Finding the Edge: Maple Leafs vs. Blackhawks NHL Picks

David Lawrence

Sunday, December 21, 2014 1:39 PM GMT

The Toronto Maple Leafs seem to swing from hot to cold (and back) very quickly. They’ll have a tough time getting back on track on Sunday as they’re a big dog in Chicago according to the NHL betting lines.

The Toronto Maple Leafs Can Win Because…
The Blackhawks have cooled off. Similar to Toronto, the Blackhawks were red hot about a week ago but since then, have hit the skids a little bit. Entering last Saturday, they were riding an eight-game winning streak. However, they’ve dropped two of their last four since that spell, which includes a 3-2 shootout loss in Columbus on Saturday night. The Blue Jackets are not a particularly good team, so it was a bit surprising to see the Blackhawks lose in that spot – even if it was via shootout.

Toronto, prior to their two-game losing streak, had been one of the better teams in the NHL. If they can get back to playing like that, they’ll have a shot on the NHL betting lines here.

 

The Chicago Blackhawks Can Win Because…
The Leafs are unreliable. They’ve lost their last two games to cellar dwelling teams in the Eastern Conference and that has to be discouraging for Leafs backers. On some nights, they show what they’re capable of with wins against the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks. On other nights, they let you down with losses to the Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers. The Leafs go as their goaltending goes and right now, it’s struggling. It’s one thing to lose to those teams but it’s another to give up 11 goals in the process.

The Blackhawks have lost two of four but those losses were on the road. One was in Long Island and the Islanders are one of the better teams in the NHL. The other was a shootout defeat in Columbus despite outshooting the Blue Jackets by more than 2:1. In other words, it’s nothing to sweat.

The Blackhawks started the season 6-5-1 but they’ve been outstanding since. It’s hard to argue against the fact that they’ve been the best team in the NHL since that mediocre 12-game stretch to start the year. Before placing your NHL pick on them however, understand that the Maple Leafs just aren’t playing well enough to go on the road and get an upset here.

 

Outlook
The Blackhawks are coming off a loss but they’re still rolling, as they’ve still won seven straight games at home and have a huge home-ice advantage in this one (shown by their status as favorites in the NHL odds). The Leafs are just 5-6 on the road this year while the Blackhawks are 11-4 at the United Center. Since the juice is too high on the Hawks, consider taking the puckline as they should be able to take this game by two. The Leafs are giving up goals in bunches these days while the Blackhawks are still playing very solid defense.

Free NHL Pick: Blackhawks -1.5 at Pinnacle