Blackhawks Can Win Because…
Of the two teams, the Pens are in worse shape right now. They have lost six of nine – if you can believe that – and are having a really tough time scoring goals. They’ve been shut out twice in their last nine while averaging just 2.44 goals per game. That’s a significant drop-off when you consider that this team averaged 3.17 goals per game before that. Injuries to key offensive weapons has been the main reason why they’ve lost some bite. Their two best offensive defensemen are out (Paul Martin and Kris Letang) and one of their superstar forwards as well (Evgeni Malkin). It’s tough for any team to survive that – including the elite Pens.
Chicago is at least playing .500 hockey with a 4-4 stretch in their last eight. And they’re healthier than the Pens, which counts for something. Those are a couple of reasons why they’re worth adding to your sports picks.
Penguins Can Win Because…
The Blackhawks just haven’t been right in 2014. We’re talking about a team that’s playing well below .500 in the new calendar year and unlike the Penguins, they don’t have injuries to use as an excuse – at least not to the same extent. Yes, they’re without Patrick Kane right now but that’s about it. Bryan Bickell is questionable for Sunday’s game.
The Blackhawks are having some issues putting the biscuit in the basket. While they still lead the league with 3.23 goals per game, that average has been way down in March as they’re doing just 2.79 this month (14th in the NHL). They’ve dropped three of four and have been shut out in two of those losses.
Chicago has also been a lousy road bet of late as they’ve dropped six of their last seven road games. Their only victory in that span was a skinny road win in Buffalo over the Sabres, who are the worst team in the NHL. The Pens will have a noticeable home-ice advantage in this one.
Outlook & Pick
It’s hard to believe at just how mediocre these teams have been. The Blackhawks are 14-19 in their last 33 while the Pens have dropped 10 of 17. If they keep playing like this, neither side will be experiencing a particularly long playoff run this season. Both teams are limping to the finish line but I will take a flier with Pittsburgh in this spot. The home-ice advantage should be the difference – especially since Chicago will be playing their third road game in four nights.
The Blackhawks have scored just nine goals in their last seven road games and that’s a concern. But Pittsburgh has just four tallies in their last three home games. With both teams struggling offensively, under might also be worth a look.
Pick: Penguins -115 & Under 5.5 at Pinnacle