Carolina Hurricanes (+170) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (-180)
Before the playoffs began, there weren’t many giving the Carolina Hurricanes a chance to win the Stanley Cup.
No big names on defense. Questionable goaltending. Too small, said the naysayers.
About the only thing large was their odds to win the Cup. And for the third straight series, they’re big underdogs to advance to the next round (+170).
It’s tough to blame oddsmakers. The Canes are up against a talent-loaded Pittsburgh squad that features two of the top three scorers in the playoffs. Sidney Crosby is tied for the lead with 21 – including a league-leading 12 goals – and Evgeni Malkin is close behind with 19. Ten different players for the Pens also have at least two goals through two series.
The Canes only have seven but what they lack in offense, they make up for in defense. Of the four teams remaining, you might say Carolina is the team relying most on defense to win.
Cam Ward has been the goalie of the postseason after out-dueling Martin Brodeur in Round 1 and then goals against-leading Tim Thomas in Round 2. The Canes also have the best penalty kill of the four teams remaining at 90 percent and they’ve only seen three overs in their 14 games.
The Pens, meanwhile, carry an over/under record of 7-5 and they’ve seen the over in four straight games. A power play that has scored nine goals in the past six games is partly to thank for that but the numbers aren’t the whole story.
Pittsburgh has struggled to get quality chances with the extra man recently and with Sergei Gonchar hurting with an apparent knee injury, the Pens could have trouble in the next round. Between Ward’s play and Carolina’s aggressive penalty kill, don’t be surprised if we see a few shorthanded goals from the Carolina side.
The difference in this series though, might come down to who can outlast who. The Pens are coming off two tough series against rivals Philadelphia and Washington while the Canes are coming off a pair of seven-game series.
Gonchar is already hurting from being kneed by Alex Ovechkin and Rod Brind’Amour is questionable for Game 1 for Carolina with a face injury after getting nailed with a puck last game. And those are just the injuries we know about.
Expect more to come as this series wears on and watch to see which team is wearing down more late in games.
Pittsburgh is the favorite but Carolina has the defense and goaltending and is worth the risk with the underdog value.
Pick: Carolina in six games