The seesaw battle between the Red Wings and the Blackhawks climaxes tonight in the Western Conference semi-finals. But who will we back with our NHL picks this evening?
Swinging Johnson - NHL Record (12-8-1, +13.15 units)
*Games assigned 1 to 5 units.
We hit a few snags with money burners on Under 5 in the Bruins/Rangers Game 4 and a misfire on the Blackhawks who dropped Game 4 to the Wings. But then we bounced back with a three unit winner on Pittsburgh as they closed out the Senators in Game 5.
Overall, we can’t complain. We are up over 13 units on the season and looking for more. For tonight’s NHL picks, I am a little bit vexed because I know the Hawks have more talent, more depth and a raucous home crowd behind them but the boys from Detroit are a gritty bunch with a goalie in Jimmy Howard who can steal a game. Let’s analyze the game, peruse the NHL odds and bring back the cash.
Detroit Red Wings
You can never underestimate goaltending in a playoff series and Jimmy Howard bore that axiom out when he stopped 86 of 88 shots to propel his team from a 1-0 deficit to a commanding 3-1 series lead. But that is all by the boards now as Chicago has roared back to knot the series and send it back to the United Center.
Damien Brunner leads the Red Wings with five goals in the postseason but it’s the captain, Henrik Zetterberg, who the Wings will turn to tonight. Zetterberg has 11 points and leads the team with a +4 rating in the playoffs. But against the Blackhawks, Zetterberg has been an afterthought. He has not scored a goal while fellow sniper Pavel Datsyuk has only two points. They will need both of these players to snap out of their funk and on to the scorer’s sheet if they are to advance tonight.
Chicago has to be heartened that Jonathan Toews has awoken from his playoff slumber with a goal in Game 5 and two critical assists in Game 6. Patrick Sharp, Marion Hossa and Bryan Bickell have all been lighting the lamp for the Blackhawks while defenseman Duncan Keith leads the team in assists with eight in the postseason.
If you’re looking for a critical piece of Chicago’s puzzle, look no further than goaltender Corey Crawford who trails only Jonathan Quick with a 1.78 GAA and a sparkling .935 save percentage. He has been the mainstay for the Hawks and will be again tonight as the Red Wings will be launching early and often to crack the code that is Corey Crawford.
Chicago is 7-4 against Detroit over the past three seasons when the game is played in the Windy City. That has absolutely no bearing on what will happen tonight but I just wanted to throw it out there for any cappers who may believe that trend has significance tonight.
I am conflicted here because I can envision Detroit stealing this game. There is no doubt Jimmy Howard’s game has diminished since his stellar run in Games two, three and four but he is too good to be mediocre for too long. Corey Crawford has been lights out in net for the Blackhawks and I don’t see him slumping tonight.
So just where the hell does that leave us with our sports picks? The NHL odds suggest, no check that, they scream at us that Chicago will win tonight because they are currently -225 favorites. Why shouldn’t they be? They have come alive in their last three games and have outplayed and outhustled Detroit. But that is simply too much lumber to lay in my estimation. I cannot risk north of 2 to 1 against a team as talented as Detroit. Nor will I back them because there is perceived value. No boys, I‘m staying away from the side and look for a tight checking game from start to finish where the goalies shine and goals are scarce.NHL Picks: Play Under 5 (-135) for 4 units at Bet365.com.