No one, least of all bookmakers, is mistaking this year’s Chicago Blackhawks with last season’s Stanley Cup champions.
The Blackhawks opened their first-round Stanley Cup series against Vancouver as 190 underdogs with the Canucks at minus 230, according to numbers at Bookmaker.com.
Those odds are even higher now after the Canucks won the series opener this past Wednesday, 2-0, as 175 home favorites.
The series resumes Friday night in Vancouver with Game 2 of the best-of-seven Western Conference series beginning at 7 PT with CSNC televising. The Canucks are once again 175 chalk with the total set at five goals, the 'over' minus 130.
Salary-cap issues forced Blackhawks management to dismantle much of their championship team of a year ago with 11 players departing. Chicago barely made it into the playoffs, backing in because Minnesota beat Dallas in the final game of the regular season.
Still, the Blackhawks could prove dangerous to Vancouver even though the Canucks opened the playoffs with the shortest odds of winning the Stanley Cup of any team at 3/1.
The Blackhawks have eliminated the Canucks during each of the past two seasons in the playoffs. Last year, Chicago took out Vancouver in six games during the second round of the Stanley Cup.
Vancouver also has changed a lot from last season. But, unlike the Blackhawks, the Canucks have changed in a positive way.
The Canucks piled up an NHL-best 117 points with 54 wins capturing their first President’s Trophy in franchise history. It's the first time since the 1977-78 Montreal Canadiens the same team led the league in goals for and against.
Roberto Luongo, who shut out the Blackhawks this past Wednesday, shared the Jennings Trophy with teammate Cory Schneider for lowest goals against. Luongo ranked among the leaders in save percentage and goals-against average.
Vancouver was the highest-scoring team in the NHL averaging 3.16 goals per game. Daniel Sedin paced the league with 104 points, including a fourth-best 41 goals. Henrik Sedin, Daniel’s twin brother, finished fourth in points with 94, including a league-best 75 assists.
Henrik Sedin led the NHL in scoring last season. Ryan Kesler chipped in 41 goals this year for the Canucks.
Yet the Blackhawks, who opened the series 15/1 to repeat as Stanley Cup champions, still may prove dangerous to the powerful Canucks. The Blackhawks are not your typical No. 8 seed.
Prior to Game 1 of the series, the Blackhawks had fared well against Luongo. They pummeled Luongo in their first road game this season versus the Canucks, winning 7-1, as 150 ‘dogs back on Nov. 20.
Chicago swept all three playoff games in Vancouver last postseason. The Blackhawks are 6-3 in their last nine visits to Rogers Arena. The Blackhawks also are 6-3 the last nine times they’ve been a playoff underdog.
The Blackhawks can score, finishing fourth in the NHL at 3.07 goals per game. Jonathan Toews is Chicago’s top scorer with 32 goals and 44 assists. Patrick Sharp led the Blackhawks in goals with 34 and Patrick Kane scored 27 goals and picked up 46 assists.
Chicago had just one fewer shot on goal in Wednesday’s Game 1 with rookie Corey Crawford making 31 saves for the Blackhawks. Chicago had several excellent scoring opportunities with Toews hitting the post twice.
Blackhawks forward Troy Brouwer played in Game 1 after missing the last three regular season games due to a shoulder injury. However, the Blackhawks are still missing center Dave Bolland, out since sustaining a concussion on March 9. Bolland was very effective in last year’s Stanley Cup against the Sedin brothers.
Vancouver left winger Raffi Torres will miss Friday’s game as he sits out the second of a two-game suspension for a hit on Edmonton’s Jordan Eberle.
The ‘under’ has cashed in eight of the Blackhawks’ last 10 games versus a team with a winning record. The ‘under’ also has been a winner in six of Chicago’s last eight road contests. The ‘under’ is 20-6-1 in Vancouver’s last 27 games.