Wild at Blackhawks Picks and Game 1 Betting Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 4/30/2013
The Blackhawks were the runaway winners of the President’s Trophy for the top regular season record in the NHL. The accomplishments really are staggering. They won three-quarters of their games — 36 of 48 — and lost just seven games in regulation. While that’s impressive, you can be sure that no player on the team cares at this point. This is a squad that hasn’t won a playoff series since winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, so you know that the trophy they have isn’t what they are aiming for. This is a team that is good enough to make a run all the way to the finals — and quite possibly win it all — and they know it.
For the Wild this hasn’t been the dream season it was supposed to be. Far from it. Minnesota had one of the most aggressive offseasons in memory when they went all out for the two big jewels of the free-agent class — winger Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter. They were two of the three leading scorers for the team, and both were solid, but neither has so far justified the incredible investment of nearly $200 million combined that the team made in them. They allowed six more goals than any other playoff team in the Western Conference and scored two fewer goals as well. Fans of the team will remind you that last year the Kings were the No. 8 seed in the West, and they drank from Stanley’s mug. The difference is that that was a very talented team that struggled early and awoke for the second half of the season. By the time the playoffs rolled around they were much better than their seeding suggested. They didn’t sneak up on anyone. The Wild, meanwhile, are just what they appear — a team that is lucky to have slipped into the playoffs, and one that would need a lot of luck to stay for long.
Wild at Blackhawks Betting storylines
The biggest key here is for the Blackhawks to have learned from their past shortcomings. In 2011 they fell to the Canucks in seven games. Last year they lost to Phoenix in six games, with each of the first five going to overtime. They are a better team now than they were in those two years, but they need to use those flat performances as motivation. This Minnesota team isn’t as good as the two teams that beat them, but they still can’t be taken lightly. If we don’t see real jump and urgency right out of the gate for the Blackhawks, then those, like me, who think Chicago will be playing for a long time this spring may have to reassess their beliefs.
Another big obstacle the Blackhawks need to overcome is the President’s Trophy. Lately, it has been a bit of a curse. San Jose in 2009, Washington in 2010 and Vancouver last year were all eliminated in the first round after winning the regular season. The only exception in the last four years was Vancouver in 2011. They lost to Boston in the finals that year, and then their fans tried to burn the city to the ground.
The secret to Chicago’s success isn’t tough to deduce this year. No team in the NHL allowed fewer goals than they did all year, and only Pittsburgh scored more goals. When you can score and the other team can’t, it’s not hard to win. The team got at least a point in their first 24 games then finished out 11-2-2, so this wasn’t a case of a team getting hot at the right time, either. This was a consistently excellent, fundamentally sound team. They are ridiculously deep as well, so injuries are less of a concern than with most teams. Goalie Ray Emery is out to start the playoffs, for example, but despite his outstanding season (17-1, 1.94 GAA), he platoons with Corey Crawford (also a 1.94 GAA in 30 games), so the team won’t miss a beat.
Wild at Blackhawks Odds and Betting Trends
The Wild are 2-5 in their last seven games in Chicago. The “under” has gone 4-0-1 in Chicago’s last five games. Chicago was 2-0-1 against the Wild this year, with the lone loss coming in late January in a shootout.
Wild at Blackhawks Picks and Game 1 Betting Predictions
The Wild limped into the playoffs. They struggled to clinch and scored just eight goals in their last five games. They are outclassed this year, and they are playing like they know it. They don’t have any offensive spark right now, and their goaltending is far from a strength. Chicago, meanwhile, is angry and determined. They know what a great opportunity they have right now, and they have remained focused and intense despite not really needing to down the stretch. They are going to come out very strong looking to make a big statement here. I would confidently play them to win this game, and the puckline (-1.5 +130) is also very attractive.
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