The Stanley Cup Finals are set to begin tomorrow at 8 p.m. EST with an intriguing matchup between two stylistically similar teams in the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning. Chicago is on the verge of winning its third title in five years and capturing a piece of history for the city and its players. Coach Joel Quenneville has built a mini dynasty with the Blackhawks, and another title would solidify the team as one of the greatest teams over the last 20 years.
Tampa Bay, on the other hand, is the young upstart squad that dominates with star power and puck control similar to what Chicago does. The difference, however, is that Tampa Bay has not won a Stanley Cup title or even made a finals appearance in 10 years. The Lightning hope to bring home the cup with a combination of speed and dominance on the defensive end of the puck. Let's take a closer look at the matchup, lines and odds and figure out the best way to bet on the series. All odds come from Bovada.
Tampa Bay: -120, -1.5 (+240)
Chicago: even, +1.5 (-280)
Total: 5 (O: -150)
Stats are never the Holy Grail when it comes to sports betting, but sometimes they can be an excellent guide on which way to wager. Over the last 10 years the home team has won Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals 80 percent of the time. Tampa Bay is the underdog, a young and inexperienced team going up against a squad with nothing but experience in big games. Unless you are an expert hockey handicapper, which not many of us are, this feels like a situation where a bettor shouldn't overthink things and take the home team during Game 1. The Lightning could easily win this game but not win the entire series-Chicago did lose Game 1 in the conference finals.
Tampa Bay: +125
Tampa Bay is beginning to look like the younger and more athletic version of Chicago. The Lightning are 9-0 this postseason when scoring first, while the Blackhawks are 32-0 this season when leading after two periods. Both squads can score quickly and tend to dominate once they grab a lead. Chicago has experience, and Tampa Bay has youth. This matchup is so close that there is probably no "correct" choice for bettors to make. Looking at the series simply based on the odds, however, taking Chicago at -145 feels like a much safer bet than taking Tampa Bay at +125. The Blackhawks have a world of Game 7 experience, history hanging in the balance, and -145 seems to be a reasonable number to wager on. Chicago feels like the best play to make.
Chicago: -1.5 games (+125)
Chicago: +1.5 games (-300)
Tampa Bay: +1.5 games (-155)
Tampa Bay -1.5 games (+240)
Both squads are coming off of Game 7s in their respective conference finals, and each went to at least six games in five of their six playoff matchups combined. Taking Chicago at +1.5 is too expensive of a price at -300, so the best bets left on the table are Chicago at -1.5 and Tampa Bay at either +1.5 or -1.5. Since this series projects to be a close matchup, Chicago is probably on course to win in six games while Tampa Bay is on course to win in seven. Tampa Bay's +1.5 at -155 is a reasonable wager to make, while Chicago's -1.5 at +125 is the same. If you believe the Blackhawks will win this series, take the -1.5 games, and if you believe the Lightning will be the new Stanley Cup champions take the +1.5.
Read more articles by George Monroy
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