Chicago Blackhawks (+180) vs. Detroit Red Wings (-190)
Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock called it the toughest series he’s ever been a part of. Fans called it great hockey. Wings bettors just breathed a sigh of relief.
The end result is the Stanley Cup favorites and defending champs are still alive and on their way to the conference finals against a familiar divisional rival, the Chicago Blackhawks. Detroit needed seven tough games to dispense the Anaheim Ducks in a series that concluded with a hard-earned 4-3 victory Wednesday night.
The heavily favored Wings had more trouble than they would have liked against the eighth seed in the West, yet are once again set as the sizeable favorite in the third round (-190). Maybe that’s because Detroit managed to get through a tough series in spite of the fact its typical superstars weren’t filling up score sheets.
Marian Hossa didn’t score in six of the seven games against the Ducks and league MVP candidate Pavel Datsyuk didn’t score at all. Instead, it was guys with names like Hudler, Cleary, Franzen and Filppula who led the way.
And that’s the trouble about beating Detroit. The Wings are deeper than Donald Trump’s pockets.
They rank second in the playoffs on the power play (26.4 percent), scoring (3.64 goals per game) and they’re getting great goaltending from an often overlooked Chris Osgood. The Wings rank second in the postseason in goals against with just 2.18 per game.
With that in mind, if there is a team they should be worried about, it might be Chicago. The Blackhawks have the top power play and are the top scoring team these playoffs. You’ll recognize the poolies out there who drafted plenty of Hawks because they’re the ones spending money like the economy is booming.
Marty Havlat and Patrick Kane both have 13 points and four other Chicago players have at least nine points these playoffs. As you might expect, the over has turned a profit at 7-5 in Hawks games so far but they can forget about the 5-goal totals they were seeing against Vancouver last round.
The Wings and Hawks didn’t see an over/under lower than 5.5 goals in their six meetings this season, which they split at 2-2-2. They scored a combined 41 goals in those clashes, an average of nearly seven per game not including shootout goals.
Home ice wasn’t a huge factor between these clubs this year, with the home side winning only three times. That should help make for some strong underdog value on the Blackhawks in the first two games of this series. Heavily dogged Chicago should also be well rested and facing a Detroit club that’s coming off a bruising series.
Don’t be surprised if these clubs head back to Chicago with the series all square, but from there the Red Wings should be able to take over. Chicago has a smoking power play but the Hawks can’t expect to get the same number of extra-man attacks against a much more disciplined club this series.
They also can’t expect to bully the Wings like they did against the Flames and Canucks. Detroit showed it can handle every bit of the physical game after a nasty series with Anaheim.
Series pick: Detroit 4-2