The Blackhawks can bring the Stanley Cup back to suddenly hockey-mad Chicago tonight for the first time in 49 years, while the Flyers face their sixth elimination game since April 11 (five in playoffs and needing a win over the Rangers in the season finale just to reach the postseason).
The line: Chicago -110/Philadelphia -110. This generally opened at most places with Philly at -120 and Chicago at ‘even’.
Props: Will Chris Pronger record an assist – ‘no’ -150, ‘yes’ +120. Pronger shots on goal (‘over/under’ 2.5); will Dustin Byfuglien record a point – ‘no’ -150, ‘yes’ +120. Jonathan Toews total points + shots (3.5); Mike Richards will he score a goal – ‘no’ -240, ‘yes’ +180.
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How they enter: The Hawks ended a two-game slide in the series with a 7-4 victory, which saw Flyers starting goalie Michael Leighton get pulled after allowing three goals (the second time he has been pulled in this series). Backup Brian Boucher wasn’t much better, also allowing three goals – the seventh was a Blackhawks empty-netter.
Scouting report: First, let’s get to the goalie news: Leighton will get the start after Flyers coach Peter Laviolette at least pondered a change to Boucher. And that seems like a no-brainer to go with Leighton, as in his six home playoff starts Leighton is 6-0 with two shutouts, a 1.48 goals-against average and a .949 save percentage. In his three starts in Chicago he is 0-1 with a 5.31 GAA and a .814 save percentage. He has lost just once at home since joining the Flyers in December from Carolina.
Really the biggest story of Game 5 was how bad future Hall of Famer Chris Pronger was. He had been the best player in this series but was a career-worst minus-5 in Game 5. Expect the big defenseman to be majorly motivated after that embarrassment. And adding fuel to Pronger’s fire was that he was featured on a poster in yesterday's Chicago Tribune with his bottom-half subbed out for a figure skater in a skirt and tights. Under the headline "Chrissy Pronger," it read that Pronger "looks like Tarzan, skates like Jane." That is awesome! Because Pronger was so bad, Byfuglien went crazy with two goals (his first of this series) and two assists. He and Patrick Kane were taken off the top line and are expected to be again tonight. Philly is 9-1 at home in the playoffs and has won seven straight there.
The picks and predictions: What is up with the two teams’ captains? Toews, the Hawks' second-leading goal scorer this season with 25 and third-leading scorer with 69 points, has two assists in the finals and is minus-4. Richards, who led the Flyers with 62 points this season, has a goal and an assist and is minus-6. Still, I would go ‘over’ on Toews because he should be able to manage three shots and an assist. And Richards has been much better at home in the playoffs, so that prop is worth a risk at +180.
Pronger will be the guy who is most-watched tonight and I think he’s a monster and shuts down Byfuglien as he had in the previous four games. Remember that the Flyers have the final line change tonight so Laviolette can have Pronger out there against exactly who he wants. Thus I would go yes and ‘over’ on Pronger and no on Byfuglien.
As for the side, I believe this goes to a Game 7 because Leighton is clearly comfortable at home. Plus Hawks goalie Antti Niemi really hasn’t been that good lately himself.