NHL Picks: Lightning Not Ready To Zap Blackhawks' Winning Streak

Jay Pryce

Thursday, January 21, 2016 4:32 PM GMT

The streaking Blackhawks and Lightning clash in Tampa on Thursday, their first tussle in the Sunshine State since last year's Stanley Cup finals. Can the Lightning zap Chicago's streak? 

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NHL Pick: Blackhawks +101
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle

 

The streaking Blackhawks and Lightning clash in Tampa on Thursday night (7:30 p.m. ET), their first tussle in the Sunshine State since last year's Stanley Cup finals

 

Chicago Blackhawks (32-13-4, 68 pts)
The Blackhawks set a franchise-best 12-game win streak with its 4-1 road victory over the Predators on Tuesday. They now have their sights set on the 1992-93 Penguins 17-game consecutive victories mark, the NHL record. 

With such little scoring in hockey, it's incredibly difficult for many teams to come from behind, and Chicago is jumping on teams early and often during the run. Coach Joel Quenneville's men have scored the first goal in 11 of its past 12 games and improved to 29-3-2 when scoring first.

Patrick Kane, the leading MVP candidate, has 30 goals and 71 points, career highs in both through 49 games played. Kane had his 20th multi-point game this season against Nashville.

As we mentioned in our last Blackhawks write-up, Chicago typically wins when its top two-way center Jonathan Toews is lighting up the lamp. In the 12-game streak, he's netted one or more in seven, and team is 180-57 overall in his career when he scores. He has eight goals in 17 games against Tampa. 

Corey Crawford will likely get the nod in goal. The first-choice netminder, who leads the league with six shutouts, has won nine straight games. During the streak, he has a 1.89 goals-against average, .946 save percentage, and is anchoring a defense allowing a paltry 4.27 points to opposing skaters over the stretch.

 

Tampa Bay Lightning (25-17-4, 54 pts)
Like the Blackhawks, the Lightning are piecing together an impressive run of their own, riding a season-high six-game win streak after taking care of Edmonton 6-4 at Amalie Arena on Tuesday night. They've slotted home 24 goals during the span. 

Tampa's fortunes center on goalie Ben Bishop. The 29-year old has played superbly in the New Year, winning three of four starts and yielding a .948 save percentage. Against the Western Conference this season, he's 8-6-1 with a .935 save percentage and 1.81 goals-against average. He'll likely man the goal tonight.

Right winger Nikita Kucherov leads the team with 39 points, posting 10 goals and 13 assists in 23 home games on the season. The young Russian made the most of his first full-season last year, notching 65 points, second behind centers Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson. Kucherov is emerging as the offensive centerpiece, and when held quiet, wagering on the total has been lucrative for sports investors. The UNDER is 21-11-4 when he picks up less than two points on the night. Lifetime, Kucherov has recorded just one two-point effort in nine matchups against the Blackhawks. He has scored at least one point in 14 of his last 15 games, though. Let's review the NHL odds & latest trends.

 

Final Analysis
Tampa is likely the prime spot for the Blackhawks' run to come to an end, as the Stanley Cup finalists duke it out in front of an energized Amalie Arena. The Lightning are finding their scoring touch and should challenge the recently impenetrable Blackhawks back line. But Chicago is focused, and until it shows any sign of a hiccup, I'll ride the streak. Tampa has struggled this season against teams who pepper the net, going 3-7 versus those averaging 31 shots or more on goal a night (Blackhawks, 31.1). It wouldn't shock if Tampa wins, but there's decent value in +100 for Chicago as our NHL pick.