SHARKS vs. BRUINS: How’s that for a NHL Stanley Cup final?

May 3, 2011 6:05 AM

After getting past their nemesis Montreal in Game 7 of the first round thanks to three overtime wins, Boston went on to take Game 1 in Philadelphia, 7-3.

The Flyers knocked the Bruins out of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs in the semifinal round after falling behind 3-0 in that series. But this time around, the Bruins have a healthy Tim "Tank" Thomas who was suffering from an ailing hip injury throughout this season.

In fact, for that amazing Flyers comeback they were facing Tuukka Rask in goal and not the 37-year-old Thomas who broke Dominik Hasek’s "save percentage" record with a .938 mark in the 2011 regular season.

Saturday’s victory for the Bruins made them a perfect six for six in Game 1’s vs. the Flyers in a playoff Series. Surprisingly, the Flyers have gone on to win three of the five previous playoff matchups. Historically, in the second round of the NHL Playoffs, teams that take a 1-0 lead on the road have gone on to win the series 55.6% of the time.

I believe the Bruins, who were favored to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup finals will do just that. The Flyers seemed to have problems adjusting to the difference in style of goaltending from what they faced against the Sabres in Round 1.

With Ryan Miller, they went up against an extremely large goalie whose body covered a large part of the net. In Thomas, they’re facing a much smaller goalie who never quits on a puck.

That contrast in styles seemed to stifle the Flyers offense, who actually out-shot the Bruins in that lop-sided Game 1 loss. Boston has now won four of five against the Flyers in the 2010-11 season, with their only loss coming in an OT game back in December. Thomas is now 11-2-2 in his career vs. Philadelphia.

On the flip side, the Flyers Brian Boucher has been pulled from goal in two of the last three games, including Saturday after allowing five goals on only 23 shots. Coach Peter Laviolette seems intent on staying with Boucher over Rookie Sergei Bobrovsky for now, but the obvious lack in confidence and quality performance will continue to remain a huge distraction for Philly.

Bottom line, the Bruins who are now 0 for their last 26 on the power-play will have to get it going offensively with the man-advantage.

Many believed Vancouver was the favorites to represent the West in the Cup Finals, including the odds makers who had installed the Canucks as a huge favorite at the start of the post-season. Now, San Jose looks more like the one to beat out West.

The Canucks head to Nashville tied 1-1 in their quarterfinal Series with the Predators, while the Sharks are on their way to the Motor City with a commanding 2-0 series lead.

Historically, home teams who go up 2-0 in the NHL Playoffs are 212-24 (89.9%) for the series. In the quarterfinal Round, those same Home Teams who go ahead 2-0 are 66-10 (86.8%) for the series. So probability tells us the Sharks are headed to the Western Conference Finals.

Game 3 will be extremely important for both clubs and surprisingly those same teams who have a 2-0 series lead have gone on to win Game 3 on the Road in this round a shade over 63% (48-28).

If the Sharks are able to win Game 3, they’ll be an even bigger favorite to advance like 46 of 48 teams have done before them. If the Red Wings win Game 3 and get to 1-2 in the series, they would still be a huge underdog to advance. In fact, historically when the Home Team for the series (SJ) is ahead 2-1 in the quarters, they advance to the next round 67.8% (40-19) of the time.

Bottom line, goaltender Antti Niemi and the entire Sharks team has played their best hockey when it mattered most. They won 27 of their final 37 regular season games heading into the postseason.

I believe San Jose will advance to the West Finals and from there, make their way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Those who receive my Morning Moves Newsletter will attest that I gave out both the Bruins and Sharks as Future Bets to win the Stanley Cup.

I have yet to attempt a hedge on either of those and from what I’ve seen so far, there’s no plans to do so anytime soon.

Sure, those future bets may make me a bit biased but as a professional sports bettor I have learned to check my emotions at the door and instead trust the data and information. Right now, it all points to the fact we just may have a future wager on the two best teams left in the 2011 NHL Playoffs.

Note: Vegas-Runner is a Professional Sports Bettor & Handicapper who’s been featured on CNBC & ESPN. You can follow VR on Twitter (@Vegasrunner) and at Pregame.com.)