Aside from the New York Rangers versus Washington Capitals, the NHL's conference semi-finals are all looking clear cut at this stage.
Inspired by goalie Braden Holtby, the Capitals edged out a 1-0 victory last night to take an overall 2-1 series lead. As a result the Rangers have slipped out of their position as favourites to win the Stanley Cup since they must get a road win at some stage. Defensively Washington have been very impressive, giving Holtby a chance to see the puck and limiting opportunities on the rush. Alex Ovechkin has been all-action for the Caps including a superb individual effort in Game 2, and looks a man determined to the cup to his list of accolades. In contrast two of New York's leaders, Martin St. Louis and Rick Nash, have combined for only one playoff goal. Odds of 2.50 on Washington taking tomorrow night's Game 4 look a solid option unless the Rangers get desperate.
One of those sides in a strong position is the Chicago Blackhawks after winning the first two meetings versus the Minnesota Wild. Again it's been their main man Patrick Kane causing damage, the former playoff MVP has three goals in two games and is at 2.90 to net tonight in Game 3. It's clutch time for Minnesota, but they are a strong home team and will feel confident of taking the next two at Xcel Energy Center. Uncharacteristic defensive mistakes have cost them so far, main man Ryan Suter one of those responsible, and they have to tighten up their game against this Chicago offence. Plenty could change, but the Blackhawks are doing their cup chances at 4.40 no harm if they keep this series as short as possible.
The Anaheim Ducks have put on a clinic in how to subdue exuberant opponents. They hold a 2-0 lead over the Calgary Flames after dominating the opening two contests. Of course the Flames have been defying predictions all season and like Minnesota they know you are only in real trouble after losing at home. Just one goal in 120 minutes is clearly worrying, and the first line center matchup of Sean Monahan versus Ryan Getzlaf has only gone to the Ducks captain so far. Mark Giordano's return can't come soon enough for Calgary, who need to find a way around their disadvantage in size. In truth Anaheim have strong-armed their less experience opponents so odds of 3.00 on them sweeping the series may be worth a look.