Blackhawks Face Long Odds As Expanded NHL Playoffs Set To Begin

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The Chicago Blackhawks were potential winners on two fronts before the first puck was dropped in the expanded NHL playoffs that begin Saturday in Edmonton and Toronto.

They were included in the 24-team postseason field that features a Qualifying Round despite finishing 12th in the Western Conference. Despite being in the playoffs, Chicago is still in the running to claim the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, which has potential franchise cornerstone Alexis Lafrenière as the consensus top player. One of the eight Qualifying Round losers will claim the No. 1 spot awarded in the NHL Draft lottery from last month in a separate lottery.

But for sports betting purposes, the Blackhawks face long odds regarding their Stanley Cup chances as they have to face one of the bubble hosts — the Edmonton Oilers — in a best-of-five series in the play-in round.

Shopping odds

The Blackhawks are clear underdogs to win the series, a prospect more challenging in a visiting rink for a full series despite there being no home fans for the Oilers. BetMGM is the most bullish on Chicago’s chances to advance, offering +140 on a Blackhawks series compared to -170 for the Oilers. CaesarsOnline has a balanced offering of -175 for the Oilers and +155 for the Blackhawks, while FanDuel, DraftKings, and Unibet are more uniform with odds ranging between -190 and -195 for the Oilers and +155 to +156 for the Blackhawks.

When it comes to winning the Western Conference, the Blackhawks are the longshots at most sportsbooks, befitting their status as the 12th seed. One curious exception is CaesarsOnline, which has the Blackhawks as a +1800 option — the ninth-best — to reach the Stanley Cup final for the first time since last winning the title in 2015. The range of offerings as a longshot status include +3000 at DraftKings, +3500 at FanDuel, and +4000 at BetMGM.

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To lift Lord Stanley, those offerings also cover a wide range. CaesarsOnline again has the shortest odds at +4000 (for comparison, Tampa Bay is the favorite there at +550), while both Unibet and DraftKings are offering +5500. FanDuel (+6500) and BetMGM (+8000) round out the Stanley Cup offerings.

Unibet player offerings

Unibet, which began accepting mobile wagers through Horseshoe Hammond on Thursday, is offering head-to-head matchups in offensive categories between Blackhawks and Oilers players. There are three head-to-head matchups for goal-scorers, highlighted by Oilers star Connor McDavid (-139) against Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane (+105).

Those two are also paired for most points in the series at -195/+140, while Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl is a prohibitive -335 pick against Blackhawks center and captain Jonathan Toews (+227). The last matchup pits Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (-225) against Chicago’s Alex DeBrincat (+160).

Unibet is also offering an over/under for games played in the series, with a three-game sweep offering +280 and a full five-game matchup offering +175. The Blackhawks are a +900 option to sweep the series, +435 to win in four games, and +450 to win in five, while the Oilers draw +450 for a sweep, +375 to win the series 3-1 and +355 to win a decisive Game 5.

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Chris Altruda

Chris Altruda has been a sportswriter with ESPN, The Associated Press, and STATS over more than two decades. He recently expanded into covering sports betting and gambling around the Midwest.

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