By: Trent Pruitt
Today is a magnificent day. Not only is it #WinnersOnlySaturday, it’s the Leap Year day, which means we get an extra day to bet on sports and make some money! As for this game, it pins the struggling Chicago Blackhawks against the Florida Panthers who are grinding for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Money Line: FLA -155, CHI +145
Puck Line: FLA -1.5 (+155), CHI +1.5 (-175)
Over/Under: 6.5 (O -130, U +118)
Puck Drop: 5:00 CST, BB&T Center, Sunrise, FL
The Blackhawks have really fallen off as of recent. Sure, they had a really nice comeback win against the Lightning on Thursday night but that has been far from the narrative in the ‘19-’20 campaign. Chicago has dropped nine out of their last 12 games and currently resides in the 7th spot in the Central. Stan Bowman has decided to sell at the deadline, sending Robin Lehner to Vegas for a 2nd round pick and Malcolm Subban and trading Erik Gustaffson to Calgary for a pair of 3rd round picks. Personally, as a Chicago fan, I don’t love the Lehner move.
If you’re looking for a bright side, Dominik Kubalik has been on an excellent streak! He recorded his first career hat trick in the 5-2 win over Tampa Bay. Kubalik is the leading goal scorer amongst rookies with 29, which is 10 more than Buffalo’s Victor Olofsson. Additionally, he is 3rd in points amongst rookies with 43, trailing only Quinn Hughes (51) and Cale Makar (46). If he doesn’t bring the Calder Trophy, me and Gary Bettman will be having a conversation.
As for the Panthers, they are 4th in the Atlantic Division with 72 points. That puts them four points out of both 3rd in the Atlantic and the 2nd Wild Card spot. They’re chasing the Maple Leafs in the division and the Blue Jackets in the Wild Card. Speaking of Toronto, Quenneville’s crew just lost to them on Thursday night by a score of 5-3. They jumped out to a 3-1 lead but allowed four straight goals. Getting into some statistics, the Panthers are 3rd overall in goals scored with 3.42 goals per game and boast the 8th best Power Play Unit (22.1%). Their downfall? The defense and goaltending. Sergei Bobrovsky is just 23-19-5 on the season with a GAA of 3.26 while stopping just .899% of shots- yikes. To be honest, I’ve never been that big of a Bobrovsky guy, I think he’s very inconsistent in between the pipes.
Final Analysis & Prediction
Despite the Hawks big win over the declining Lightning on Thursday, I have to take the Florida Panthers tonight. For starters, they’re in the playoff hunt… Depending on who you talk to, there are different opinions on handicapping motivation but this is a clear advantage in my opinion. The Hawks just traded away two solid players in Lehner and Gustaffson. I’m not saying Erik Gustaffson is on a Brent Burns level for defensemen, but the front office essentially told these players, “Hey, we’re selling… We don’t believe you can compete anymore.” That plus Florida needing to pick up as many points as possible down the stretch leads me to believe laying the -155 price is worth it. Additionally, Florida has the firepower to run up the scoreboard with their talented roster featuring Aleksander Barkov (20G, 42A). Don’t outthink the room on this one, take Florida on the money line for 1.5 units.
Trent’s Record on NHL Picks in ‘19-’20
Blackhawks Games: 15-9 (+5.30 Units). A $100 bettor is up $530.