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Hawks-Blues playoff preview and what the odds say

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The Chicago Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues will square off on Thursday in an interesting opening round matchup. In 2010 and in 2013 my feeling was the Blackhawks should win the Stanley Cup. My conclusion was based simply on the best hockey from the Blackhawks would beat every opponent they faced.

This time a statement about the best from the Blackhawks being better than any other team could be true again, but it needs to be qualified. What makes it more difficult to be as confident is the best from the Hawks didn't happen often enough. Top efforts were sporadic the second half of the season, so consistency was lacking.

This series is rated dead even by many and also on the odds board. The Blues have the home ice advantage so the Hawks could be seen as the slightly stronger club. What may carry Chicago past St. Louis is not the talent of high-end skill players but their worker bees and past playoff experience.

The most difficult championship to win is the Stanley Cup. To win four consecutive series that could last seven games each is a grueling task. To repeat is rare, and achieving two championships in four years is remarkable in itself.

The Cup winner has a short summer and the enthusiasm often isn't there to start the following season. That wasn't the case this time for the Blackhawks but they couldn't keep the same vigor into the new calendar year.

When 2014 rolled in the Blackhawks couldn't string together wins. Maybe some of the malaise was due to fatigue. Possibly after the Olympic rosters were announced star players may have subconsciously checked out for awhile. Right around the same time Joel Quenneville couldn't count on four effective lines game in and game out. Many times the third line was missing in action.

This shouldn't be an earth shaking revelation but unless the Blackhawks can use their depth and count on a solid third line they won't win the Cup. Actually they may have trouble advancing past St. Louis. It doesn't matter how good Marcus Kruger and the fourth line is they can't make up for an ineffective third line when playing the better teams.

The strength of the Blackhawks should be depth, which means all lines are involved. That will be the way the Hawks will defeat St.Louis and look to have a long playoff run.

In 2010 the Blackhawks had the best third line in the NHL and the top group of bottom six forwards. In 2013 the forwards comprising the third and fourth lines were better than their counterparts again. This time the fourth line has been consistent and the third line is in a state of flux.

Quenneville realizes the same and his third line in practice this week was a new group. Andrew Shaw was at center with Bryan Bickell and Patrick Kane on the wings.

There is no telling how long this line stays together but it is likely safe to say Kane and Jonathan Toews won't be on the same line for awhile. Maybe a better way to put it is except on the power play Kane and Toews won't play together unless absolutely necessary. Putting those two on the same line is Quenneville's trump card.

The Blues are banged up but most injured players will be in the lineup for Game 1 or soon after. This season's opponent is in a higher class than last year's depleted gang from Minnesota. In 2013 my playoff key was to avoid playing St. Louis. It wasn't because the Blues would win the series, it was a matter of how the effect of playing them could be costly in the next series.

This time each team is probably surprised they are playing each other so soon. Toward the end of the season the Hawks dropped games versus lowly Nashville and Ottawa and then injuries set in. The Blues slid downhill and dropped six straight and suffered a few injuries as well.

For this series Kane and Toews may not be 100% to start but should be close enough. In any regard injuries always have to be dealt with and the best teams survive.

Quenneville will be looking for consistency and for that to happen it will take more than Kane, Toews, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp. Players like Shaw, Bickell, Brandon Saad and Kris Versteeg need to be at their best. The group just mentioned has had an up and down season and now consistent efforts are a must.

Shaw, Bickell, Saad and Versteeg when playing well can make any line better. They create matchup problems and give Quenneville many more options.

Besides those four Michal Handzus and Michal Rozsival haven't played at the same level as last season.

Handzus is leaned on by Quenneville to provide strong defense and to be a penalty killer. There's no telling how long Handzus will stay on the second line but Quenneville will likely look to keep him in the lineup. If not Jeremy Morin could get a chance to play but that would probably mean more than one line combination changes.

Rozsival was outstanding last year and it remains to be seen if he can still compete at such a high level. Rozsival was able to play big minutes in the Cup Final. This time Nick Leddy may be asked to do more.

Players like Shaw and Versteeg need to stay composed and not take bad penalties. The Blues power play is good and they have defensemen that can hit the net and score. The Hawks need the game to be played five on five and not rely on special teams to be the difference.

The Blues had a big lead in the Western Conference and faltered so they could have some confidence issues going into Game 1. Confidence and momentum are often overplayed when it comes to the playoffs. This battle will boil down to winning every shift and the team that can impose their will over the other will move on.

For the Blackhawks to win Round 1 the outlet passes from defensemen must be accurate. If the Hawks can move out of their zone quickly the Blues will be forced to chase and they won't be able to use their forecheck to gain control of the puck. That type of play also leads to puck possession which should generate more scoring chances.

The best from the Blackhawks is probably still better than any other team, but in the playoffs part-time efforts usually spell doom. If the Hawks can frustrate the Blues and keep playing at a quick pace, they will advance.

Al's Shots

Playoff series odds are listed in the link below and were provided by Bovada.com.

According to Bovada's sportsbook manager Kevin Bradley, only 4% of total money wagered on sports is bet on hockey. The game is more popular now than ever and I would expect that percentage to increase.

For those who were lucky enough to put some dollars down on Colorado to win the Central Division, good for you. The Av's were an 18-1 longshot to win the division while the Hawks were 5-13.

I can't imagine why anyone would risk $13 to win $5 in a season following a Cup win, having the Olympics and always the possibility of serious injuries. But that was how big of a favorite the Hawks were and still today Colorado is getting little respect at the betting windows.

Boston is a 7-2 favorite to win the Cup, and the Blues are 6-1. The Blackhawks are the fourth choice at 8-1. The Avalanche are still a longshot as they are 14-1 to skate away with Lord Stanley.

Take a look at the current series odds and what they were before the season began. There are many proposition bets listed as well.

I will be back on Friday morning and you can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.

Odds to win the 2014 Stanley Cup (Teams in red have longer odds from the opening odds on 6/25/13, teams in blue have shorter odds, and teams in black stayed the same)

                                                Odds on 6/25    Odds on 9/1     Odds on 9/30/13

Chicago Blackhawks                 15/2                  6/1                    6/1

Pittsburgh Penguins                  13/2                  13/2                  15/2

Boston Bruins                           9/1                    10/1                   10/1

Los Angeles Kings                    14/1                  12/1                  12/1

St. Louis Blues                          12/1                  12/1                   12/1

Detroit Red Wings                     16/1                  16/1                   16/1

Vancouver Canucks                   14/1                  16/1                  16/1

San Jose Sharks                       16/1                  18/1                  18/1

Toronto Maple Leafs                 25/1                  25/1                  18/1

Edmonton Oilers                       33/1                  25/1                  20/1

New York Rangers                     16/1                  20/1                  20/1

Ottawa Senators                        33/1                  28/1                   20/1

Minnesota Wild                         33/1                  20/1                  22/1

Philadelphia Flyers                    33/1                  28/1                  22/1

Anaheim Ducks                         20/1                  22/1                  25/1

Washington Capitals                  25/1                  25/1                   25/1

Montreal Canadiens                   28/1                  28/1                   28/1

New York Islanders                    33/1                  33/1                   33/1

Tampa Bay Lightning                 40/1                  50/1                  33/1

Carolina Hurricanes                    33/1                  40//1                 40/1

Columbus Blue Jackets             40/1                  40/1                  40/1

Dallas Stars                              50/1                  40/1                   40/1

Colorado Avalanche                  40/1                  40/1                  50/1

Nashville Predators                   40/1                  50/1                  50/1

New Jersey Devils                     40/1                  50/1                  50/1

Phoenix Coyotes                       50/1                  66/1                  66/1

Winnipeg Jets                           40/1                  50/1                  66/1

Buffalo Sabres                          50/1                  100/1                100/1

Calgary Flames                         50/1                  100/1                100/1

Florida Panthers                        100/1                150/1                150/1



Odds to win the 2014 Stanley Cup

Boston Bruins                           7/2

St. Louis Blues                           6/1

Pittsburgh Penguins                   7/1

Chicago Blackhawks                  8/1

Anaheim Ducks                          9/1

San Jose Sharks                        9/1

Los Angeles Kings                    10/1

Colorado Avalanche                   14/1

Detroit Red Wings                      20/1

Montreal Canadiens                    20/1

New York Rangers                      20/1

Philadelphia Flyers                     20/1

Tampa Bay Lightning                  25/1

Minnesota Wild                          40/1

Columbus Blue Jackets             50/1

Dallas Stars                               50/1



Series Prices

Montreal Canadiens (Series Prices)                    20/21    (-105)

Tampa Bay Lightning (Series Prices)                  20/23    (-115)

Columbus Blue Jackets (Series Prices)               11/5      (+220)

Pittsburgh Penguins (Series Prices)                    5/13      (-260)

Dallas Stars (Series Prices)                                33/20    (+165)

Anaheim Ducks (Series Prices)                          10/19    (-190)

Philadelphia Flyers (Series Prices)                      5/4        (+125)

New York Rangers (Series Prices)                      20/29    (-145)

Chicago Blackhawks (Series Prices)                   10/11    (-110)

St. Louis Blues (Series Prices)                           10/11    (-110)

Minnesota Wild (Series Prices)                           23/20    (+115)

Colorado Avalanche (Series Prices)                    20/27    (-135)

Los Angeles Kings (Series Prices)                      5/4        (+125)

San Jose Sharks (Series Prices)                        20/29    (-145)

Detroit Red Wings (Series Prices)                      5/2        (+250)

Boston Bruins (Series Prices)                             1/3        (-300)

 

Odds to win 2014 Conn Smythe Trophy as NHL Playoff MVP

Tuukka Rask (BOS)                               12/1

Sidney Crosby (PIT)                              15/1

Ryan Miller (STL)                                   16/1

Ryan Getzlaf (ANA)                               16/1

David Krejci (BOS)                                20/1

Patrice Bergeron (BOS)                         20/1

Corey Perry (ANA)                                 20/1

Jonathan Quick (LA)                              20/1

Jarome Iginla (BOS)                              25/1

Alexander Steen (STL)                           25/1

T.J. Oshie (STL)                                    25/1

Evgeni Malkin (PIT)                                25/1

Patrick Kane (CHI)                                 25/1

Jonathan Toews (CHI)                            25/1

Corey Crawford (CHI)                             25/1

Antti Niemi (SJ)                                     25/1

Milan Lucic (BOS)                                  30/1

Brad Marchand (BOS)                            30/1

Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT)                         30/1

Patrick Sharp (CHI)                                30/1

Anze Kopitar (LA)                                  30/1

Carey Price (MON)                                 30/1

Henrik Lundqvist (NYR)                          30/1

Claude Giroux (PHI)                               30/1

Joe Pavelski (SJ)                                  35/1

Joe Thornton (SJ)                                  35/1

Semyon Varlamov (COL)                       35/1

Steven Stamkos (TB)                             35/1

Henrik Zetterberg (DET)                         40/1

Jimmy Howard (DET)                             40/1

David Backes (STL)                               50/1

Chris Kunitz (PIT)                                   50/1

James Neal (PIT)                                   50/1

Duncan Keith (CHI)                                50/1

Marian Hossa (CHI)                                50/1

Patrick Marleau (SJ)                              50/1

Logan Couture (SJ)                               50/1

Jeff Carter (LA)                                     50/1

Marian Gaborik (LA)                               50/1

Paul Stastny (COL)                                50/1

Max Pacioretty (MON)                           50/1

Thomas Vanek (MON)                            50/1

Steve Mason (PHI)                                50/1

Anders Lindback (TB)                            50/1

Teemu Selanne (ANA)                            60/1

Gustav Nyquist (DET)                            60/1

Vincent Lecavalier (PHI)                         60/1

Brad Richards (NYR)                             65/1

Rick Nash (NYR)                                   65/1

Martin St. Louis (NYR)                           65/1

Zach Parise (MIN)                                  65/1

Ilya Bryzgalov (MIN)                               65/1

Gabriel Landeskog (COL)                       75/1

Ryan O'Reilly (COL)                               75/1

Nathan MacKinnon (COL)                       75/1

Ryan Callahan (TB)                                75/1

Sergei Bobrovsky (CLB)                        75/1

Mikko Koivu (MIN)                                 100/1

Ryan Suter (MIN)                                   100/1

Ryan Johansen (CLB)                            100/1

Brandon Dubinsky (CLB)                       100/1

Tyler Seguin (DAL)                                100/1

Jamie Benn (DAL)                                 100/1

Kari Lehtonen (DAL)                              100/1

 

Additional Props

How many games will the Stanley Cup winning team play in the 2014 NHL playoffs?

Over/Under                               22.5

How many games will go to overtime in the 2014 NHL Playoffs?

Over/Under                               17.5

Will any game go to triple overtime in the 2014 NHL Playoffs?

Yes      - 140      (5/7)

No        EVEN   (1/1)

How many goals will be scored by the goal scoring leader in the 2014 NHL Playoffs?

Over/Under                               12.5

How many points will be scored by the point scoring leader in the 2014 NHL Playoffs?

Over/Under                                27.5

What will be the most individual penalty minutes accumulated in the 2014 NHL playoffs?

Over/Under                                43.5

How Many First Round Series will be decided in 7 games in the 2014 NHL Playoffs?

Over/Under                                2.5       

How Many First Round Series will be decided in 4 games in the 2014 NHL Playoffs?

Over 1.5             3/2        (+150)

Under 1.5           1/2        (-200)  

 

Montreal Canadiens vs Tampa Bay Lightning

Montreal Canadiens (Series Prices)                    20/21    (-105)

Tampa Bay Lightning (Series Prices)                  20/23    (-115)

Exact Result    

Tampa Bay Lightning win 4-0                  11/1     

Tampa Bay Lightning win 4-1                  11/2     

Tampa Bay Lightning win 4-2                  5/1       

Tampa Bay Lightning win 4-3                  7/2       

Montreal Canadiens win 4-0                    11/1     

Montreal Canadiens win 4-1                    13/2     

Montreal Canadiens win 4-2                    4/1       

Montreal Canadiens win 4-3                    5/1       

Number of Games       

4                       11/2     

5                       11/4

6                       2/1

7                       19/10   

Thomas Vanek 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               5

Max Pacioretty 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               5

David Desharnais 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               4

P.K. Subban 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               3.5

Tomas Plekanec 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               3.5

Andrei Markov 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               3

Brendan Gallagher 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               3

Steven Stamkos 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               6.5

Valtteri Filppula 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               4.5

Victor Hedman 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               3.5

Ryan Callahan 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               3.5

 

Columbus Blue Jackets vs Pittsburgh Penguins

Columbus Blue Jackets (Series Prices)               11/5      (+220)

Pittsburgh Penguins (Series Prices)                    5/13      (-260)

Exact Result    

Columbus Blue Jackets win 4-0              18/1     

Columbus Blue Jackets win 4-1              10/1     

Columbus Blue Jackets win 4-2              11/2     

Columbus Blue Jackets win 4-3              13/2     

Pittsburgh Penguins win 4-0                   7/1       

Pittsburgh Penguins win 4-1                   10/3     

Pittsburgh Penguins win 4-2                   4/1       

Pittsburgh Penguins win 4-3                   7/2       

Number of Games       

4                       5/1       

5                       12/5     

6                       6/5

7                       11/10               

Sidney Crosby 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               7.5

Evgeni Malkin 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               7

James Neal 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               6

Chris Kunitz 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               5

Ryan Johansen 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               4.5

James Wisniewski 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               3.5

Brandon Dubinsky 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               3.5

Cam Atkinson 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               3

 

Dallas Stars vs Anaheim Ducks

Dallas Stars (Series Prices)                    33/20    (+165)

Anaheim Ducks (Series Prices)              10/19    (-190)

Exact Result    

Anaheim Ducks win 4-0                          13/2     

Anaheim Ducks win 4-1                          7/2       

Anaheim Ducks win 4-2                          4/1       

Anaheim Ducks win 4-3                          7/2       

Dallas Stars win 4-0                               20/1     

Dallas Stars win 4-1                               10/1     

Dallas Stars win 4-2                               11/2     

Dallas Stars win 4-3                               13/2     

Number of Games       

4                       5/1       

5                       12/5     

6                       11/5     

7                       2/1

Ryan Getzlaf 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               6.5

Corey Perry 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               6

Mathieu Perreault 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               3.5

Nick Bonino 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               3.5

Tyler Seguin 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               6

Jamie Benn 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               5.5

Alex Goligoski 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               3

Ray Whitney 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               3

 

Philadelphia Flyers vs New York Rangers

Philadelphia Flyers (Series Prices)          5/4        (+125)

New York Rangers (Series Prices)          20/29    (-145)

Exact Result    

New York Rangers win 4-0                     10/1     

New York Rangers win 4-1                     9/2

New York Rangers win 4-2                     9/2       

New York Rangers win 4-3                     15/4     

Philadelphia Flyers win 4-0                     12/1     

Philadelphia Flyers win 4-1                     8/1       

Philadelphia Flyers win 4-2                     9/2       

Philadelphia Flyers win 4-3                     5/1       

Number of Games       

4                       6/1       

5                    &, nbsp;  13/5     

6                       2/1       

7                       19/10   

Martin St. Louis 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               5

Brad Richards 1st Round Points

Over/Under           , ;                    4.5

Rick Nash 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               4.5

Mats Zuccarello 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               4

Claude Giroux 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               6

Jakub Voracek 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               4.5

Wayne Simmonds 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               4

Scott Hartnell 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               3.5

 

Chicago Blackhawks vs St. Louis Blues

Chicago Blackhawks (Series Prices)                   10/11    (-110)

St. Louis Blues (Series Prices)                           10/11    (-110)

Exact Result    

St. Louis Blues win 4-0                          11/1     

St. Louis Blues win 4-1                          11/2     

St. Louis Blues win 4-2                          5/1       

St. Louis Blues win 4-3                          4/1       

Chicago Blackhawks win 4-0                  10/1     

Chicago Blackhawks win 4-1                  6/1       

Chicago Blackhawks win 4-2                  4/1       

Chicago Blackhawks win 4-3                  5/1       

Number of Games       

4                       11/2     

5                       11/4     

6                       19/10   

7                       2/1       

Alexander Steen 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               5

T.J. Oshie 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               4

David Backes 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               4

Derek Roy 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               3

Patrick Kane 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               5.5

Patrick Sharp 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               5.5

Jonathan Toews 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               5.5

Marian Hossa 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               5

 

Minnesota Wild vs Colorado Avalanche

Minnesota Wild (Series Prices)                           23/20    (+115)

Colorado Avalanche (Series Prices)                    20/27    (-135)

Exact Result    

Colorado Avalanche win 4-0                   10/1     

Colorado Avalanche win 4-1                   5/1       

Colorado Avalanche win 4-2                   9/2       

Colorado Avalanche win 4-3                   7/2       

Minnesota Wild win 4-0                          12/1     

Minnesota Wild win 4-1                          15/2     

Minnesota Wild win 4-2                          9/2       

Minnesota Wild win 4-3                          5/1       

Number of Games       

4                       6/1       

5                       13/5

6                       19/10   

7                       19/10   

Paul Stastny 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               4.5

Gabriel Landeskog 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               4.5

Nathan MacKinnon 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               4.5

Ryan O'Reilly 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               4.5

Zach Parise 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               5

Mikko Koivu 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               4.5

Matt Moulson 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               4

Ryan Suter 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               3

 

Los Angeles Kings vs San Jose Sharks

Los Angeles Kings (Series Prices)                      5/4        (+125)

San Jose Sharks (Series Prices)                        20/29    (-145)

Exact Result    

San Jose Sharks win 4-0                        19/2     

San Jose Sharks win 4-1                        9/2       

San Jose Sharks win 4-2                        9/2       

San Jose Sharks win 4-3                        7/2       

Los Angeles Kings win 4-0                     14/1     

Los Angeles Kings win 4-1                     8/1       

Los Angeles Kings win 4-2                     9/2       

Los Angeles Kings win 4-3                     5/1       

Number of Games       

4                       6/1       

5                       13/5     

6                       19/10   

7                       2/1

Joe Pavelski 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               5.5

Joe Thornton 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               5.5

Patrick Marleau 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               5

Logan Couture 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               4.5

Anze Kopitar 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               5

Jeff Carter 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               4

Marian Gaborik 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               4

Mike Richards 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               3

 

Detroit Red Wings vs Boston Bruins

Detroit Red Wings (Series Prices)          5/2        (+250)

Boston Bruins (Series Prices)                 1/3        (-300)

Exact Result    

Boston Bruins win 4-0                            11/2     

Boston Bruins win 4-1                            3/1       

Boston Bruins win 4-2                            7/2       

Boston Bruins win 4-3                            7/2       

Detroit Red Wings win 4-0                      25/1

Detroit Red Wings win 4-1                      12/1     

Detroit Red Wings win 4-2                      15/2     

Detroit Red Wings win 4-3                      7/1       

Number of Games       

4                       9/2       

5                       12/5

6                       9/4

7                       9/4

David Krejci 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               5

Jarome Iginla 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               4.5

Patrice Bergeron 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               4.5

Milan Lucic 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               4

Pavel Datsyuk 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               4.5

Gustav Nyquist 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               4

Johan Franzen 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               4

Daniel Alfredsson 1st Round Points

Over/Under                               4

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