NHL Picks: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Florida Panthers Predictions
It’s Tuesday night and that usually means we have a decent slate of NHL hockey on tap. The league continues it’s 56 game regular season with nine games on tap for us. There’s no football until Sunday this week so let’s bet some hockey.
Chicago has now allowed 15 goals in three games so far this season. I wish I could confidently say that things will improve drastically for the Blackhawks, but I’d be shocked if they did.
Last year, the Blackhawks were the worst team in the league in terms of expected goals against per 60 minutes. They consistently allowed their opponents high quality chances at an alarmingly high rate.
Thankfully for Chicago, for most of last season they had two of the best goalies in the league in Robin Lehner and Corey Crawford. Somehow, those two had the worst defense in the league as an average NHL team when it came to goals against per game. It was a borderline miracle.
Unfortunately, Lehner was traded to Vegas and Crawford retired from hockey. The crease in Chicago now belongs to Malcolm Subban and Collin Delia. I hate to be brash, but neither of these two guys belongs as an NHL starting goalie. Going from Lehner and Crawford to Subban and Delia is the equivalent of trading in your Porsche for a Prius.
Coming into this season, Subban had never played over 22 games in an NHL season and even in limited appearances, never posted a save percentage better than .910 which is the cutoff for a decent NHL goalie. Last season, he posted an .890 save percentage in 20 games. That’s bad. His partner, Collin Delia, had played in a handful of NHL games scattered over the past three seasons and had a goals against average of 3.65. NHL goalies try and keep that number nearly a full goal lower.
This season, Delia has a -4.92 goals saved above expectation. In two games. That means that Delia is allowing almost 2 and a half goals more per game than expected based on the quality of shots he has been facing. Subban has started one game and he has a -1.66 goals saved above expectation. Imagine having an already bad defense and then having your goalies cost you an extra two goals per game.
This game should also mark the season debut for Sergei Bobrovsky. Bobrovsky is a two-time Vezina trophy winner, but his first season in Florida was a disaster last season. There’s a lot of pressure on Bobrovsky to turn it around and live up to his lucrative contract. It’ll be interesting to see whether last year was an aberration or if Bobrovsky is on the downslope of his career.
Offensively, both of these teams have talent. Patrick Kane remains one of the single best players in the league for the Blackhawks. He’s joined by young talent like Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik. On the other side, the Panthers can score with names like Alex Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Patric Hornqvist leading the attack.
I don’t trust Chicago’s goaltending situation at all. I’m not sold on Bobrovsky returning to his old self. I think goals will come in this game. They played on Sunday and these same teams combined for seven goals.
The Bet: Over 6.5 goals @ -105
Your first reaction when looking at the line for this game might be that it’s a cheap price to bet the Winnipeg Jets. I also had that original reaction, but after digging deeper, I came away with a different opinion.
The Jets were a tire-fire in 2019-20. Connor Hellebuyck absolutely masked the issues this team was facing, as he was the best goalie in the league en route to winning the Vezina trophy. Under the hood, the Jets had the worst percentage of expected goals of any of the 31 teams in the league. They were even worse than the Detroit Red Wings who won just 17 times in 71 games and allowed 122 goals more than they scored.
That same Jets team reared its ugly head on Monday against the Maple Leafs. Sure, the final score was close as Hellebuyck almost stole another game for the Jets. However, midway through the 2nd period, the shots were 19-1 in favor of Toronto. The Leafs ended the game with over 66% of the expected goals and nearly 70% of the high danger chances.
Due to it being a back-to-back, there’s a good chance we don’t see Hellebuyck in net for Winnipeg on Tuesday. Laurent Brossoit is the Jets backup goalie, and last year he posted an .895 save percentage. He’s not a very good goalie and the difference between Hellebuyck and his backup is huge.
The Jets are also likely to be without Patrik Laine, one of their most dangerous offensive players. Laine did not play on Monday, meaning it’d be shocking if he played just 24 hours later. Without Laine, Andrew Copp was forced to play in the Jets top six forward group and his line had an expected goal rate near just 27%. Yikes.
Ottawa is much improved from last year. Matt Murray is an improvement on Craig Anderson. The team also added veterans Evgenii Dadonov and Derek Stepan to help deepen their lineup. Rookies Tim Stuetzle and Josh Norris are expected to make big impacts for the Senators. Brady Tkachuk and Thomas Chabot have already established themselves as great young players in this league.
I think Ottawa is slightly underrated. They split their opening two games against the highly powered Toronto Maple Leafs, and they did so by posting a near 49% expected goal rate. Not bad for two games against one of the better teams in the league.
With likely no Hellebuyck and the Jets having played last night and traveling to play a rested Senators team, I like Ottawa to win this game. It’s a bit of a contrarian play as I’m sure the public will be heavy on Winnipeg at such a short line.
The pick: Ottawa ML @ +100
Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Detroit Red Wings
It seems like every year, it’s the same old team when it comes to the Columbus Blue Jackets. It doesn’t matter what players are wearing the jersey. Coach John Tortorella has them playing the same way.
Columbus is a great defensive team who does a great job of limiting their opponent’s high danger chances. They receive solid goaltending from the duo of Elvis Merzilikens and Joonas Korpisalo. Offensively, it’s a challenge.
Columbus has some solid offensive players like Pierre-Luc Dubois and Cam Atkinson, but nobody would mistake any forward on this roster for a superstar. The closest thing the Blue Jackets have to a star is probably either Seth Jones or Zach Werenski, two defensemen.
The Blue Jackets are perfectly content winning games 2-1 where they outwait you, play patiently and pounce on your mistakes. They have success playing this way as can be seen by their last two playoff appearances where they eliminated teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Fortunately for Columbus, there’s not much to slow down on the Detroit side. The Red Wings top line featuring Dylan Larkin with Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi is really their only threat. The trio is a solid line but it won’t instill fear in their opponents. Seth Jones should have no problem neutralizing these players. If those three are shut down it’s hard to see where the Red Wings will get offensive production from.
Jonathan Bernier will likely get the start for the Red Wings. Bernier has been solid for Detroit over the past season-plus. He took over the starting role from Jimmy Howard last season and this year he’ll be in a timeshare with Thomas Greiss.
I don’t see where we get scoring from in this game. Neither team has offensive game breakers. The Blue Jackets pride themselves on their defensive brand of hockey against even the league’s elite offensive teams.
Both teams have solid goaltenders to further the issues of offensive gamebreakers.
I think this game can be won 2-1 or by a similar score.
The Bet: Under 5.5 @ +100
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NHL Expert Picks
Blackhawks at Panthers - Over 6.5 goals @ -105
Jets at Senators - Ottawa ML @ +100
Blue Jackets at Red Wings - Under 5.5 @ +100
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Our expert handicapper Pete Truszkowski is a die-hard Islanders fan but doesn't let it bias him. He was born and raised on Long Island and he's been betting on hockey for a decade. Don't miss out on his picks.