The eighth-seeded Chicago Blackhawks
will get a chance to defend their Stanley Cup title Wednesday night when they travel to Vancouver to play the top-seeded Canucks in Game 1 of this best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal round.
Most sports books monitored by Don Best Sports' Real-Time Odds have installed the Canucks as 175 favorites for Game 1, which begins at 7 p.m. (PT). The ‘total’ opened at 5 ½ goals.
Vancouver also has been established as a hefty 215 favorite to capture the series, with Chicago listed at plus 185.
The Blackhawks are playing a Vancouver team they've had great success against during the previous two playoffs, ousting the Canucks in the conference semifinals in six games in each of the last two years.
The teams split four games this season, with the ‘over/under’ also going 2-2.
The initial meeting (Oct. 20) saw the Blackhawks nip the Canucks in a shootout as 150 home favorites, 2-1. The combined three goals dipped ‘under’ the NHL odds. The Canucks lost despite out-shooting the Hawks, 37-32. Vancouver was 1-for-3 on the power play, while Chicago was scoreless in three opportunities.
Exactly one month later, Chicago clobbered the Canucks 7-1 as 150 road underdogs. The combined eight goals soared ‘over’ the 5 ½-goal closing total. The Hawks outshot the Canucks 31-28 thanks to eight power play chances (scoring once). Vancouver was 1-for-4 with the man advantage.
Vancouver got in the winning column on Dec. 3 by blanking Chicago 3-0 as 110 road underdogs. The combined three goals ducked ‘under’ the 5 ½-goal closing total. Chicago lost despite out-shooting the Canucks, 32-18. However, the Hawks were 0-for-4 on the power play compared to Vancouver’s 1-for-5.
The most recent meeting (Feb. 4) saw the Canucks even the season series with a 4-3 victory as 150 home favorites. The combined seven goals skipped ‘over’ the 5 ½-goal closing total. Chicago again outshot Vancouver, 45-32, but again failed to notch a power play goal in five chances. Vancouver was 1-for-5 with the man advantage.
The underdog is now 6-2 in the last eight series meetings between the Hawks and Canucks. The ‘over’ is 9-1-1 in the last 11 matchups at Vancouver and 7-3-2 in the last 12 overall meetings.
One of Chicago’s goals will be to get traffic in front of Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo, something that Dustin Byfuglien did very well the last two postseasons. But Byfuglien was one of those players lost in the offseason purge, so Chicago must find someone else to try and bother one of the NHL's top goaltenders.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville has indicated that both David Bolland (concussion) and Troy Brouwer (shoulder) made the trip to Vancouver. The Don Best Sports injury report lists both players as “questionable.”
Bolland, a center who is one of Chicago's most versatile players and a key on the checking line, missed the final 14 games.
Vancouver defenseman Andrew Alberts (wrist) is also listed as “questionable.”
Goaltender comparison: Luongo finished the regular campaign with a 38-15-2-5 ledger, a miniscule 2.11 GAA and a 928 save percentage. He also registered four shutouts.
Chicago’s Corey Crawford is 33-18-3-3 with a 2.30 GAA, a .917 save percentage and four shutouts.
Offense: Vancouver (1st, 3.3 GPG) - Chicago (4th, 3.1 GPG)
Defense: Vancouver (1st, 2.2 GPG) - Chicago (12th, 2.7 GPG).
Special teams: Vancouver (1st on power play at 24.3 percent, 3rd on penalty kill at 85.6 percent – Chicago 4th on power play at 23.1 percent, 25th penalty kill at 79.2 percent.
The second game of this seven-game series will take place Friday at 7 p.m. in Vancouver, with the Versus network providing television coverage.