Both Leafs & Blackhawks Slumping, So Bet ‘Under’ on Hockey Picks

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, January 23, 2018 5:08 PM UTC

Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018 5:08 PM UTC

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks are both in a funk as the two Original Six clubs meet in a nationally-televised game in Chicago on Wednesday’s light NHL slate.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Chicago BlackhawksFree NHL Pick: UnderBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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The NHL regular-season schedule goes dark starting Friday through next Monday for the All-Star break. Thus, there are just two games on Wednesday’s schedule with every team in the league playing Thursday but one. The national TV matchup Wednesday is Toronto at Chicago, with a puck drop of 8 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports Network.

These are two franchises going in opposite directions from an overall perspective, with the young Leafs rising and the aging Blackhawks descending. Toronto goes for the season sweep, as on Oct. 9 the Maple Leafs beat the visiting Blackhawks 4-3 in overtime. Reigning Calder Trophy winner Auston Matthews beat Anton Forsberg 3:43 into OT. Matthews was the game’s No. 1 star. The Leafs rallied from a 3-1 third-period deficit. Connor Brown made it 3-2 at 13:00 and James van Riemsdyk tied it with a power-play goal at 15:42. It was a rough night for Hawks star Patrick Kane. He entered with 22 points in 13 career games against Toronto but finished minus-three with just one shot and no points.

Toronto hasn’t won in Chicago, however, since February 2003. The Leafs are 3-13 in the past 16 meetings overall, but, again, these franchises are a lot different now.

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Time For Hawks To Rebuild?

It’s probably fair to say the championship window has closed on the Blackhawks, who have won three Stanley Cups this decade. It was probably fair to say that when the Hawks were stunningly swept by No. 8 seed Nashville in the first round of last season’s playoffs, but it’s clear now with Chicago (22-19-6) sitting last in the Central Division. No. 1 goaltender Corey Crawford hasn’t played since Dec. 23 due to vertigo/post-concussion syndrome. Crawford was having one of his best seasons 16-9-2 with a 2.27 goals-against average and .929 save percentage.

With Crawford out, the Hawks have had to rely on young Swede Forsberg and former minor-league journeyman Jeff Glass in net. As of this writing, it’s not clear who will start against Toronto because the Hawks play again Thursday. But it really doesn’t matter. Forsberg is 3-7-3 with a 3.15 GAA and .907 SV and Glass is 3-3-1 with a 3.17 GAA and .909 SV. Similar numbers.

The Hawks, who rank 29th on the power play, enter on a three-game losing streak, all at home and being outscored a combined 13-3 in losses to the Red Wings, Islanders and Lightning. Second-line center Artem Anisimov returned from an upper-body injury in Monday’s 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay. He had missed 10 games but has 13 goals, including six game-winners, and five assists this season.

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Jonathan Toews on the team's effort against the Lightning, the power play and more after Chicago's loss Tampa. #CHIvsTBL

— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) January 23, 2018

Toronto (26-18-5) is chasing Tampa Bay for the Atlantic Division lead. The Leafs have the third-best goals differential in the Eastern Conference at plus-12 but that’s only third in the division behind the Lightning and second-place Bruins.

The Maple Leafs lost for the fifth time in six games Monday, 4-2 at home to the scorching-hot Colorado Avalanche. Toronto led 2-1 midway through the second thanks to second-period goals by Patrick Marleau (16th of season) and Matthews (21st), but Frederik Andersen couldn’t hold it. He’s now 23-14-4 with a 2.69 GAA and .920 SV.

The Leafs also play Thursday, but Andersen should be in there vs. Chicago. The team is without defenseman Morgan Rielly, who was recently placed on injured reserve with an upper-body injury. Rielly is fourth on the team with 31 points and tied for first with 26 assists.

Neither team is playing well right now, so the total looks the best bet with it opening at 6. The ‘under’ has hit in 10 of Chicago’s past 12 at home and in six of Toronto’s past nine overall. That’s the NHL pick.

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