Conference finals are set, Blackhawks & Ducks will start Game 1 on Sunday. Both teams will be well-rested for the matchup but can the Ducks make an early statement by cashing on the NHL odds?
The Chicago Blackhawks Can Win Because…
They play well on the Duck Pond. Taking a look at recent history, the Blackhawks have actually won three of their last four visits to Anaheim. They’ve also won four of the last five meetings overall.
The challenge here for Anaheim is that their defense and goaltending is a weakness and the Blackhawks continuously find a way to exploit it. As for the Ducks, they have a stellar top line but the Blackhawks have a top-notch defensive pairing that shuts them down. That means the Ducks will have to change that pattern if they’re to win. That’s not likely to happen.
Anaheim has played a couple of cupcakes in their first two series and this will be a much more difficult matchup for them. The Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets were easy as pie as the Ducks only lost once. However, the Blackhawks are a completely different animal that the Ducks aren’t ready for. Look for Chicago to make a statement in Game 1 and get the job done here.
The Anaheim Ducks Can Win Because…
They’re a different team. In previous seasons, the Ducks lacked two things to compete with the Blackhawks: a quality goaltender and depth on offense. This time around, the Ducks are much better in both realms. On offense, they have several weapons that can contribute; not just the top line of Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Jakob Silfverberg has been playing great, Ryan Kesler is solid and Matt Beleskey is on fire. They have more than one line that can contribute and that’s going to be a difference-maker.
As for goaltending, Frederik Andersen has been playing really well for the Ducks. He’s had one rough game in each series – gave up four goals in Game 3 against Winnipeg and four goals in Game 3 against Calgary – but in every other playoff game, he’s allowed two goals or less. If he can continue to perform like this, the Ducks are going to be in this.
And don’t forget the Ducks have home-ice advantage here. They were 26-15 at home this season and they are 5-0 at home in the playoffs. That’s an edge that will pay dividends…starting in Game 1.
There are some good stats pointing us towards the Ducks as they were 14-1 this season when at home with a total of 5 or less. And they are now 10-3 in their last 13 when they’ve had three or more days rest. Still, I’m going to be rolling with the Blackhawks in this series for many games, starting in Game 1.
Andersen has a career 3.52 GAA against the Blackhawks, which is a concern. And as for home-ice advantage, the Ducks won their home games by a 0.09 margin, which is razor-thin. That shows that their home-ice isn’t exactly dominant. The Blackhawks will take advantage starting Game 1, so take them with your NHL picks.
NHL Pick: Blackhawks +120 at Bodog