NHL Picks: Canucks vs. Blackhawks Series Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 4/13/2011
In my opinion, it’s not even close on which NHL series is the most intriguing when the Stanley Cup playoffs begin on Wednesday night. It’s easily Vancouver vs. Chicago, which also has its Game 1 on Wednesday.
The Canucks are the team to beat this year. Of course, the Blackhawks are the reigning Stanley Cup champions. And these teams generally don’t seem to like each other. It almost feels like Chicago gets into the head of the Vancouver players, especially stud goalie Roberto Luongo. He has been shaky in losing both six-game postseason series the past two years to the Blackhawks (combined .888 save percentage). But those Chicago teams were also favored those years, and they had Dustin Byfuglien, who was Luongo’s personal tormentor, in front of the net. Byfuglien is watching these playoffs with his Thrashers teammates.
Canucks vs. Blackhawks: How the Teams Enter
Vancouver clinched a playoff spot and the top overall seed in the playoffs weeks ago. So the Canucks haven’t had a meaningful game in awhile. The Blackhawks had to scratch and claw to get here. They beat archrival Detroit in the first of a home-and-home last weekend but then lost on Sunday to the Wings. Chicago then had to sit and pray the Minnesota Wild beat the Dallas Stars later Sunday – which they did (ironically both the Wild’s and Stars’ coaches have since been canned).
While the Canucks have had playoff issues with Chicago, things went well for them during the regular season. The Canucks earned five out of a possible eight points against the Blackhawks with a 2-1-1 record. Vancouver won the final two games, including 4-3 at home on Feb. 4. Chicago won the first two, including a 2-1 shootout victory on Oct. 20 and a 7-1 blowout in Vancouver a month later. One thing of note: Hawks No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford played only in one of those games and that was the 7-1 Chicago win.
Canucks vs. Blackhawks: Injury Report
Vancouver third-line forward Manny Malhotra is out for the postseason with a serious eye injury that has required two surgeries. He was second in the NHL with a 61.7 winning percentage on faceoffs and a key to Vancouver's penalty-killing, which had improved from 18th in the NHL last season to second when he was hurt. And winger Raffi Torres (29 points during season) will miss the first two games while finishing out a suspension incurred for an elbowing incident at the tail end of the regular season.
Chicago center Dave Bolland could be key in this series. The checking line specialist hasn’t played since suffering a concussion on March 9. But he is expected to play in this series and maybe as early as Wednesday. Here’s why Bolland is important: He frustrated the you-know-what out of Vancouver’s Sedin twins (198 combined points this season) to just three total goals in last year’s playoffs. Hawks winger Troy Brouwer, more of a fringe player, has been out since last week with a shoulder injury but also should return.
Canucks vs. Blackhawks Odds and Trends
Vancouver is a -230 series favorite and -175 for Game 1 with the total at 5.5 The Canucks were 27-9-1-4 at home this season and 41-41 overall ATS. Chicago was 20-12-4-5 on the road and 37-45 overall ATS.
The Blackhawks are 4-1 in the past five in Vancouver.
The underdog is 6-2 in the past eight meetings.
The ‘over’ has hit in 9 of the past 11 meetings in Vancouver.
NHL Picks: Canucks vs. Blackhawks Predictions
How can you bet against the Canucks? After all, they established franchise records for wins, points and road wins, while leading the league in goals allowed and goals scored. They also boasted the top-ranked power-play unit and the second-best penalty-killing unit. Other than that … remember that the Washington Capitals had a similar type season last year and gagged in the playoffs. In hockey, the No. 8 seed beats No. 1 a whopping 28 percent of the time. I have no doubt in my mind that Chicago wins one of the first two games in Vancouver. But which one? Hawks win Wednesday but Canucks take series in 7.
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