May 13, 2011

NHL Conference Finals Preview

The NHL’s final four have been set as the chase for this year’s Stanley Cup really starts to heat up with the best-of-seven conference finals getting underway this weekend. Boston and Tampa Bay cruised to the Eastern Conference Finals with four game sweeps in the semifinals, while Vancouver needed six games and San Jose had to sweat it out for seven games to get to the Western Conference Finals.
The following is a preview of both series along with the current odds for each team to win this year’s title as provided by Bodog.com.

Eastern Conference Finals- Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Boston Bruins
Tampa Bay came into the postseason as the fifth seed in the East and at 20/1 odds to win the Stanley Cup. It enters this series at 7/2 to win it all. The Lightning were pushed to the brink by Pittsburgh in the opening round after falling behind three games to one. They rallied with three straight wins including a 1-0 thriller in Game 7 as a 115 road underdog.

Tampa’s conference semifinal series against top seeded Washington was never in doubt after completely outplaying the Capitals in a four-game sweep. The Lightning are 2-2 as a favorite in the postseason, but a deadly 6-1 as an underdog. They are averaging 3.46 goals a game and giving up just 2.18. The total is 6-3-2 in their 11 playoff games.

Boston, who opened the playoffs as 9/1 favorites and are now listed at 5/2, also had its hands full in the first round against Montreal. That series went the full seven games as the Bruins needed a 4-3 victory in overtime in Game 7 as a 175 home favorite to advance. Three of the final four games ended in overtime with Boston winning all three.

The Bruins went on to exercise the demons of last season’s historic collapse to Philadelphia in the conference semifinals with a four-game sweep this time around. Boston is 6-3 as a favorite in the playoffs and 2-0 as an underdog. It is averaging 3.36 goals a game while allowing just 2.18. The total is 6-5 in 11 postseason games.

This series has the makings of an instant classic and should go the distance with Tampa Bay coming out on top in Game 7.

Western Conference Finals- San Jose Sharks vs. Vancouver Canucks
San Jose came into the postseason as the No.2 seed and a 15/2 favorite to win a Stanley Cup. The Sharks have been able to exercise their own demons of failure in the playoffs with a six-game win over Los Angeles in the first round and a thrilling seven-game victory over Detroit to advance to the conference finals. The key was winning all five of the games that went to overtime. They enter this series a 13/2 favorite to win it all.

San Jose is 7-3 as a favorite and 1-2 as an underdog in the playoffs. It is dead even when it comes to goals; scoring and giving up 2.92 a game and the total is 6-6-1 in its 13 postseason games.
Vancouver was clearly the best team in the NHL in the regular season and the odds-on-favorite at 3/1 to win it all, but came very close to making an early exit in the playoffs after blowing a 3-0 lead to Chicago. A 2-1 overtime victory in Game 7 as a 165 home favorite saved the Canucks’ season.

The conference semifinals brought a little drama after Nashville closed the gap to three games to two with a 4-3 win in Game 5, but Vancouver closed things out with a 2-1 win as a 137 road favorite in Game 6. The Canucks are 7-4 as a favorite this postseason and 1-1 as an underdog. They are averaging just 2.31 goals in 13 playoff games, but have only given up an average of 2.54. The total is 5-6-2 in those 13 games. Vancouver is an even heavier favorite to win this year’s Stanley Cup at 7/4.

The Canucks will need to find a bit more offense against the Sharks in this series, but cream rises to the top with a series win in six games.

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Dave Schwab

DJ is a freelance writer that concentrates on his true passion in life; the world of sports. He produces a number of articles each week for BangTheBook.com as well as a select group of other websites that specialize in providing the most up-to-date information for the sports gaming industry. His goal is to write insightful articles on a wide variety of sporting topics that can provide an edge to today's sophisticated online player.

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