appears to be in the net and starts the Finals 8-0 at the Madison Street Madhouse after allowing two goals or less in three straight games this season. It's would seem foolish to sell the Flyers short, as an awful lot of events fell a certain way and they have taken advantage of every single one and are 11-4 in road games off a home win.

Do not foresee an upset for two reasons, Chicago is the better team and is on 7-0 roll as playoff visitor. Nonetheless, this series goes longer than expected with Philly's dogged determination.

The series gets started Saturday night at 8 PM ET on NBC. Sportsbook.com has the Blackhawks as -200 favorites for Game 1 as they host the Flyers (+170).

Pick- Chicago (-250) in six Philadelphia (+200)

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