The Holy Grail is within sight: NHL Finals | NevadaAppeal.com

The Holy Grail is within sight: NHL Finals

Joe Ellison
Nevada Appeal Betting Columnist

The Holy Grail is now within sight, as the Stanley Cup Finals are set to begin Monday in the National Hockey League.

The playoffs again have been incredibly competitive, with an amazing 48 of the 76 games decided by one goal, and 17 of those 48 totaling 27 overtimes.

Finals – Neither Anaheim nor Ottawa has ever won the coveted Stanley Cup, so we are guaranteed a ninth different champion in the last nine years. A Canadian team hasn’t been crowned champ since 1993, but the last two runners-up were Canadian, and took their Finals series to seven games.

Prediction: The preseason pick of Anaheim has done well, so it will be the Ducks in 7.

NBA

As of Wednesday evening, there was nothing to get excited about for the NBA. The San Antonio-Utah series appears to be a mismatch, and Game 1 of Cleveland-Detroit totaled a pathetic 155 points. Hopefully Cleveland won Game 2 last night and breathed some life into these series.

Predictions: Utah has lost 18 in a row at San Antonio, with its last win coming in 1999. San Antonio wins in 5.

In last season’s conference semi-finals, Cleveland was up three games to two over Detroit before losing in seven. With another year’s experience and the addition of Larry Hughes, maybe that’s enough to push the Cavaliers over the top. I feel like the only one doing it, but I’m taking Cleveland in 7.

Finals – Still hanging in with the preseason prediction of San Antonio over Cleveland.

Indy 500

The field is set Sunday for the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500. With contender Danica Patrick, experienced Sarah Fisher and rookie Milka Duno, a record three women will be vying for auto racing’s most prestigious single-day prize.

Prediction: The Indy 500 is really all about team owner Roger Penske. Penske has won this race a remarkable 14 times, including last year when Sam Hornish Jr. overcame a poor pit stop to nip Marco Andretti in a thrilling finish. Hornish won from the pole, as did 2004 winner Buddy Rice, so the pick is Hornish’s teammate and polesitter, two-time winner Helio Castroneves.

NASCAR

Also on Sunday is NASCAR’s running of the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. Every Nextel Cup race has wagering available.

Prediction: Jimmie Johnson had been dominant at Lowe’s until last year when Kasey Kahne swept both points races. But the pick here is for Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports team to return his Lowe’s-sponsored car to victory lane.

TENNIS

Sunday likewise marks the beginning of tennis’ second major, the French Open, at Roland Garros Stadium in Paris. Patience and stamina are the keys to winning the French where players must survive long baseline rallies on the slow, red clay. The strongest contenders have prepared mentally and physically for tennis’ most grueling tournament by achieving success during the current European clay court season.

Last week Roger Federer halted two-time defending champ Rafael Nadal’s 81-match winning streak on clay. A dream final between those two is certain.

On the women’s side, three-time champion Justine Henin at the age of 12 experienced the death of her mother, she has maintained no contact with her father or brothers, and currently she is going through a divorce. She has done things basically on her own and displays an unmeasurable amount of mental toughness.

Winners – Nadal and Henin.