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NHL Conference Finals: Odds Favor Rangers-Blackhawks Stanley Cup
When the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs began about a month ago, the New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks were the Stanley Cup favorites. They both have taken very different routes to the conference finals but that remains the case. New York, the Presidents' Trophy winner, is +210 to win the Cup followed by the Hawks (+220), Ducks (+240) and Lightning (+475).
A Rangers-Ducks and Rangers-Blackhawks Finals are both priced at +200, however. Anaheim has home-ice advantage in the Western Finals against Chicago, with that series starting Sunday. Lightning-Ducks is +333 as is Lightning-Blackhawks.
Rangers Stun Caps
New York beat Washington in Game 7 on Wednesday night to complete a stunning rally from a 3-1 series deficit. Derek Stepan scored 11:24 in overtime for the winner. The Rangers are the only team to win series after trailing 3-1 in successive years, doing the same thing to Pittsburgh in the second round in 2014. Henrik Lundqvist made 35 saves and became the third goalie to win six Game 7s, joining Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur. The last time the Rangers won a Game 7 in overtime was 1994, when they beat the Devils and, one round later, hoisted their most recent Stanley Cup. New York is 7-0 at home in Game 7, and Lundqvist is 14-3 when facing elimination since the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Rangers are -150 favorites on the series line against the high-scoring Lightning (+130). The Lightning are in the Eastern Conference Final for the third time. The most recent was in 2011, when they lost to the Boston Bruins in seven games.
Last season, the Lightning and Rangers traded captains, with New York sending forward Ryan Callahan to Tampa Bay for Martin St. Louis, the Lightning's career leader in points. The Lightning could start this series without Callahan, who missed Game 6 after having an appendectomy and is out indefinitely. He has three assists in 12 playoff games.
Callahan had four goals against New York when Tampa Bay went 3-0-0 in the regular-season series, played in a span of 15 days ending Dec. 1. Forward Steven Stamkos had two goals and seven points; Johnson had two goals and six points. Goalie Ben Bishop had a 2.34 goals-against average and .900 save percentage in the three wins. Lundqvist lost each game; he had a 4.74 GAA and .823 save percentage.
Hawks Slight Faves Over Ducks
Chicago took two of three this season from Anaheim and is a -115 favorite for the series with the Ducks at -105. The Blackhawks are back in the Western Conference Final for the fifth time in seven seasons. The Ducks have reached the third round for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup in 2007. This opens Sunday, meaning both teams have had tons of time off.
Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry have combined for 27 points in nine games, including four power-play goals. They set the tone for each series with a combined six goals and nine points in two Game 1s. Chicago's Patrick Kane has a point in seven straight games and scored five goals in four games against the Minnesota Wild in the second round. Jonathan Toews (11 points) and left wing Patrick Sharp (nine points) are in the playoff-scoring top 10.
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Two unbeatens enter the octagon on Sept. 26 at UFC 253 with the UFC world middleweight championship belt on the line. Israel Adesanya (19-0) puts his title up for grabs against Brazilian Paulo Costa, who is 13-0. The Nigerian-born Adesanya, who fights out of New Zealand, holds a height (1.93m-1.85m) and a reach (203.2-182.9) advantage over Costa. In terms of age, Costa, 29, is two years younger than Adesanya, 31.