Free NHL Picks: Blackhawks Expected To Give Stars A Run For Their Money

Dana Lane

Tuesday, March 22, 2016 5:58 PM GMT

The Chicago Blackhawks (42-24-7 91 pts) desparately need a victory if they are to win the Central Division. See my breakdown and NHL pick inside. 

Dallas Stars vs. Chicago Blackhawks
The Chicago Blackhawks have been something they haven't been in years, mediocre.  They have not played up to their reputation since the trade deadline and could fall from immediate contention with another loss to the Dallas Stars (43-21-9 95 pts) who would lengthen their lead over Chicago to six points with a regulation victory. In fact, the Blackhawks might want to look over their shoulder as the Nashville Predators could push Chicago into a wild card spot. Chicago is running out of chances which makes this a must win situation. With a win the Dallas Stars would own four victories over the Blackhawks and a huge psychological edge. 

Unfortunately, the big news out of Dallas is the loss of Tyler Seguin who they hope to get back for the playoffs. Seguin suffered an Achilles injury that that may have severed the chances the Stars have of winning the Central Division on the NHL odds boards. Seguin is a point a game player who is being replaced by Patrick Sharp who hasn't found the back of the net in over a month. I also worry about speed continuity with Sharp on the first line.  Seguin is a faster skater and they haven't had much practice time together. 

I always look to the stronger defense as the side I want to be on in most situations and this is no different.

Scott Darling will get the start for Chicago against Kari Lehtonen. Don't sleep on Darling just because he has back-up attached to his name.  In his last two starts he is 1-0-1 with a sparkling 0,96 goals against average and a .968 save percentage. He's the same goaltender that led the Hawks through a rough patch in last year's playoffs in place of the slumping Corey Crawford. He's a second year player but has plenty of experience at the age of 27. In his last three starts Darling has a 1.64 goals against with a shutout of the Winnipeg Jets and a 32 save effort against the Wild in their shootout loss Sunday. 

 

Betting Analysis
Kari Lehtonen has played well as of late but his body of work gives me reason for pause.  I've always thought that both Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen's success have been a product of the Stars offense so with Seguin out I wonder if they will be able to cover up their average goaltending as usual. Dallas has allowed five goals in each of their last two games, the sixth time in 13 games that they've given up that many goals. The Blackhawks power play has been ineffective lately but I can't lose focus on the body of work of a power play that still ranks in the top five of the league at 22.3%. 

Dallas is 5-1-2 in his last 8 games after a 1-5-2 stretch that saw them lose the Central lead but I still need to see them do it against quality competition. In their last 16 games against teams with a winning record the Stars have dropped 11 games.  

We're are going to back Chicago as one of our NHL picks one more time to get the job done against the Stars.

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Free NHL Pick: Chicago -133
Best Line Offered: at BetOnline