Western Conference Final
No. 1 San Jose Sharks vs. No. 2 Chicago Blackhawks
San Jose Sharks vs. Chicago Blackhawks Series Odds
San Jose -120
Unlike their counterparts in the East, the Western Conference playoffs has followed the script and the two top seeds are through to the Conference Finals. The Sharks silenced plenty of doubters with six wins in their last seven games after falling behind the Avalanche 2-1 in the first round. It took them five games to cruise past the Red Wings in the second round.
Chicago also had to battle back from a 2-1 series deficit in the first round against Nashville. In the second round against Vancouver they also trailed 1-0 after losing Game 1, 5-1, but they won four of five to close out the series and return to the Western Conference Finals for the second consecutive year. The Blackhawks have not panicked when trailing in series.
Last year in this round they were overwhelmed by the Detroit Red Wings, 4-1. This is a much different Chicago team. Marian Hossa is on Chicago this year; he was a thorn in their side last season when he was with Detroit. Nikolai Khabibulin and Cristobal Huet split the goaltending duties. This year Chicago will rely on Antti Niemi.
Chicago is the more balanced of the two teams when it comes to scoring. In the playoffs so far Chicago has spread the wealth around just like it has all season. Nine different forwards scored in the six-game series against Vancouver.
The Sharks have the defensive advantage with Evgeni Nabokov in net and Dan Boyle and Douglas Murray on defense and the return of Niclas Wallin who has missed nearly the entire postseason. Boyle and Murray are also scoring threats for San Jose.
In their four regular-season meetings Chicago won three of the games and outscored San Jose by six goals. They lit Nabokov up for seven goals back in November and won the latest meeting in January in overtime.
The playoff experience from last year could play enormous dividends especially for Chicago’s young stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The offensive diversity and firepower for Chicago should be enough to make up for the defensive advantage San Jose holds. The favorites have survived throughout the Western Conference playoffs but that trend looks in danger in this series although if Chicago wins it will hardly be considered an upset.
San Jose Sharks vs. Chicago Blackhawks Series Predictions
Chicago in six