It was tough to predict this, but after taking the first two games of the series, Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins are suddenly on the brink of being knocked out. It was a hard hit on Crosby that staggered the defending champions.
“When Crosby got hurt, that turned the whole series around and got it to this point,” said Brian Blessing, a Las Vegas radio host and hockey handicapper.
There’s always something special about a Game 7. In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a Game 7 that goes to overtime is especially dramatic, and there are two chances to see that Wednesday night.
The Washington Capitals, the NHL’s top team in the regular season, host the Penguins to decide an Eastern Conference semifinal. In a West semifinal, Anaheim hosts Edmonton in the conclusion of a wild series.
Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals, who knocked around Crosby and then adjusted their lineup to win three of the past four games, are minus-190 favorites. The betting has been lopsided since the line opened at minus-160.
“They are just pounding us on the Caps, and I can see why, to tell you the truth,” said South Point sports book director Chris Andrews, who’s a Penguins fan. “It looks like all the momentum has turned and is on the other side of the ice. I think the price is right.”
Crosby, who suffered a concussion in a Game 3 loss, took another hit to the head in Game 6 and was slow to leave the ice. The Capitals won 5-2 as road underdogs by launching a jail-break assault on Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
“Fleury kept them in the game, but he finally succumbed to the barrage,” Andrews said. “From the beginning of the playoffs, I said I thought the defense for Pittsburgh was shaky, and that has proven to be true. Those guys have not done Fleury any favors, and the Caps have had some terrific scoring opportunities.”
Blessing (Sportsbookradio.com) said although Game 7s are typically played close to the vest, he likes Penguins-Capitals to go over the total of 5½ at plus-105.
“The Penguins’ defense is really beat up, and they are surrendering the blue line far too much. The Caps are getting a lot of chances,” Blessing said.
“It’s still hard to trust Washington, and you’re getting the defending champs at plus-170.”
Pittsburgh’s elimination would extend a long trend. No team has successfully defended a Stanley Cup title since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998.
Blessing picked the Ducks to win the Stanley Cup, so he’ll be on the edge of his seat for the late game in Anaheim.
The Ducks, who have lost a Game 7 at home in four straight years, are minus-125 favorites. The Oilers won twice in Anaheim to open the series and dropped Game 5 in a stunning double-overtime collapse. Edmonton bounced back with a 7-1 win in Game 6.
The Oilers are banking on the better goalie in Cam Talbot. The Ducks’ John Gibson couldn’t stop a medicine ball on Sunday, when he allowed three early goals and was pulled.