Maybe not if you ask the Dallas Stars, who’ve beaten the red and black giants twice already this season, but as the Red Wings, Penguins or Devils, and they might just admit the Hawks are the team to beat in the NHL so far this year. With a frightening combination of youth, talent, confidence, offensive explosiveness and defensive sturdiness, the Hawks might breeze through the playoffs faster than you can say unproven goaltending.
So what do we think of Saturday night’s matchup on the road against the St. Louis Blues? I think the Blackhawks will be a -240 to the Blues +170. Chicago has 57 points so far, trailing only San Jose by 2 but with one fewer game played. St. Louis, however, isn’t as bad as many are dismissing right now. They’re a .500 club, and a surprisingly awful 6-13-3 at home. So what am I saying here, that the Blues have a chance to catch the Hawks napping? Possibly, maybe Kane for a period or Huet for a shot or two, but not the whole team, not the whole game. The difference is talent is too great in this one, and I see around a 4-1 advantage in the Hawks favor. They bounce back like a team of destiny from a rough loss and usually go on to win 4 or 5 in a row. They’re only one win removed from their last loss, so you do the math.
Speaking of San Jose, the other great American hope in the West, they host the Edmonton Oilers. I was recently in Canada, and got to see Toronto and Calgary, and both cities couldn’t stop talking about how they hated the Oilers. Hockey runs pretty serious up in Canada. Well, something tells me those Flames and Leafs fans will have a little smile on their faces after this one. Edmonton is currently the worst team in the West and the second worst team in the league behind Carolina. They can’t score on the power play to save their lives, the goalies are giving up almost 3 goals per game and – perhaps even more telling – they’re headed in the wrong direction, losing eight of their last 10. The Sharks, however, recently avenged their embarrassing loss to Chicago en route to a seven-game winning streak, propping them back atop the Western conference for the time being. Think they’ve learned from last year’s early playoff exit? They’ve certainly learned enough to know they still have to focus on the low games like this one, even at home. The Sharks are a sharper, hungrier team than last year, and they’ve proven resilient thus far. Expect to pay big if you’re going to side with the teal warriors, but expect to win your money back, as well. And bet the over, too, Edmonton still has 114 goals on the season, better than 12 other teams in the league. The points might fool the hockey betting odds makers into settting a lower mark here, so pay attention and take advantage if you think it’s right.