NHL Picks: Lightning's Week Defense Will Allow Hawks to Put Pucks in the Net

Swinging Johnson

Saturday, October 24, 2015 5:14 PM UTC

Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015 5:14 PM UTC

The Lightning continue their northern road swing with a stop in the Windy City while the Blackhawks shoot for their third straight victory. Let's analyze the NHL odds inside.

Tampa Bay Lightning (5-3, +1.3 units)
After jumping out to a 3-0 start the first loss of the season came at the hands of the Red Wings and then the Dallas Stars. The Lightning sandwiched in a victory over Buffalo before falling to the Predators in a 5-4 shootout loss. Last night they followed that lengthy game up with a 4-3 overtime win in Winnipeg and must now travel back to the States to conclude their four-game road trip with a stop tonight in Chicago and then Tuesday evening in St. Louis.

Lightning goalie Ben Bishop has been an extraordinarily busy man starting all eight games for Tampa Bay and is most likely between the pipes tonight as his backup Andrei Vasilevskiy is still on the shelf with a blood clot. That leaves lightly tested Kevin Poulin as their only remedy if in fact head coach Jon Cooper wants to give Bishop a breather. That probably won't happen against the defending Stanley Cup champs. Bishop is coming off a season best 33 saves against the Jets but has surrendered three or more goals three times in his last four appearances.


Chicago Blackhawks (4-3, +0.2 units)
The Blackhawks welcome the Lightning to town as their third guest of four before they hit the road and take on the Winnipeg Jets. The homestand has gone well thus far for the Hawks who handled the Blue Jackets 4-1 and then edged the Panthers 3-2 on Thursday night. The Blackhawks will have to go without veteran blueliner Duncan Keith for the foreseeable future after the 10-year veteran and reigning Conn Smythe Award winner was put under the knife for knee surgery earlier this week.

Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford surrendered two goals on 18 shots in the Blackhawks 3-2 victory over Florida on Thursday night and rewarded those who backed them in their NHL picks as -155 favorites. The reigning William Jennings Trophy co-recipient has won three of his first five starts this season, including the two most recent wins, posting a 2.21 goals against average and a .917 save percentage. The last time Crawford faced the Lightning he was stonewalling them in a 2-0 Game 6 Stanley Cup victory last season that secured another championship for the storied Chicago franchise.

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NHL Pick
This essentially comes down to offense versus defense. Steve Stamkos leads a Tampa Bay offense that ranks 6th in goals scored per game and 10th in power play percentage connecting on 21.7 percent of their opportunities. However the Lightning defense pales compared to their prolific offense ranking 19th in goals allowed averaging 2.8 per game and a cellar dwelling 27th on their penalty killing unit stopping the man-advantage opportunity only 68.2 percent of the time.

Chicago is quite the opposite with the veteran showstopper Corey Crawford between the pipes and contributing mightily to the team's 9th ranked goals against average and 12th best penalty killing unit. Meanwhile their offense ranks 17th in goals scored per game and 15thon the power play. In my estimation the key here is the overworked Ben Bishop, the Lightning goalie who has started in every single game and had to endure a shootout Tuesday night and then last night an overtime period in the team's 4-3 victory over Winnipeg. The NHL betting odds makers are seeing it the same way as they have installed Chicago as -135 to -145 home chalk.

The Hawks have the tools to put pucks in the net with point producers Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marion Hossa and 23-year-old Russian Artemi Panarin who has eight points in just seven games. The Lightning must be dragging heading into this one and Ben Bishop could be dead on his feet while the Blackhawks have had the luxury of staying at home since late last week and rested last night while the Lightning played into overtime and then jumped on a plane to Chicago.

Free NHL Pick: Play the Blackhawks -134 at Pinnacle

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