The Chicago Blackhawks and Florida Panthers meet at BB&T Arena on Saturday evening for a crucial matchup. The Blackhawks are trying to keep their slim hopes alive in the Western Conference wildcard race. They haven’t really been doing themselves any favours lately, and their goal of getting to the playoffs continues to slip. However, the Blackhawks are still within striking distance, if they can get hot and get some help along the way. They ride into Sunrise with a record of 28-28-8 and 64 points. Considering that the Blackhawks have that average a record, and still have an outside chance at the playoffs is fortunate.
Actions by the front office at the trade deadline do not indicate that they’re confident that the team can overcome an 8-point deficit. They traded Robin Lehner and Erik Gustafsson, so that doesn’t look like a team who is gearing up to go on a run. The defence has not played well this season, and trading away Lehner and Gustafsson isn’t going to take care of that. Early season injuries to Calvin de Haan and Brent Seabrook hurt depth on the blueline. They’re out for the season and now they sent Gustafsson to Calgary. That doesn’t show me that the Blackhawks are serious about getting into the playoffs.
With wins in only three of their last eleven contests, the Blackhawks certainly haven’t played like a team who are ready to go to the playoffs. Having said that, 8 points isn’t impossible to make up in just over a month. The Blackhawks are still alive, but somebody else other than Patrick Kane is going to have to get scorching hot in March. That includes Corey Crawford between the pipes, because the blueline likely isn’t going to be able to offer enough support. On the other bench tonight, the Panthers have a better opportunity to get into the playoffs, but can’t afford to lose too many games in March.
The Panthers are coming off a critical 5-3 loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs. That’s a blow to their chances in the Atlantic Division. The Maple Leafs are the team they’re trying to catch, but 4 points behind following the loss. They are also 4 points behind to get into the playoffs with a wildcard. The offence has been there for the Panthers this season.
Joel Quenneville has been able to get the most out of his playmakers, though he can’t do anything about Sergei Bobrovsky playing like a bust with the Panthers. After getting his big payday in Sunrise, Bobrovsky has been a shell of the guy we saw in Columbus. He isn’t working with the same defence, but for the amount of money he’s being paid, Bobrovsky is a guy who has to steal some games. That hasn’t happened often. Head below for our free Blackhawks vs. Panthers pick.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Florida Panthers Betting Odds:
Blackhawks vs. Panthers Prediction:
Corey Crawford has had an up and down campaign for the Blackhawks in 2019-20. His best day are behind him, though he occasionally turns back the clocks and looks like he’s in his prime. The Blackhawks need prime time Crawford for a run at the playoffs, as unlikely as a run for the postseason sounds at the moment. Crawford has posted a 2.88 GAA and 0.914 save percentage on the season. Not bad but not good.
His last two games is a snapshot of his season. Crawford allowed 6 goals on 37 shots for a 0.838 save percentage against the Blues, and then followed it up with 2 goals against versus the Lightning for a 0.947 save percentage. He’s been slightly worse on the road, with a 2.95 GAA in 19 games. The Blackhawks have allowed an average of 3.14 goals per game overall, and 3.24 goals against on the road.
In their previous ten games, the Blackhawks have allowed 3.7 goals per contest. The Lightning, go figure, are one of three teams that they’ve held to fewer than 3 goals during that time. As long as the offence shows up in Sunrise, it’s likely they’re not going to have to rely on their blueline and Crawford much, though. The Panthers have had an open door policy for opposing offences this season, and it gets worse at home as well. They’ve allowed an average of 3.45 goals per game at home as opposed to 3.36 goals per game.
Bobrovsky owns a 3.26 GAA and 0.899 save percentage. That doesn’t line up with the money he’s making. He signed a whopping $70-million seven-year deal with the Panthers in the offseason. If Bobrovsky can’t figure it out at some point, that’s going to be one colossal waste of money. In any event, he’s gotten plenty of goal support, with 3.42 goals per game for 4th in the league.
At home that number increases to 3.65 goals per contest, though it’s been tough with Bobrovsky and the defence giving it back on the other end. The Panthers have yielded an average of 3.7 goals per game in their previous ten outings, the same as the Blackhawks. Their last three meetings have gone OVER the total, with an average of 8.3 goals scored. I think we’re looking at a 4-3 final score here, so the OVER looks like a solid play in Sunrise on Saturday.