Red Wings vs. Blackhawks Pick For Game 1 – May 15th

Following an unfortunate ending to our Round 1 selections with a tragic loss on the Maple Leafs, we’re back at it for the second round of post-season action. Despite the Leafs’ third period collapse, we did quite well with our featured selections in the opening round and will look to continue the momentum into Round 2.

Last night, two series began with the Pens easily disposing of the Senators, and the Kings shutting out the Sharks. For what it’s worth, with both Ottawa and San Jose down one game to nothing already, I feel both their series prices offer value heading into Game 2. Tonight, a Central division series takes off with the heavily favoured Blackhawks hosting their longtime rivals, the Detroit Red Wings. The Wings are fresh off an emotional victory in Game 7 against Anaheim, and don’t be surprised to see their veteran experience provide a stiff challenge to an upstart Chicago squad. Read on below for further thoughts on Game 1 of this series.

Detroit Red Wings (+180) @ Chicago Blackhawks (-210)

My first reaction upon seeing this opening line was one of shock. Sure the Blackhawks are a great home team and have every reason to be favoured, but by this wide of a margin seems puzzling. One must also consider the fact that it has been some time since Chicago played a game. Detroit seems to have had a perfect amount of rest, and should remain fresh enough to hit the ground running when they meet the Hawks tonight. Adding to this, Detroit gave Chicago problems all season long, and unlike many pundits, I expect this series to go six or seven games. The Wings are well-coached under Mike Babcock, and proved in Round 1 they can give any team problems. Much of their core knows what it takes to win in the spring and that mindset could prove problematic for Chicago.

Much of Chicago’s success this season can be attributed to a stellar penalty kill. They’ve gone 61-for-63 in this regard over its past 24 contests, but Detroit might just have the answer to solve their superb special teams. The Wings have superb talent on the man advantage across both units, and look for them to provide a shock to Chicago in this area. The likes of Damian Brunner, Dan Cleary, Johan Franzen, and Valtteri Filppula are all highly skilled players that will test the depth of Chicago’s bottom-six forwards, and their weak bottom pairing on the blue-line. The Hawks can be beat, and even though Minnesota did a poor job of exposing this, expect it to become quite obvious early on in Game 1 that Detroit’s an entirely different animal.

The Wings have a nice blend of skill, energy and defensive responsibility among their forward group and look for that balance to trouble Chicago. Detroit’s depth players were instrumental in their opening round victory against Anaheim, and their 3rd and 4th lines have the ability to be the difference once again. If the young defensemen of Detroit can handle the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Marian Hossa, don’t be surprised to see the Wings pull off the big upset.

Even though Chicago did ultimately sweep the regular season series against the Wings, it was by no means an easy feat. Three of the four contests went the route of overtime, with two requiring a shootout. Detroit will play smart and very disciplined. This series will be tighter than many think, and with a massive road price in Game 1 staring at us, the Wings are great value for tonight. Chicago’s had nearly a week off and the rust they show will be capitalized on by a Wings team desperate for one last shot at the Cup.

PICK = Detroit (+180)