Alex Labidou

Getty Images

Streaking Rangers Road Underdogs Against Blackhawks for Wednesday

Leave a comment

Patrick Kane and Chicago Blackhawks have some trends which bode well for them cooling off the New York Rangers when the teams meet on Wednesday night.

The Blackhawks are a -130 home-ice favorite with the Rangers coming back at +118 in their matchup on Wednesday at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The total is at 6.0 goals. The Rangers are 6-0 in their last six games while the Blackhawks are 1-4 in their last five home outings. However, Chicago is a dominant 8-2 in their 10 most recent games against Metropolitan Division opponents.

The Rangers, who are 9-7-2 this season, have been scoring goals on the regular thanks in large part to a fast-paced style of play. Games with a total of 6.0 have gone over the majority of the time so far this season in the NHL. New York is averaging 4.25 goals over its last eight games, and its power play, quarterbacked by defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, is on a hot streak at 8-for-19 in the last six games.

Having skilled forwards such as Mika Zibanejad, J.T. Miller and Pavel Buchnevich means the Rangers should not be starved for quality scoring chances. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist typically plays well against Chicago, with a 6-2-2 record, 2.19 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage.

The Rangers are 2-5 in their last seven road games as the underdog.

The Blackhawks, 8-8-2 on the season, had an ugly 7-5 loss against the New Jersey Devils in their most recent game. But Kane broke a goal drought in that game and rookie Alex DeBrincat is also on a hot streak with three in the past two contests. Chicago is also a strong bounce-back team that is 12-4 in its last 16 games after a game where it scored five goals.

The upshot of that aforementioned loss is that Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville will likely shake up his lines, and those adjustments often create a short-term gain for teams.

Chicago goalie Corey Crawford did not complete the game against New Jersey, but he has a good track record against the Rangers with a .921 save percentage in six career games.

The total has gone under in six of the Rangers’ last 10 games, with one push, according to the OddsShark NHL Database. The total has also gone under in six of the Blackhawks’ last 10 games, with one push. The total has gone under in five of the Blackhawks’ last seven home games as the favorite.

 

U.S., Belarus level at 1-1 after opening day of Fed Cup final

AP Images
1 Comment

MINSK, Belarus — U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens lost in three sets to Aryna Sabalenka as host Belarus and the United States ended the opening day of the Fed Cup final evenly poised at 1-1.

Sabalenka beat Stephens 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 Saturday after CoCo Vandeweghe earlier defeated Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-4, 6-4 to give 17-time champion United States a 1-0 lead.

The Americans are looking to break a 17-year championship drought, while Belarus is playing in its first Fed Cup final.

Sabalenka’s carefree and often careless tennis resulted in 31 winners and 57 unforced errors. She won on a fourth match point when Stephens netted a forehand.

A wild third set saw six straight breaks of serve before Sabalenka held in the seventh game.

“(It’s) a good experience for me because I’ve never felt these emotions, playing at home and the score is 0-1,” Sabalenka said.

Stephens has yet to win any of the five matches she’s played since winning the U.S. Open.

“We’re playing Fed Cup so anything goes,” Stephens said. “I want to play like that. That was insane. Playing for her country, the crowd behind her, she played great.”

Vandeweghe also faced a boisterous crowd at the indoor hard court in Minsk as she played Sasnovich for the first time.

“I think that’s part of having the home court advantage and I would expect the same in the U.S.,” Vandeweghe said.

Vandeweghe broke in the opening games of both sets at Chizhovka Arena, and didn’t face a break point on her serve in the opener.

In the second set, Vandeweghe lost serve in the second and eighth games, but broke serve on three of four offerings to secure the match.

Vandeweghe holds a perfect record in Fed Cup action this year, winning five singles and one doubles match including her defeat of Sasnovich.

“I think there’s different moments that excite you in tennis,” Vandeweghe said. “For me, Fed Cup is probably one of the more exciting moments I could have in my career.

“I don’t want to use the word `ooze’ confidence, but I can’t think of a better word. I just take the energy that’s around me and I really use it to my advantage.”

The Americans won a record 17th Fed Cup title in 2000, with Billie Jean King as captain. Since then, they have played and lost in three finals – 2003, 2009 and 2010.

Krajinovic upsets Isner to reach Paris Masters final

AP Images
Leave a comment

PARIS (AP) Qualifier Filip Krajinovic reached the Paris Masters final after an upset 6-4, 6-7 (2), 7-6 (5) win against ninth-seeded John Isner on Saturday.

The 25-year-old Serb slid onto his back and sobbed, his arms raised, after sealing victory on his first match point. Krajinovic then knelt and kissed the court.

“The emotions are amazing, big. When I served for the match my hand was shaking,” Krajinovic said. “It was tough to control the emotions. Best day in my life but the tournament is not over yet.”

He will play for his first career title against 16th-seeded American Jack Sock, who comfortably beat home favorite Julien Benneteau 7-5, 6-2. Sock has never won a Masters title and can qualify for the season-ending ATP Finals London if he does so here.

Sock dropped his serve twice but broke the 35-year-old Benneteau’s serve five times. The 25-year-old American will go for his third title of the year and fourth of his career.

For big-serving Isner, the defeat ended his bid to reach London.

“Very disappointing. I had an opportunity here to do some things I’ve never done before,” said Isner, who was also hoping to break into the Top 10.

Isner was a runner-up in Paris last year and again fell short of an elusive first Masters title.

“I have been very close in tournaments, especially Masters events. I just haven’t broken through,” he said. “This one is going to sting because I knew I was the highest-ranked player in the semifinals.”

Krajinovic is the lowest-ranked player in a Masters final since 191st-ranked Andrei Pavel in Paris in 2003.

The 77th-ranked Krajinovic had only won 17 matches in his whole career – thwarted by a wrist injury – before this tournament.

Krajinovic, who looked fresher on court than Isner, is the first qualifier to reach a Masters final since Jerzy Janowicz in 2012, also in Paris.

Krajinovic was helped by not having to play his quarterfinal because top-ranked Rafael Nadal pulled out with a right knee injury. Nadal has not said whether he will be fit enough to play in the season-ending ATP Finals, starting Nov. 12 in London.

Serving for the first set, Krajinovic held to love when Isner sent a two-handed backhand into the net.

With Isner serving at 4-4 and 40-30 in the ninth game of the second set, the match was halted for six minutes when several medical staff attended to a female spectator, who was then taken away. She appeared fully conscious and had her eyes open.

Isner dominated the second-set tiebreaker and clenched his fist after leveling the match with an ace.

The 32-year-old Isner forged a break point at the start of the third set, but missed it with a wasteful forehand which went long.

A powerful forehand gave Isner another chance on Krajinovic’s serve at 30-40 in the ninth game, but Krajinovic saved that one, too.

“I actually went after it and I missed the ball by a few inches,” Isner said. “With how well I was serving today, that was essentially a match point.”

In a tense decisive tiebreaker, Isner led 3-0 but Krajinovic rallied to move 5-4 ahead. Isner’s 31st ace steadied him but a superb return to Isner’s feet on the next point gave Krajinovic match point on his serve.

“When I was up 3-0 I was actually feeling very good,” Isner said. “But he hit two unreturnable serves.”

A whipped forehand winner into an open side of the court was enough for victory, prompting wild celebrations from Krajinovic’s coach, Petar Popovic, who was topless as he shook his fists in delight.