Dusty’s NHL picks record: 2-2
Thursday, 7 p.m. ET
Free NHL Pick: Rangers ML
Best Line Offered: Bovada
For many years, the Chicago Blackhawks’ schedule included a two-week road swing to allow a circus to invade their home arena. This year, the Blackhawks are the circus.
With five wins in a six-game span to end December, the Hawks had crept within striking distance of a wild-card berth. Then the calendar flipped — along with Chicago’s hopes and momentum. The Hawks, losers of four straight, have one win in seven games in 2019, with three overtime losses included. Earning four of a possible 14 points does not make for a happy new year, and now they are only two points from residing in the NHL cellar, pending Ottawa’s result Wednesday night.
If any team can relate to the Blackhawks, it’s the New York Rangers. They, too, had one win in their first seven games in this calendar year, including a four-game stretch in which they were outscored 22-5. On Tuesday, however, the Rangers beat Carolina 6-2 behind Mika Zibanejad’s two goals and three assists, and 34 saves by veteran Henrik Lundqvist.
The Blackhawks and Rangers meet in an Original Six matchup on Thursday night, but don’t expect a playoff-like atmosphere at Madison Square Garden. This will be more of a “Lose for Hughes” clash, with both teams in contention for the No. 1 draft pick and the right to get top prospect Jack Hughes. Sure, it’s not the most glamorous matchup on the NHL odds board, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t value.
Patrick Kane leads the Blackhawks with 27 goals, 37 assists and 64 points. Kane scored twice in Chicago’s most recent outing, an 8-5 loss to New Jersey on Monday. Alex DeBrincat (23 goals) had a four-game goal streak snapped by the Devils. Captain Jonathan Toews (18 goals, 24 assists) is having one of his best offensive seasons in years. On the other end of the ice, the Hawks have allowed more goals (179) than any other team. Young goalie Collin Delia (3-1-3 record, 2.71 goals-against average, .932 save percentage) is the likely starter in New York.
Facing a defensively challenged opponent is good news for the Rangers, whose 127 goals are more than only six other teams. Chris Krieder has 21 goals, but no teammate has more than 14. Zibanejad has a team-leading 42 points (14 goals, 28 assists). Lundqvist (13-12-7, 3.04, .908) is expected to start Thursday.
- Blackhawks are 8-20 in their last 28 games vs. a team with a losing record.
- Blackhawks are 10-31 in their last 41 road games vs. a team with a winning home record.
- Blackhawks are 1-4 in their last five games vs. Eastern Conference teams.
- Rangers are 4-1 in their last five home games vs. a team with a road winning percentage of less than .400.
- Rangers are 1-4 in their last five home games.
- Rangers are 1-6 in their last seven games following a win.
If winning one game counts as momentum — and for these teams it does — the Rangers have it. They’re also at home in this spot. Chicago won the first meeting of the season, 4-1 in October. That victory improved the Blaskhawks’ record to 6-2-2, so apparently it has been all downhill from there. New York will focus on containing Kane and DeBrincat, while building off their offensive outbreak Tuesday. Back the Rangers with your NHL picks.