Big night in hockey tonight. We got 3 game 7's to watch and each of them should be fantastic in their own right. Let's get right to them. Oh, and I'm going in personal order of importance, not chronologically. Never claimed I wasn't a homer.
Game 1: Minnesota Wild vs. Colorado Avalanche - Line (Colorado -140)
I think this is the easiest game to call tonight. In fact, my only reservation is the fact that it's gone this far, because I would've had Colorado in 5 before this series started. They've looked so strong all year and have a ton of young talent, and Patrick Roy has added that old school Avalanche passion back in to the team that has them playing with some fire. Not to mention Minnesota seems to always be that squad that has a good year and can't get it together when it matters come playoff time.
That said, Zach Parise has been huge for the Wild, with 4 points in their game 6 win. He knows how to play in the playoffs from his time in New Jersey (trust me, he ruined a ton of Flyers seasons) and he seems to have injected the necessary passion in to his squad to get them prepared to battle for a full series, which has always seemed to be their downfall.
However, I expect the stellar home play of the Avs to really be the key here. They're 3-0 at home so far this series, yes there were 2 OT wins, but they've looked very strong on their home ice all year. Varlamov may be a scumbag, but he's looked strong in net all playoffs (.923 save percentage) and if he can give Nathan MacKinnon and the rest of the young stars on the Colorado side the opportunity to play loose and create some chances without having to worry about the game getting out of hand, I think we will see the Avalanche take this one home and send the Wild fishin.
Pick: Colorado -140
Game 2: Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks - Line (San Jose -140)
Okay so this game is just proof that hockey lines are completely pointless, especially in the playoffs. I just don't even look at Vegas most of the time when I'm thinking about hockey, and this game is exactly why. If you take away the games in this series up to this point, yes, this line makes sense. The Sharks are at home, it's game 7, they're a strong team, etc. But they've dropped 3 in a row to a red hot LA team that can score at will when they're really clicking, which they are.
So fuck this line, this game is absolutely impossible to give an edge to either side. This should be a straight pick em game because, honestly, nobody can say with any sense of sincerity that one team should win this thing.
The Sharks are stacked with talent and looked unbeatable through 3 games. Every line was scoring, Anti Niemi looked at least competent in net, Jonathon Quick looked lost for the Kings, and the Sharks jumped out to a seemingly insurmountable lead to start the series. Then all of a sudden the Kings realized they were stacked, too, the Flyers of the west coast led by Jason Williams, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, decided they could find the back of the net, Jonathon Quick reminded us he's a top 3 netminder, Niemi crumpled and now there's a goalie controversy in San Jose, and all of a sudden we're tied at 3-3.
So who the hell knows? Sure, the Sharks have home ice which will help, but the Kings literally looked unstoppable in game 6 and have much more stability as a team going in to the game. Plus, Richards and Carter have experience coming back from down 3-0 in a series, just ask the Bruins...
So I'm giving the nod for the rare come from down 0-3 to win it all. Why the hell not?
Pick: Los Angeles +115
Game 3: New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers (Rangers -140)
Uh oh, New York. Couldn't close it down in 6, huh? Got blown out a little in Philly like some blogger may have called, huh? Well that's okay, cus it's game 7 in your building and the line is highly in your favor at -155. Oh, wait what? It's -140 now? So people have been betting on the Flyers all day because they think you're actually not that good and if the Flyers can match your aggressiveness on D and keep actually shooting the puck then there's no reason to think that they can't beat you? Oh, okay, got it.
I know I just said that I don't pay attention to bullshit hockey lines, but I left out the part where that's only if they don't speak positively about my team. So in this case, yeah, I'm going to factor them in. I don't think the fact that the line has gradually lowered all day is a clear sign that we're going to win this game, but I do think that the fact people are starting to take the Flyers in this series is a telling sign of how we can beat this team tonight like we did last night.
Like I said yesterday, this Flyers team makes no sense. They've done this all year, and that's why I was so confident in a blowout W last night, because there was no reason to think they'd do it... so naturally they were going to. Craig Berube actually decided to coach last night, shuffling lines up for pretty much the entire first period until settling in on the productive matchups, and the effects were obvious. Wayne Simmonds had space to use his speed and power to get to the net, and finally started to show he can score... like a lot. Like 3 times to be exact. I believe that's a hat trick in most arenas. Steve Mason looked like a wall, like a really athletic jumping wall, and shut down a hot Rangers start that could have easily let the game get out of hand in the first 5 minutes. After Rick Nash found Mason's glove for the 5th time from like point blank, you could see the wind just taken totally out of the Rangers sails and the Flyers jumped all over them for 4 impressive goals.
Now there's no ignoring the Madison Square Garden effect tonight. The Flyers haven't necessarily played their best hockey there recently (1-10 in the last 11, whoops), and the Rangers clearly enjoy their ice much more than ours, so that definitely does make me wary. Not to mention the fact that the Rangers D is still playing tough and aggressively with Giroux, who still couldn't get it going last night outside of a late empty netter. I will say, he did seem to find more space for some excellent passing, and maybe that's what helped open up the ice for everyone else, but he NEEEDS to get on the score sheet tonight for this team to keep playing in to the Spring.
But one final factor that I think is HUGE here for tonight's game is the fact that it's back to back. In my opinion, it almost negates the home ice advantage because this Rangers squad has had no time to get over their loss and rest up a bit, while the Flyers are hungry to get back out there and keep last night going. If there was another day between these two games then I'd say the Rangers definitely have the odds in their favor, but giving the Flyers the chance to quickly extend their impressive play from yesterday is something that I think we're really going to take advantage of. So suck it Rangers, nothing will make me happier than seeing you guys sadly skate back to your locker room after the handshake tonight. I'll ignore the fact that you're still celebs in NYC and probably will get over your loss with super models and free everything in the city, but hopefully you can rely on that to get you through the summer.
Pick: Philadelphia (fuck the line)