Saturday, May 16, 2015

NHL Western Conference Final Preview

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Late last night, myself and my partner in crime Matt Mortensen previewed the NHL Eastern Conference Finals. And seeing how well that went (my Rangers pick looks excellent right now, doesn't it?), we thought we'd continue on and do the Western Conference Final preview as well. Good plan? Good plan. Let's not waste time; I got sleep to catch. ON WITH THE SHOW

NHL Western Conference Final Preview

Anaheim Ducks vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Major Storyline: Are we sure the Anaheim Ducks are that good? This may be my anti-Ducks biased talking here, but I think this is a serious question. Yes, the Ducks swept the Winnipeg Jets in Round 1, but they had to come from behind in all four games and should've lost Games 2 and 3. Yes, they were superior than the Calgary Flames last round, but they were also outplayed in the final two games and once again had to come back and win. There's no denying that the Ducks have elite talent from the wings to the blue line; anyone who does doubt that is a fool. But that said, doesn't their penchant for falling behind have to catch up with them at some point? Do we really expect them to get away with that against a championship team in the Chicago Blackhawks? The Ducks are good; are they Blackhawks good is what I'd like to know.

Secondary Storyline: Who would the NHL prefer to win this series? If this feels like the same question I asked last night for the East, that's because it is. On one hand, the Blackhawks are an elite NHL team in a great hockey market, with a championship pedigree. On the other hand, Gary Bettman does love those nontraditional hockey markets, and like I said last night, the news that the Arizona Coyotes seem to be out the door must be killing his boner more than Kathy Bates in About Schmidt. Like last night, I could really see the NHL preferring either option. If  it's Chicago vs. New York, hardcore hockey fans are thrilled and ratings go through the roof. If it's Anaheim-Tampa, Bettman walks around like a porn star for several weeks and gets to gloat about how well hockey is growing in Florida and California (you know, despite the fact that the Florida Panthers have less fans than Andrew Dice Clay right now). Either way, it's not keeping the Coyotes in Arizona Gary. Put on "Let It Go", and face reality already.

Creepiest photo ever

Ducks Player to Watch: Frederick Anderson. Of all the goaltenders left in the postseason, Anderson has been the least consistent, which is saying something considering the Blackhawks have at times played musical chairs with their goaltenders. I get that that probably sounds harsh, and Anderson definitely isn't a goalie devoid of talent. That said, he wasn't always good against Winnipeg or Calgary (Karri Ramo in particular outplayed him big time the last three games of the Calgary series), and he'll now be facing his toughest challenge yet in Chicago. The Ducks have enough fire power to hang with the Blackhawks; thus, their season rises or falls on whether or not Anderson can come of age.

Blackhawks Player to Watch: Corey Crawford. Yes, it's goalies night, and the feeling is right. My terrible jokes aside, the Blackhawks haven't exactly been as trustworthy in net either, having gone from Crawford to Scott Darling and vice versa throughout the first round. Crawford appeared to finally get a stranglehold on the job against Minnesota, but I wouldn't doubt that one bad performance against the Ducks could start the controversy all over again. Much like the Hawks have the firepower to rattle Anderson, the Ducks have the firepower to rattle Crawford. This really comes down to which goalie handles the pressure the best.

Gamblin' Matt and the Odds: Well not only did I go 0-2 in the predictions on the Rangers game but I also had an absolute heartbreaking loss in the Giro D'Italia last night. Took a little bit of a sting out of my enthusiasm for this game but you need to get back on the horse. Speaking of horses, American Pharoah. A thing of beauty that is. Triple Crown, Goose. Triple Crown. Anyway, on to what I'm paid to do. Wait a minute.....

The general consensus in betting here dictates that the over/under line is five. You may see it go up to 5.5 or down to 4.5 but for the most part it stays at five. That's what we have here. $1.81 for over five goals and $2 for under. I feel this is going to go quite close to the five goal mark and I'm going to be on the under. These two teams haven't squared off against each other in four months and the last time they did it was a 4-1 win for the Blackhawks.

This is a step up in quality for both teams and I can't see the Ducks scoring as many goals as they did against the Flames nor can I see the Blackhawks scoring highly like they did against the Predators. For the most part of this series I see the total goals scored each game being between three to five goals. We may have the occasional high scoring game but I think there is too much talent on either side for it to be ridiculously high scoring. With that being said the odds for total goals scored in game one is $5.50 for three goals, $8 for four goals and the favourite is $3.30 for five goals. Those odds will stay basically exactly the same for the whole series and I'll be on four goals for game one.

As to the exact winning margins you have the Blackhawks the same as the Lightning yesterday at $8 and $9 for a two and three goal winning margin. $3.40 if it ends up being close and they win by one. The Ducks are $3.25 to win by one and $6.25 and $7 to win by two and three goals respectively. I think the Ducks have had quite the soft run compared to the Blackhawks leading up to this and I think that is going to come back to bite them in game one. Ever since Patrick Kane has come back from injury he has gotten better and better as the playoffs have gone on and he's getting back to his MVP form. I think he'll be the difference maker in game one. Blackhawks by two for me.

We finish up with the series odds. I think most feel this is going to be a hard fought slog and that this is going six or seven. The Ducks are $5 to win 4-3 and $5.50 to win 4-2 where as the Blackhawks are $5 to win 4-3 and $5.50 to win 4-2. Well look at that, it's the same. What a shocker. If the Ducks have any chance of winning this series I think Corey Perry is going to need to score in the vicinity of 5 goals for the series. He's going to have to play great with Ryan Getzlaf as the Blackhawks just have so much firepower and Crawford is playing some great hockey in goal. With that all said, I wouldn't be called a lunatic for no reason so just for my good friend Goose I'm taking the sweep. Blackhawks in 4. $13. #BelieveInTheHawks

Winner: Ducks in six. What in the what now? That's right, despite my loathing of them and the fact that I probably just killed Matt, I'm going with the Ducks here. They have a team of destiny vibe, they have the offense to compete with Chicago, and though I don't yet trust Anderson, I don't exactly trust the Hawks goalie situation either. Plus, I picked the Rangers to win, and poetically it works much better with them trying to win the Cup against a California team, the same scenario they were in last year. Thus, the Ducks shock everyone and get to the Cup. Someone call Matt an ambulance.

There you go guys. Guess we'll just to see how it plays out from this point forward. Gamblin' Matt and I will be back around Tuesday or so with an NBA Conference Finals preview. Till then, let the Man From Another Place dance us off.

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