Pick Sixty’s top play for Round Two at the rink is from the Minnesota Wild vs. Chicago Blackhawks series!
The Chicago Blackhawks finished the regular season with 102 points, good enough for third in the Central and home ice after the first- and second-seeded Blues and Predators were eliminated in Round 1. The Hawks made hay this season against mediocre Eastern clubs, going 14-0 for 28 points, and Chicago also grabbed two wins apiece vs. the Sharks, Oilers, Kings and Coyotes (all non-playoff teams), but this test against the Wild will surely be their toughest challenge yet.
Including the playoffs, Minnesota is 30-12 SU since the All-Star break, a .714 win percentage that is tops in the NHL. Chicago did beat the Wild in each of the first three meetings this season but those three wins were between December 16 and January 11. In two games since the break, Minny took down the Hawks by scores of 2-1 at the Madhouse on Madison and 3-0 at the Xcel Energy Center. Chicago has the playoff experience but the changes this Wild team made to its roster and its approach have made them the most underestimated team in the league the past three months.
NHL odds for this playoff series favor the Hawks at -135 with Minny paying back at +115. Devan Dubnyk will start Game 1 vs. Corey Crawford, and my concern there is that Crawford, who sat most of the series vs. Nashville, could be ready to come in and steal the show like a savvy playoff veteran looking for a return to the spotlight that was temporarily shining on Scott Darling. Crawford’s will be on a short leash vs. Minnesota and if the Wild can rattle the No. 1 and steal home ice with a split during the first two games, we have to feel like the Wild and Dubnyk become small favorites at home.
Round 2 Series Best Bet: Take the Wild at +115 over Chicago