NHL Odds: Vancouver Canucks at Chicago Blackhawks

By: David Schwab | Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Vancouver Canucks will look to take a commanding 3-0 lead in their first round playoff series against the Blackhawks when the series shifts to Chicago's United Center this Sunday for Game 3. The puck is set to drop at 5 p.m. (PT) and the game will be broadcast nationally on VERSUS.

Vancouver relied on its shutdown defense in a 2-0 victory over Chicago in Game 1 this past Wednesday as a 178 home favorite. Friday night, the Canucks used a potent offense to open up a two game lead on the Blackhawks with a 4-3 decision as a 181 home favorite. While the total stayed well ‘under’ the 5½-goal total in the first game, it went ‘over’ the 5-goal line in Game 2.

Roberto Luongo was the top star in Wednesday’s shutout by stopping all 32 shots he faced. He ended the regular season with a 2.11 goals-against-average and a save percentage of .928. Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen scored two quick goals in the first period and that was all the scoring that Vancouver needed.

The second game featured the Canucks top-ranked offense that led the NHL in scoring with 3.15 goals a game. Hansen started things off in the first period with his second goal of the playoffs but it was Daniel Sedin who did the most damage by tallying two goals, including the game-winner midway through the third period. It is little surprise that Sedin was the top star in this game after leading the NHL in points with 104.

The defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks are back on their heels, but hoping to take some offensive momentum from Friday’s three-goal effort into Sunday’s game. They could not get anything past Luongo in Game 1, but did manage to beat him three times in 26 shots the second time around.

Ben Smith kept this game close with two goals and Viktor Stalberg added the third, but if Chicago is going to have any chance against the Canucks it will need a better effort from Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Patrick Sharp. Toews and Kane each had over 70 points this season and Sharp led the team in goals with 34. The three have combined for one assist in two games.

Chicago goalie Corey Crawford, who was making his first career playoff start, stopped 31 of 33 shots in Game 1, but gave up four goals on 27 shots in the second game of the series. He had a .917 save percentage and a GGA of 2.30 in 55 regular season starts.

Vancouver’s fast start puts it in prime position to avenge two straight losses to Chicago in the postseason. The Canucks were eliminated by the Blackhawks in the conference semifinals in 2009 and the first round of last year’s playoffs, with each series ending in six games.

The two split their four-game regular season series this year with each winning one game at home and one game on the road. The total was split 2-2 as well.

The Canucks were 44-22 this season as a favorite and 10-6 as an underdog. The total stayed ‘under’ in 45 of 82 games. The Blackhawks were 33-30 as a favorite and 11-8 as an underdog this year. The total stayed ‘under’ in 43 games.

Chicago should open as a mild favorite as the series shifts to its rink, but stick with Vancouver to push the Blackhawks to the brink of elimination with a third straight win.

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