San Jose Sharks at St. Louis Blues (-155, 5)
Despite everything the St. Louis Blues accomplished in the regular season, many are wondering if this team is all it’s cracked up to be.
The Blues don’t have a dominant scorer (David Backes paced the team with 54 points in the regular season) and rarely blow any team away, but what they do is defense. They’re responsible in all three zone and have had great goaltending with Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak splitting time in the crease.
In short, they’re everything coach Ken Hitchcock wants them to be.
"The players' buy-in has really made me proud," Hitchcock told reporters. "They've been willing to look in the mirror, do the hard things, change in some cases individually, and collectively. I'm very impressed. That's what's given us a chance."
They have a great chance to get a leg up on the Sharks in Game 1. The Blues won all four meetings between the two teams this season while shutting out the Sharks twice.
St. Louis just doesn’t allow many quality scoring chances and you never know what you’ll get from the Sharks this time of year.
Chicago Blackhawks at Phoenix Coyotes (-125, 5)
The Coyotes might be the best bargain on Thursday’s board.
With Mike Smith leading the charge to the playoffs, Phoenix allowed just two goals during its current five-game winning streak and has downed Chicago in each of the last three meetings between the two clubs.
"We've worked hard, gone through some trials and tribulations throughout this year and the guys have hung in there," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett told reporters. "There were some times when it could have turned the other way and our guys grabbed it and kept pushing along. We've finished on a nice streak and hopefully we'll play our best hockey of the season in the playoffs."
Radim Vrbata certainly looks ready to go. He finished the regular season with five goals in the last five games and finished with 35 on the year.
Phoenix may not have Chicago’s firepower, but with Vrbata and Ray Whitney pacing the attack and Smith boarding up the net, watch out for the ‘Yotes.