The NHL odds for this series still say -110 on both sides, as the Chicago Blackhawks & Anaheim Ducks are the two teams left standing in the Western Conference. The Ducks have home-ice advantage.
The Chicago Blackhawks Can Win Because…
They’re on a roll. All season long, the Blackhawks were good but not great. However, it seems like they’ve managed to put it together once the playoffs hit and they’ve been on fire since then. The Blackhawks offense has been one of the major differences as they averaged just 2.68 goals per game in the regular season, which was 17th in the NHL. In the playoffs, though, the Blackhawks are scoring 3.20 per game and are up to 3.40 in their last five games.
The Ducks are a great opponent for Chicago as Anaheim is short on playoff experience and has questionable goaltending. Sure, Frederik Andersen has looked mostly good through the first two rounds of the playoffs but the Ducks played a pair of cupcakes. Andersen is 0-2 in his career against Chicago and has a 3.52 GAA against them along with a .900 save percentage.
The Blackhawks are the team to beat and Anaheim doesn’t usually fare well against teams with strong offenses and quality track records of executing well. Chicago should roll here, we anticipate the NHL odds makers to think similarly.
The Anaheim Ducks Can Win Because…
This is a different team. Yes, the Ducks are a franchise that has had issues in recent postseason but this team looks different. They didn’t lose a single game to the Winnipeg Jets in the first round and had they not blown a lead with 20 seconds to go in Game 3 against Calgary, they’d have swept the second round matchup too. The Ducks lead all playoff teams in goals scored per game with 3.89 this postseason and they are tied for the second fewest in goals allowed at 2.00. Clearly, they are playing great at both ends of the ice.
On offense, the Ducks can match the Blackhawks goal-for-goal as their lines are rolling right now. Corey Perry is looking like an MVP, Ryan Getzlaf is awesome and there is depth. That used to be a problem for Anaheim but now there are strong reinforcements with Jakob Silfverberg, who has 11 points in the playoffs, Ryan Kesler, who has nine and Matt Belesky, who has five playoff goals. The Ducks are no longer a one-trick pony.
Maybe even more importantly is the fact that the Ducks are strong at the back end. Jonas Hiller let them down in previous playoffs but Andersen is standing tall. He is 8-1-0 with a 1.96 GAA and a .925 save percentage. Considering the Blackhawks have had to flip-flop goaltenders already these playoffs, the Ducks could have the edge in net. Throw in home-ice advantage and this finally looks like the year that the Ducks get over the hump.
This is a matchup where one team has been there, done that and knows exactly what to do to get the job done. Meanwhile, the other team has consistently fallen short in these exact types of situations. Is it possible that this is the time that the Ducks finally grow up? Yes. However, I’m not betting on it. The Blackhawks are playing so well right now that they’re the play here. Take them with your NHL picks.
NHL Pick: Blackhawks in 6 at The Greek