In the Western Conference, you have two teams in the Vancouver Canucks (95 points) and Chicago Blackhawks (98 points) who have been red hot as of late. Both teams are on 2 game winning streaks and we should see a high level of hockey between these two teams in their matchup tonight.
Face-off is set for 8:30 p.m. ET tonight at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. According to the NHL betting odds at BetOnline, the Blackhawks are a -164 betting favorite and the total for the game is listed at 5.5 goals. The Blackhawks are home, but get an extra amount of respect from odds makers due to their outstanding defense, led by Duncan Keith.
Crawford Is Confirmed
It looks like we will have a matchup of Eddie Lack vs. Corey Crawford in net. The Blackhawks have confirmed that Crawford will indeed between the pipes, but there is no word on Lack as of yet.
At 31-17-5 with a 2.31 GAA, Crawford has been a workhorse all season long. The only negative to this matchup for Crawford is that in 2 previous matchups with Vancouver, he's 0-1-1 with a 4.07 GAA. He's certainly beatable, but the United Center is a tough place for opponents to win in and Chicago has a sufficient amount of offense to back up Crawford.
Lack has had a limited amount of time in net and has been serviceable. For the season, he's 16-11-4 with a 2.48 GAA. Vancouver will need to hope that Crawford has another poor outing because they will have to work hard on the offensive end with Eddie Lack in net. Lack has already met the Blackhawks once and took the decision despite allowing a handful of goals. Where the goalie position is concerned, Corey Crawford provides the Blackhawks with the edge.
Lightning vs. Senators to Go 'Under' in Low Scoring Game
A Crushing Blow
Chicago delivered a crushing blow in their last game to the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings as they defeated the Kings 4-1. I mentioned the defense of defenseman Duncan Keith earlier in this piece and Keith was a huge part of the win over L.A. as he contributed a 2nd period power play goal along with 3 shots on goal.
The guy who set up Keith's goal was Jonathan Toews and Toews has been a beast all season long.For the season, Toews has 25 goals and 38 assists. I always mention him being a huge player where the plus/minus ratio is concerned and Toews currently sits at a healthy +28. Toews also has 2 goals and 1 assist in his last 3 games. I certainly wouldn't be surprised to see Toews be a major influence in tonight's game as Eddie Lack is a fairly easy target for a team such as Chicago, especially in their own building.
Canucks Are No Pushovers
Let's not write the Canucks off just yet. They have been playing well also. They're coming off of a 5-4 shootout victory against Nashville. Mike Fisher, who has only played in 57 games this season, managed to come up with a goal and an assist in the victory. Fisher is a power play specialist that has had success when on the ice. He has 19 goals and 20 assists and had an assist in the previous matchup against Chicago.
Radim Vrbata is a goal scoring machine at 31 goals in 74 games. This power play specialist has had major success against Chicago. In 2 games against the Hawks, Vrbata has 1 goal and 1 assists. Even better, he has 4 goals and 3 assists in his last 5 games. This is definitely a player that the Blackhawks defense will need to focus on.
This should be an even matchup, but I look for Corey Crawford to pay back the Canucks as he dominates the goaltending position, which is why I'm adding the blackhaws to my NHL picks.
NHL Pick- Chicago -164 at BetOnline