Vegas veteran Benjamin Eckstein, author of America’s Line, brings three decades of experience to make weekly picks in his “Ecks & Bacon” column.
LAS VEGAS — So, one of the BEST players in the world, Sidney Crosby, has an “upper-body injury.” My question is, why do these hockey coaches have to be all secretive? Are they thinking about joining the CIA? Everyone who watched the last game saw Crosby take a wicked elbow from Jacob Trouba right to the head.
Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said: “We can win games regardless of who is in our lineup. We have a lot of depth at all of the positions. We believe we have what it takes to win. This group has always had the next-man-up mentality.”
At 34 years old, Sid the Kid ain’t a kid anymore, but he is as dynamic as anyone on the ice. Of course the Penguins will miss him, but this team has enough talent to send the Rangers off to a summer vacation.
Either way, I’m SAD, because my New York roots tell me Rangers, but we’re gonna roll with Pittsburgh. But without Sid (he was ruled out for Game 6), it’s gonna be a much thinner wager.
C’mon out to Arizona with me where we’ll grab the Diamondbacks with Zach Davies over the Cubs. Not thinking that the D-backs are gonna make any noise in the POWERHOUSE National League West, but these kids are not terrible anymore. They’ve won seven of the last nine overall and six of the last eight at home.
Davies has been very STINGY the last two times out and has not given up an earned run over the last 11 innings. Can’t say the same for Chicago’s Drew Smyly, who has not won a game since April 12 and has allowed 17 hits and eight earned runs over the last 14 innings. And since the Cubs have lost nine of the last 12, gimme those snakes for the money!
FA Cup Pick
If you’re interested in a little late-morning soccer action in London, we’ll drop some euros on Liverpool to beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium. The Reds have been on an INSANE run since the middle of March, winning 12, losing NONE and posting three draws.
They’ve also outscored their opponents by a 3:1 ratio, hitting the net 36 times and allowing only 12 goals. The Blues have been more discombobulated recently, winning six times, losing three times and posting three draws. Chelsea has scored 15 goals and allowed 13 over the last nine outings, so we’re backing the Liverpudlians to lift the Cup!
Two best words in sports? GAME SEVEN, BAABBBEEE! OK, that’s three words, but you feel me, right? We talked about the Lightning’s INCREDIBLE 17-0 run at home after a playoff loss, but we got another OH for you. Actually, it’s an UH-OH! The Maple Leafs are 0-8, yes, OH & EIGHT in playoff elimination games since 2018. Are we gonna buck the 0-8? HELLZ YEAH! We like the fact that all the Toronto players ZIPPED their lips after the Game 6 loss when asked about the officiating. The Maple Leafs felt like there were a handful of lousy calls, and they were always on the wrong end.
Will the refs give the Leafs a little home-ice LOVE in Game 7? Not sure. Will that impact the outcome? Not sure. But the main reason we’re jumping on Toronto is the yo-yo effect. This series has seen the Leafs win, then lose, then win, then lose, then win, then lose.
The Scotiabank Arena is gonna be absolutely BERSERK and you know how good Toronto is on home ice. Oh, you don’t? Here’s a taste. Since the middle of March, the Leafs have won 13 of last 15 at 40 Bay Street, and as the great Bruce Buffer says before every UFC match, IT’S TIME!!!
Benjamin Eckstein is a nationally syndicated sportswriter/oddsmaker. His column, America's Line, with the Ecks & Bacon appetizer, has run in the New York Daily News and over 100 other papers since 1988. You can follow him online at www.americasline.com. He is beloved by most, when he picks winners, and detested by others, when he picks the occasional loser. If you wanna piece of Eck, hit his Email...firstname.lastname@example.org.