By: Trent Pruitt (@trentbets)
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Money Line: CHI +125 | NSH -136
Puck Line: CHI +1.5 (-196) | NSH -1.5 (+175)
Total: 5.5 (O +100, U -110)
Puck Drop: 7:00 CDT | Bridgestone Arena | Nashville, TN
With only two points separating the Predators (49) and the Blackhawks (47) in standings, this is easily the biggest week of hockey for both of these teams. They’ll face off once tonight in Nashville followed by a pair of games on Wednesday and Friday in Chicago. This is an opportunity for the Preds to give themselves a little cushion while the downward trending Hawks look to reclaim the final spot in the playoff race that they held basically the whole first half of the season. Let’s dive into this one and get a best bet locked in!
Chicago Blackhawks (21-19-5)
The Blackhawks enter this monstrous series coming off of a two-game split with the Red Wings. The game they lost may be one they look back on if they find themselves on the outside looking in. The Wings are still a professional team, but in a playoff race, those are the games you need to have. Anyways, they’re on to Nashville where they’ll look to gain some ground in the standings. The Hawks are 14th in goals scored this season (125), 21st in goals against (137), and boast the 7th best PP (23.7%) and 28th ranked PK (75%). I was able to watch the game on Saturday night and Chicago dominated in the 4-0 win. They applied pressure all game and that’s what they need to do if they want to be successful.
Patty Kane notched a couple of points on Saturday and that moved him to 56 on the season (15G, 41A). Alex DeBrincat is the leading goal scorer with 22 and he has the second most points on the team (43). It’s unconfirmed who will be in net tonight for Chicago but I would assume Kevin Lankinen gets the start since Malcolm Subban played on Saturday. Lankinen is 16-12-4 on the year with a 2.79 GAA and he’s stopping 91.4% of shots.
Nashville Predators (24-21-1)
I’d say Nashville circles the Blackhawks on their schedule and really looks forward to these games – and not just because they get to go to Chicago and enjoy the food and ambience of the city. It’s more likely because the Preds are 5-0 this season against the Hawks and they’ve had their number all season. The Preds have really come into their own recently and although they don’t have flashy statistics, they’re a solid club. And once I type their rankings, you’ll probably be wondering how they’re even in the playoff race. Nashville ranks 22nd in goals for (116), 19th in goals against (130) and has the 22nd ranked power play (18.9%) and 29th ranked penalty kill (74.8%). I would kind of describe them like the Hawks, but imagine them being a little bit more mature and “well-fortified” on the back end. And I think Chicago clearly has the better offense, and that’s saying something.
They’ve been riding phenomenal goaltending from Juuse Saros to get them going in the second half. It’s confirmed that he’ll be between the pipes tonight and he’s allowing just 2.23 GAA and knocking aside 92.8% of shots this year. But he’s been getting hot. Over 15 starts in March and April, he’s gone 10-4 with a save percentage of 94.8%. Predators hockey means playing strong in your own zone and building out from there. They’ll take whatever goals Filip Forsberg (11), Mikael Granlund (11), or Calle Jarnkrok (11) will give them and just try to park the bus on the backend.
Final Analysis & Best Bet
Aside from Patrick Kane, there aren’t really any guys that can go out there and truly manufacture some goals. Matt Duchene is finally back for Nashville after missing a month and a half and he’s the only guy I would put anywhere near the same category as Kane. Like I mentioned above, the Preds and Hawks are fairly similar in that neither team is explosive on the ice offensively. The issue here is that when you have two teams that are more defensive minded and play on their heels/in their zone, someone has to want to push the puck. And that’s where I believe the Hawks have been getting dominated this season in this particular series. The Predators have been relatively more aggressive because they’re the more mature and physical team. The stats check out on that, too. I went back and totaled everything and here are the numbers over the five games: Shots (CHI 150, NSH 167), Hits (CHI 72, NSH 113), Faceoffs (CHI 122, NSH 134).
So what I’m saying is that if the Blackhawks want to win two of these three games then they have to be the aggressor. They have to be pesky and get a good forecheck going. They must establish offensive zone time and get good shots. And finally, Chicago needs to get the power play going and take advantage of Nashville’s 29th ranked PK. But even if they can accomplish all of that, they’re still running into one of the hottest goaltenders in the league in Saros so goals will be tough to come by. For my best bet, I’m taking the under in the game at 5.5 (-110) for a unit. All five games have gone under and I expect no different on Monday night. Juuse Saros is playing the best of his career right now and I trust Jeremy Colliton will make the right move and start Lankinen. Let’s sit back and enjoy a good defensive contest! How about a 1-0 Blackhawks win.
Trent’s NHL Betting Record
2021 NHL Season: 24-8-3 (+10.8 units). A $100 bettor has profited $1,082.32 this NHL szn.