The Blackhawks Are The Favorites To Win The Stanley Cup. Here's Why.
By Stephen Gossett in News on Apr 13, 2017 4:23PM
Getty Images / Credit: Jonathan Daniel
It's time. The Stanley Cup playoffs are back, and the closest thing the NHL offers to a dynasty in the salary cap—that would be your Chicago Blackhawks—start their playoff run Thursday night at home, against the eighth-seed Nashville Predators. If you're hopping on the bandwagon (now's the time), allow us catch you up: the Hawks are very good. Not world-beating-depth good as in years past, but still excellent enough to finish atop the Western Conference. In fact, the oddsmakers over at Bovada have the Hawks as the odds-on favorite to hoist the Cup at the end of it all—with better odds than even the league's top regular-season finishers, the Washington Capitals.
Despite the Caps' better record and despite the Hawks' slightly less stacked roster compared to previous runs, it's the right call. For one, the West is weak. They will undoubtedly have their hands very full in the opening round with the Predators, who coalesced later in the season, so are much better and offensively dangerous—especially via the back end—than seeding might indicate.
But the Western Conference, long feared as the prohibitively toughest of the two, just isn't what it was in years past. The upstart Oilers proved they last night they might not be ready for the spotlight; the Sharks and the Ducks are already battered and banged up; the Wild and Blues have had extended down periods (although for Minnesota that may have just been bad luck). Point is, the path to the Final is wide open out West. If the Hawks can get through Round One, the hurdles don't get significantly higher from there—until the Final, that is.
Of course, the Hawks had a very good collection players last year and dipped out in the first round at the hands of a divisional opponent (the St. Louis Blues). So what's to stop that from happening again? A fantastic defense corp, most of all. Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Nik Hjalmarsson are the longtime anchors, but the return-to-the-fold additions of Brian Campbell and Johnny Oduya make the blue line as formidable as any. Fears of deadly Erik Gustafsson-style blunders should be greatly diminished.
Finally, we'll leave you with some telling fancy stats. From the good folks at the Hockey PDOcast, we learned that the Blackhawks within the last 25 games ranked in the top five in score-adjusted shot metrics. And the line of Jonathan Toews, Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik ranks 55 percent in Corsi paring and 55 percent expected goals in even-strength situations. If you don't have you're analytics decoder ring, that means the team and some of it's most key components shine in areas that are most important during the playoffs.