Everybody fought until bitter end in the conference finals of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. Down 3-1 in their respective brackets, both the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks refused to roll over and die, forcing a game 6 and a game 7 respectively before falling to defeat. If that’s any sign of what we’re in for in the NHL finals, this could turn out to be one of the longest and most drawn out quests to claim Lord Stanley’s Cup that we’ve seen in modern times. This is great news for hockey fans. Some naysayers believed that with so many NHL all-stars participating in the 2014 Winter Olympics would drain off their competitive spirit but if anything it has been the exact opposite – these athletes are playing harder and tougher than ever. There are a lot of different lines and odss for game 1, which drops puck at 8:05 PM ET on June 4th. Let’s start with the money line, which as of this writing sits at a narrow -155 for the Kings and a +135 for the Rangers. This surprises me a bit given the Rangers should in theory be SLIGHTLY more rested than their West coast counterparts, though having to travel to L.A. to skate at the Staples Center may negate that advantage. There’s a much wider gap on the line for a chance at overtime – it’s -350 to finish in regulation and a +290 dog to need an extra period. Jonathan Quick needed OT in game 7 to close out the Blackhawks, while Henrik Lundqvist turned in a flawless game 6 performance against the Habs, going 18 for 18 on stops en route to a 1-0 shutout. Both teams are for lack of a better phrase “moody” when it comes to scoring. The Rangers scored an astounding 7 goals in game one of their semis, then gave UP 7 in game 5, forcing Cam Talbot to try (and fail) to bail Lundqvist out. Obviously he bounced back in game 6, but a stingy goalie is only as good as his team’s defensive line and scoring output. Martin St. Louis has been a rock for this team despite his mother’s sudden passing during the playoffs, as has fellow RW and younger counterpart Mats Zuccarello, so either one on the line can change their team’s fortune. Whether it’s seasoned veterans like Rick Nash or young blood like Derek Stepan, there’s no shortage of play makers for the Rangers. If the Kings are favorites for a reason, it’s due to the strong effort of men like Marian Gaborik (12 postseason goals) and Jeff Carter (9 postseason goals), with a high probability of one or both scoring in every game. Johnathan Quick may not get shutouts, but as the old saying goes “the best defense is a good offense” and his Kings find the net and find it often. Perhaps it’s not surprising then that the Kings are an early favorite in the best of seven series odds, -165 to the Rangers at +145. Why not get funky with it though? The Kings are -120 to score more than 2.5 goals in game 1, the Rangers +130. The favorite is tempting especially on home ice, but if Lundqvist is in rare form, even the Kings sharp shooters will draw nothing but blanks. Please remember to wager only what you can afford and that previews are for entertainment purposes only. Enjoy the NHL Stanley Cup Finals!
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