The Detroit Red Wings are sure to be one of the most popular upset picks of the first round. Sportsbooks have rightly made the Anaheim Ducks the favorites in this one, but this isn't a series that I see going the distance. Let's take a closer look at where the advantages lie.
The Wings have made the playoffs for the 22nd consecutive year. That is a monumental accomplishment and Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Howard pretty much carried this team on their backs in the final four games of the regular season. These are great leaders with a lot of pride and they did everything in their power to make sure the streak didn't come to an end on their watch. The problem with all of this is, what now? This late season push certainly won't hide the flaws riddled throughout this team. Instead, many fans are chalking up the Ducks season to a fluke year due to the lockout shortened season.
When these two teams met last season, most people were expected long, hard-fought series. Instead, the Kings steamrolled the Blues in shocking fashion and swept them in four games. The rest as we know, is history, but why are the Kings being favored this year? A different team has won the Stanley Cup in each of the last nine seasons and I don't know if LA have it in them to go the distance again this time around. I expect a much better showing from St Louis this year and I expect them to win the series.
Do you think the Chicago Blackhawks are goint to steamroll the 8th seeded Minnesota Wild? If so, you probably don't want to continue reading this article. Once we take a look at the betting odds, we find out that Chicago is favored by a full two games over Minnesota. This means that the Blackhawks must win this series in four or five games to make it worth a bet. Based on what I see, there is value to be had on the underdog Wild. Let's take a closer look at three factors to consider.
Put up your hand if you can look me in the eye and say Corey Crawford is capable of a Conne Smythe winning run. Crawford has put up excellent numbers this year, but this is not a guy who has proven anything to me yet. When the pressure is on, Crawford is a very mixed bag. The talent is there, but is the consistency? The benefit he has going for him is the team in front of him controls possession a ridiculously 55.8% of the time and provides excellent goal support. Does he have to be great to win this series? No. But does he need to be great to wrap this up in four or five games? Probably, and I'm willing to bet against it happening.
In previous seasons a physical game with the San Jose Sharks would go something like this:
Sharks: Hey guy, that was dirty hit. That was really mean of you.
Opposing Player: Get over it man, we’re playing hockey. Oh is that your captain? I’m going to hit him in the back.
Sharks: You know what I think I should stand up for myself. I’m going to—oh looks like we already lost the game. Next time, I guess. Say, is Jeremy Roenick still playing?
And that’s how it has been for the last nine years. Every year, the Sharks would march in to the season with a ridiculously talented roster and then lose in the playoffs to a scrappy underdog whose only real accomplishment was leading the league in courage. This year, however, the Sharks are coming out with an edge and mowing down each opponent like it’s Chuck Norris versus the Teletubbies.
Take the Canucks tonight. Cheap shots galore. Early lead by the Sharks cut down to one on a bad luck deflection. Canucks pressing and causing a lot of turnovers in the Sharks’ zone. This would be where you expect the Sharks to begin to unravel.
The New York Rangers entered the lockout-shortened 2013 NHL regular season as one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. After just two games the hype has all but turned into nerves after the team dropped their opening two games to the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins; two teams that many consider to be the two best in the Eastern Conference. It wasn’t just that the Rangers lost their opening two games; it’s that in those two games the Rangers have looked flat, out of sync, and for many stretches of play, just downright awful. The Rangers first two games were filled with the entire team making too many mistakes, both on the ice and in their heads, while taking way too many penalties to kill any momentum they may have found.
As many people have pointed out, this is why they have pre-season games, for teams to work out the kinks and get the mental mistakes out of the way.