The well-rested Chicago Blackhawks crash into the Honda Center today (3:00 PM Eastern) hoping to spoil the Anaheim Ducks’ perfect 5-0 home record in the postseason and take an early series lead.
Off since May 7 following a sweep of the Minnesota Wild, the Blackhawks find themselves in familiar territory, playing a team from California in the Western Conference finals for the third year in a row. Except this time the Hawks don’t have home ice advantage, meaning they’ll have to steal one on the road against a Ducks team that has looked flawless in Anaheim these playoffs.
Corey Perry (15 points) and Ryan Getzlaf (12 points) have led the way for an Anaheim team that is averaging almost four goals a game and is an incredibly efficient 31% on the powerplay. But those stats were padded in series against the surprise Flames and Jets, not exactly the cream of the playoff crop. The Ducks will have to keep that level of production up to put away a Chicago team that is never out of the game, which they proved repeatedly coming back from big deficits against Nashville.
Chicago’s veteran leaders of Patrick Kane (13 points), Jonathan Toews (11 points), and Duncan Keith (10 points) have once again raised their level of play this spring and have the team looking ready to lift their third Stanley Cup in six years.
If Chicago has a weakness, it’s between the pipes, where Corey Crawford has been shaky these playoffs, at one point giving way to backup Scott Darling. But while Crawford’s postseason numbers haven’t been great, he is 2-0 against the Ducks this season, allowing just two goals. His counterpart Frederik Anderson was shelled for seven goals against in two games against Chicago.
So while the first-ever playoff meeting between these two teams should be an entertaining and tightly contested affair, take the road team to win Game 1.
Pick: Chicago (+115)
(Photo credit: Resolute (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)