The Blackhawks might be getting desperate. Yes, they have done what they needed to do by winning the first two games of the series at home, and if they keep being successful at home they will win the Stanley Cup. However, the team has looked out of place in the last couple of games and has had some terrible defensive lapses.
They basically wrapped three of the five Flyers’ goals as a gift and gave them to Philadelphia. They missed assignments in the defensive zone and were too careless with the puck. Niklas Hjalmarsson allowed Mike Richards to steal the puck from his stick and score against a surprised Antti Niemi in the first period.
The Hawks defenders lost track of Claude Giroux with time ticking down at the end of the first and allowed him to score uncontested. They also failed to cover Matt Carle in the slot which led to three first-period goals by the Flyers.
Chicago’s problems aren’t limited to the defensive unit. The Blackhawks weren’t aggressive enough on offense and didn’t create traffic in front of Flyer’s goalie Michael Leighton until late in the game. They have yet to score a goal on the power play this series, and the lack of aggressiveness in the offensive zone is a big reason for that.
When the Blackhawks started crashing the net later in the game Friday, they created scoring chances and got to within a couple of inches of tying the game. They need to play this way for the whole 60 minutes if they don’t want to find themselves down 3-2 after Sunday’s game.
The Flyers definitely have the momentum on their side, and Leighton seems to be the hotter goalie right now. While Niemi hasn’t made the great stops that a team needs to o far in the finals, he comes off a frustrating game in which he gave up four goals on defensive miscues and bad bounces. He needs to realize that this wasn’t on him and that he can still lead his team to a title.
The Blackhawks are the 11/2 point favorite going into Sunday’s game. 5Dimes runs the spread including possible overtime periods at -185 for the Flyers +11/2 and +160 for the Blackhawks -11/2.
The Moneyline is worth a look, as the Flyers are the underdog at +165. They have the momentum and they have a good shot at beating the Hawks Sunday and stealing a game from the United Center. Bookmaker even has the Flyers at +170.
The series has been high-scoring so far and the six goal over/under doesn’t look so high anymore. The teams have topped six goals in three of the four games. If they keep hitting the ice with the same intensity, we will see more high-scoring games throughout the rest of the series.
5Dimes offers the option to bet on whether the game will go into overtime again. Friday’s contest was the first game that was decided by more than one goal. And that was only because of Jeff Carter’s empty netter.
In fact, the game came really close to going into overtime, when the puck bounced off Flyers defenseman Ray Coburn’s skate and slithered wide of the net. A goal here would have tied the game late and most likely sent it into overtime.
The line for the game to go into overtime is set at +345, which seems like good value for a close series like this. If you don’t think we will see a repeat of Game 3, you have to invest $430 to win $100 on your “no overtime” bet.
I think the Hawks break the Flyers momentum into Game 5 Sunday and go up 3-2 in the series in another closely fought contest.