NHL News: Penguins, Blackhawks Dominating Conferences

on April 24 2013 6:39 PM

It has been a dominating regular season for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks, at home and on the road, with the NHL playoffs set to begin next week.

Both clubs ran away with the best record of the regular season in their conference, and both enter next week's playoffs as favorites to reach the Stanley Cup Finals. According to Las Vegas odds, the Penguins are 3/1 favorites to win the Stanley Cup, followed by the Blackhawks at 7/2.

The Blackhawks have a 17-3-3 record at home, and a 17-3-2 record on the road. Pittsburgh's home-road record is nearly as balanced at 17-6-0 and 18-5-0.

The Penguins are in the process of getting healthy, as Evgeni Malkin returned to the lineup this week. Meanwhile, Sidney Crosby, James Neal and Paul Martin remain sidelined with their returns still uncertain. 

Even without key players on the ice, the Penguins have thrived. Pittsburgh had their seven-game winning streak snapped on Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres, and nearly became the first team in NHL history to win 23 out of 25 games within a single season.

The Blackhawks have had an even more impressive winning streak this season. Chicago experienced their first loss in regulation on March 8th against the Colorado Avalanche to end a spectacular stretch in which they earned at least one point in their first 24 games, an NHL record. The Blackhawks have been led by Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, who each have 21 goals in a shortened season.

Chicago has been led by excellent play at goalie this season. Ray Emery has a goals-against average of 1.91 in 20 games this season, ranking him second in the NHL. He's followed not too far behind by teammate Corey Crawford, who has a 2.03 average after 28 games, and is ranked fourth. Both are tied for ninth in save percentage.

The Penguins are strong in the net, as well. Marc-Andre Fleury has a GAA of 2.35 and Tomas Vokoun is at an impressive 2.45. They both have a save percentage just under 0.92.

What's interesting for both clubs is that they added notable reinforcements at the deadline. Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Douglas Murray were key acquisitions for Pittsburgh, while Michael Handzus is due to break out for Chicago after nine games.

The postseason begins on Tuesday, April 30th.

More News from IBT MEDIA