Saturday's Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning is critical not only due to the fact that it will create some separation in what has been an even series, but also because there are some intriguing betting lines that can be taken advantage of.
Home-ice advantage can certainly play a role in hockey, but the Blackhawks and Bolts have performed equally well regardless of the venue, which suggests that Tampa playing in front of the Amalie Arena faithful may not make a huge difference. Even so, the Lightning have been installed as the favorites in the biggest contest of the series.
Here is a rundown of the most important betting lines and spreads entering Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, along with predictions for how each will play out.
Stanley Cup Final Game 5 Betting Odds
|Stanley Cup Final Game 5 Betting Propositions|
|Teams||Betting Line||Spread||Over/Under (5.5)|
|Chicago Blackhawks||27-25||+1.5 (10-29)||Over (133-100)|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||100-119||-1.5 (49-20)||Under (50-73)|
Game 5 Predictions
Game Will Go Over
Many were expecting a series full of high-scoring affairs when the Blackhawks and Lightning punched their tickets to the Stanley Cup Final, but the teams have only lit the lamp in moderation thus far.
The Bolts led the league with 3.16 goals per game during the regular season, while the Blackhawks finished in the middle of the pack at 2.68, but they are perfectly capable of exploding at any time thanks to talented forwards such as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad.
The over-under for Game 5 is set at 5.5 goals, according to Odds Shark, which means bettors would likely need a 4-2 or 4-3 game in order to hit on the over unless there's an unlikely blowout. Only Tampa's 4-3 win in Game 2 has totaled greater than 5.5 goals in this series, which is why the under has been installed as the favorite.
Even so, it feels like the Stanley Cup Final is due for an over game. Chicago has struggled uncharacteristically to generate offense, while Tampa has been somewhat unlucky at times. That was evident in Game 4 when Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford turned aside a number of high-quality chances.
The Bolts have yet to get a goal from captain and four-time 40-goal scorer Steven Stamkos, which suggests he is due for a breakout. He missed two golden opportunities late in Game 4, but he maintains a positive outlook, per NHL.com's Dan Rosen:
Nope, not frustrated. I mean, it's going to go (if) I just stick with it. If I had those two chances over again I'd try to get it away as quick as I could. The first one, their 'D' got a stick on it. Not much I can do. The looks are coming. Our game is right there. They're eventually going to start going in, hopefully in bunches.
Also, the Blackhawks have scored two goals in three of the Final's games thus far and three in the other. They have made it easy on the Lightning to some degree by failing to put pucks on net, and one can only assume that head coach Joel Quenneville will stress the importance of racking up shots in Game 5.
That is especially true if the Bolts are forced to turn to 20-year-old goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy again. He started Game 4 when regular starter Ben Bishop was surprisingly scratched with an undisclosed injury.
Bishop could start in Game 5, but head coach Jon Cooper has been noncommittal, according to Tracey Myers of CSNChicago.com:
Vasilevskiy looked somewhat shaky at times in stopping 17 of 19 shots in Game 4, and while Bishop has enjoyed a strong postseason, the mystery injury could hurt his effectiveness if he does play.
Couple that with the fact that star forwards like Stamkos, Kane, Toews, Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and others have yet to truly assert themselves in this series, and Game 5 has all the makings of a shootout.
Blackhawks Will Win and Cover
While the Blackhawks seized momentum by winning Game 4 despite not playing their best, the oddsmakers favor the Lightning to come through on home ice and take a 3-2 lead in the Stanley Cup Final Saturday.
According to Odds Shark, the Bolts are 100-119 favorites, while Chicago is an underdog at 27-25. Also, Tampa is favored by 1.5 goals, although the Lightning are 49-20 underdogs with the spread involved, and the Blackhawks are 10-29 favorites with the goals added in.
There is no question that Chicago has failed to live up to its potential throughout the series, but the fact that it finds itself tied at 2-2 is huge. One can only assume that the Blackhawks are bound to play better, and they typically do as the games get more important.
Per ESPN Stats & Info, they have excelled when series get past Game 4 over their past four playoff runs, especially away from home:
It is difficult to quantify experience and the ability to perform in the clutch, but the Blackhawks clearly possess those qualities in spades.
Also, the fact that Chicago made a Houdini-like escape in Game 4 shouldn't be discounted. That result had to be somewhat demoralizing for the Lightning, while the Blackhawks are feeling good, according to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times:
The spread is somewhat inconsequential if the Blackhawks win outright in Game 5, but the fact that they are getting 1.5 goals makes them an even more attractive option. Every game in the series has been decided by one goal, and while it can be argued that the trend is due to change, it will ultimately change in Chicago's favor.
The Blackhawks have been in this very position many times, while most of Tampa's players haven't. Chicago has won two Stanley Cups since 2010, and it will take a giant step toward a third by winning Game 5 by a score of 4-2.
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