The NHL odds tonight favor Chicago -1.5, althought the Blackhawks haven’t won three in a row since early December. They’ll try again on Sunday as the New York Rangers visit the United Center.
The New York Rangers Can Win Because…
The Blackhawks are still a dicey bet. Yes, they’ve won two in a row but they needed a shootout to dispose of the Edmonton Oilers at home in their latest outing. Does this sound to you like a team that is dominating these days? Absolutely not. Even though the Blackhawks have won three straight at home, they are still just 3-3 in their last six in their own confines.
Chicago just isn’t scoring much these days as they’ve averaged just 2.17 goals per game since the All-Star break, which is 25th in the NHL. That’s a huge contrast to the Rangers, who are second in that category in that same span (3.26 goals per game).
The Rangers are playing without goaltender Henrik Lundqvist these days but are still 10-2-3 in their last 15. They've been excellent in road games this season, going 18-12, which is not that far off from the Blackhawks 21-13 home record.
The Chicago Blackhawks Can Win Because…
The Rangers just don’t match up well at the defensive end. Henrik Lundqvist still isn’t ready to return, which means it’s probably another start for Cam Talbot. He’s been alright – at best – as he’s allowed three goals or more in five of his last eight outings. Although he’s played better in two starts in March, Talbot had a .906 save percentage in February and has posted a 2.61 GAA since taking over the full-time duties from King Henrik.
What’s interesting about the Blackhawks is that they tend to struggle against lousy teams and bring their best against winning teams. That explains some of their recent performances at home like needing a shootout to edge the Oilers and Florida Panthers, and home losses to the struggling Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche. However, they also have wins over Pittsburgh (twice), St. Louis and Anaheim recently, which shows that they can step up their game when they need to.
The Blackhawks have won four of five and are hosting a team that’s dropped two of three, and is visiting with a backup goalie. All signs point to a Blackhawks win in this spot, including NHL odds.
The Blackhawks are without Patrick Kane and while that does hurt, it hasn’t seemed to cramp their style. They are still 3-1 without him. Even so, it’s hard to lay -160 with the Blackhawks as they’ve been a very up and down team over the last couple of months.
Instead, I’ll look at the over for my NHL pick and expect Talbot to help the Blackhawks offense look good. Combined with the fact that the Rangers score at a healthy clip, we should see a high-scoring affair in tonight's battle between Rangers & Blackhawks.
NHL Hockey Pick: Over 5.5 at Bodog