The first round of the NHL Western Conference playoffs was full of surprises as three of the top-four seeds were sent packing.
The top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks will now get re-acquainted with long-time rivals the Detroit Red Wings in the second round. While the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings turn their focus to the San Jose Sharks, who desperately want to erase their reputation as playoff chokers.
Here's our Western Conference Round 2 playoff betting preview:
No. 1 Chicago Blackhawks vs. No. 7 Detroit Red Wings
Season series: Blackhawks won 4-0 SU, 1-2-1 over/under. * Three games needed overtime or a shootout.*
Series prices: Blackhawks -320, Red Wings +260
Why bet the Blackhawks: The Blackhawks cruised past the Minnesota Wild in five games without top forwards Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane registering a goal. Of the 13 forwards that dressed in the opening round, 11 registered at least a point. The Blackhawks went a perfect 17-for-17 on the penalty kill against Minnesota.
Why bet the Red Wings: The Red Wings dug themselves out of a 3-2 series hole against the Ducks and posted back-to-back wins to earn the right to advance. Detroit’s roster is loaded with playoff experience and it has a clear edge in the coaching department. Mike Babcock is one of the most coveted head coaches in the league and if there’s anyone who can find a way to shut down the high-powered Blackhawks in a seven-game series, it’s him.
No. 5 Los Angeles Kings vs. No. 6 San Jose Sharks
Season series: Kings won series 2-1-1 SU, 0-2-2 over/under.
Series prices: Kings -135, Sharks +115
Why bet the Kings: The Kings dropped the first two games to the Blues before roaring back to win the next four. Drew Doughty anchors a strong defensive corps that limited a potent St. Louis attack to 10 goals in the first round. Jonathan Quick stole the show during L.A.’s cup run a year ago and appears to be rounding back into form. After allowing four goals in the first two contests of the this year's playoffs, Quick regrouped and yielded only six markers in the final four games of the series.
Why bet the Sharks: The Sharks swept the Vancouver Canucks and will have six days between games to rest up. San Jose’s top forwards were firing on all cylinders in the first round as Logan Couture had eight points, as did Joe Pavelski. Jumbo Joe Thornton also dished out five helpers and scored. The Sharks have arguably the most proven big-game netminder remaining in the playoffs. Antti Niemi improved his record to 29-19 in the postseason with a win in Game 4 over the Canucks and boasts an incredible 11-2 record in playoff overtime games. Niemi already has one Stanley Cup ring to his credit, as he backstopped the Blackhawks to Stanley Cup glory in 2009-10.