There was only one upset in the Western Conference’s opening round, but it was a big one. Eighth-seeded Anaheim toppled the top-seeded Sharks in six games, setting up a rematch with Detroit from two years ago.
Here are my picks for Round 2:
Chicago Blackhawks (+120) vs. Vancouver Canucks (-130)
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Vancouver’s game plan is fairly simple: try to keep the puck in the other end as much as possible and hope Roberto Luongo allows fewer goals than the other guy. Not a bad strategy.
In Round 1 it worked like a charm with four straight wins over the Blues. Those games saw an average of four goals, which didn’t bother under bettors any.
But the Blackhawks should pose a tougher challenge. They have far more fire power than St. Louis and only the Red Wings and Bruins averaged more goals per game in the first round.
Blame it on a lethal power play that scored at a 29 percent clip.
The key for Vancouver will be limiting power plays. The Canucks were the third most penalized team during the regular season and the second most in the playoffs so far in terms of minutes per game.
The other concerns for Vancouver are the injuries to Sami Salo and Mats Sundin. The Canucks will need a full lineup to match up across the board against Chicago - on forward and defense.
The question here is, will home ice and the edge in the crease be enough for Vancouver to squeak out the win?
Pick: Chicago 4-3
Anaheim Ducks (+270) vs. Detroit Red Wings (-300)
Before his team’s series with the Red Wings began, Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock talked about Detroit having “another level” that it could get to when it needed.
The Jackets found that out the hard way after they beat the Wings 8-2 in Hockeytown on March 7 and started feeling pretty good about themselves. Then they met the Wings a week later at home, got drubbed 4-0, and started praying they wouldn’t meet them in the playoffs.
The hockey gods weren’t listening.
The Wings dusted off Columbus in four games and showed why they are the Stanley Cup favorites again this year. Their power play ate the Blue Jackets up at a 31 percent rate and Johan Frazen continues to love the postseason with 20 points in his last 14 games.
Normally, Detroit would be happy about facing an eight seed in Round 2. But the Ducks aren’t your everyday eight seed. Ryan Getzlaf is currently tied for second in playoff points with eight and they managed to out-match President’s Cup winning San Jose in Round 1.
Jonas Hiller has been a pleasant surprise in nets and he’ll need to be even better in order for the Ducks to pull off their second straight upset. He’ll not only be facing talented Red Wings squad, but also a motivated one.
The last time Detroit met Anaheim in the playoffs was in the 2007 Western Conference finals. The Ducks won in six games and went on to claim the Cup.
Pick: Red Wings 4-1
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