After a bang to start the NHL season on Wednesday, we went 2-2 with last night’s four NHL picks.
The first winner of the night came in Edmonton where Connor McDavid notched a hat trick while he and Leon Draisaitl each recorded four-point nights en route to a 5-2 win that pushed the total Over 6 at -130 odds.
Our second victory came in Sin City where the Golden Knights took care of the Anaheim Ducks 5-2. It was actually 2-2 going into the third, but the Knights turned it on and hit our Vegas -1.5 puckline pick at +105 odds.
Our Rangers moneyline pick lost with authority. The Islanders scored two quick first-period goals and that was already more than they needed an en route to a 4-0 win that sank our pick at -106 odds.
Finally, we had the Under 5.5 in L.A. between the Kings and Wild, but a Marcus Foligno game-tying goal dealt us a loss as the Wild would go on to win that one 4-3 in overtime. We dropped that one at -113.
The 2-2 night resulted in a minuscule -0.14-unit loss, so we’ll call it a wash and move onto this Blackhawks vs. Lightning NHL pick from Tampa Bay!
- Season Record: 3-2
- Units: +0.91
Blackhawks vs. Lightning Betting Odds
- Blackhawks (+226)
- Lightning (-255)
- Blackhawks +1.5 (-103)
- Lightning -1.5 (-117)
- Over 6 (-121)
- Under 6 (+110)
Blackhawks vs. Lightning NHL Pick Breakdown
As expected on opening night, an undermanned Blackhawks offense struggled. Their lone goal in their 5-1 loss came with just over three minutes to go in the game on a Dylan Strome bank shot from behind the goal line. The puck got caught in goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy’s skates and found its way over the goal line.
Aside from that marker, there wasn’t a whole lot to write home about for a Blackhawks team that is already devastated by injuries.
Jonathan Toews, Kirby Dach and Alex Nylander are three top-nine players already on Long-Term Injured Reserve. Dach (wrist) and Nylander (knee) are out for the season after undergoing surgeries while Toews’ timeline is unknown, as is the illness that has left him feeling drained and lethargic.
We hope for the best with Toews, however without him and Dach — the team’s top two projected centers — the Blackhawks are razor-thin down the middle. The top-line trio of Strome, Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat will produce the bulk of the team’s offense, but on a lot of nights this team is simply going to struggle as they did on Wednesday in this matchup.
The defense wasn’t any better two nights back and was one of the worst in the league last season.
The team tied for 16th in overall defense, but a look under the hood revealed something far more sinister as they were absolutely atrocious at 5v5.
As per Natural Stat Trick, the Blackhawks ranked dead last in scoring chances against/60, high-danger chances against/60 and expected goals against/60 at 5v5 action. In other words, they were the NHL’s worst even-strength defense last season.
The reason they managed to finish in the middle of the pack is two-fold.
One, their penalty kill was very good, finishing in a three-way tie for eighth at 82.1%. Two, they benefited from outstanding goaltending from Robin Lehner and Corey Crawford who helped steer the Blackhawks into a four-way tie for fourth with a .913 Sv%. The problem is that both netminders are no longer with the team.
The team traded top-four defenseman Olli Maatta to the Kings in a salary dump and acquired the physical Nikita Zadorov in a trade from the Avalanche for top-six forward Brandon Saad. Otherwise, Duncan Keith is now 37 years old and 20-year-old Adam Boqvist is known far more for his offensive upside than his play in his own zone.
It’s going to be a long year despite the truncated schedule for the Blackhawks’ blueline.
As noted, Lehner and Crawford are no longer with the Blackhawks, and Malcolm Subban and Collin Delia are the new goaltending tandem.
Subban was shelled for five goals in the opener on Wednesday, which didn’t come as a surprise given the .890 Sv% he worked to behind a far superior Vegas Golden Knights defense before coming to Chicago as part of the trade that send Lehner to Sin City.
The team hasn’t named a starter for this one yet, but I would think Delia gets a chance given Subban’s results on Wednesday.
In 18 career NHL appearance, Delia is the owner of a 3.65 GAA and .906 Sv%. He spent the entirety of last season in the American Hockey League where he posted a 2.66 GAA and .912 Sv% while his most recent NHL work came in 16 games in 2018-19 when he turned in a 3.61 GAA and .908 Sv%
The reason the so-so save percentage and ghastly goals-against average don’t exactly add up is due to copious amounts of rubber Delia saw in his time behind a weak Chicago blueline. That should by all means continue this season after the Blackhawks ranked last in allowing 35.1 shots per game last season.
I believe Delia starts, but that decision truly does not affect my pick in any form.
Also not surprising was the five goals the Lightning hung on the ‘Hawks to open their season. Sure, Nikita Kucherov is out for the season, however this remains an extremely deep offense that still throws three scoring lines at you.
The Bolts have paced the NHL in offense in each of the last two seasons due to plenty of high-end talent, but also it’s a credit to that depth as you don’t accomplish that feat due to one player.
The Brayden Point/Steven Stamkos/Ondrej Palat top line — along with 2020 Conn Smythe winner Victor Hedman — littered the scoresheet to open the season, combining for eight points and 13 shots on goal. That line is going to be a handful for more than just this Blackhawks team, of course.
Anthony Cirelli is becoming of the premier two-way centers in the league on the second line while Yanni Gourde is a former 30-goal scorer skating as the team’s third-line center. There is just no let up on this team and they should be all over the Blackhawks again in this one.
The Bolts were one of the rare teams that ranked in the top 10 in both offense and defense last season, finishing in a tie for seventh in overall defense.
It’s a defense that saw Kevin Shattenkirk and Zach Bogosian depart in free agency, however the core remains in Hedman, Ryan McDonagh and Mikhail Sergachev while Eric Cernak has made his way into the top four.
Last season, the Lighting ranked 10th in scoring chances against/60 as well as fourth in both high-danger chances against/60 and expected goals against/60 at 5v5.
The “weak point” of their regular-season results last season was a 14th-ranked penalty kill, but this team was extremely solid on the back end despite the offense getting the majority of the credit.
With the defensive core remaining, I wouldn’t expect any regression from this Lightning back end.
It was a shame to see Vasilevskiy’s shutout big on opening night end on an ugly goal in the game’s final minutes, but he certainly performed as expected in that one, turning aside 22 of the 23 shots he faced.
He’ll look to make a bid for his second Vezina Trophy in three years this season and he’ll indeed get the nod again in this one tonight.
Vasilevskiy’s 2019-20 season didn’t start great, but he found his game and the end result was a 2.56 GAA and .917 Sv% in his 52 outings, going 35-14-3 in the process. His career 2.55 GAA and .919 Sv% over six NHL seasons are figures nearly identical to his work from a season ago.
Veteran backup Curtis McElhinney will get his work in back-to-back situations, but for tonight one of the league’s best gets another crack at this watered-down Blackhawks offense.
Blackhawks vs. Lightning NHL Pick
I was stunned to see that the Lightning’s puckline odds opened at +140 several days before Wednesday’s opener, and we still managed to get it at +105 while it shifted even further to -106 come puck drop.
To me, I still see value in their puckline odds tonight at -117.
I mean, there just wasn’t anything from that game Wednesday that should have us thinking the defending Cup champs will do anything but take care of this Blackhawks team with authority.
Anything can happen in the NHL, but the Bolts have a monstrous advantage in offense, defense and goaltending. I’ll go ahead and add power play to that one while we’ll see how the penalty killing numbers shake out after the Blackhawks had a slight advantage in that department last season. Again, that had a lot to do with goaltending as the Blackhawks’ .889 Sv% while down 5 on 4 last season ranked fourth in the league.
If the ‘Hawks show up with an improved effort in all facets tonight and either pull off a major upset or keep this one a one-goal affair, I’ll tip my cap.
For now, however, I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be locking in the far superior team on the puckline once again and let it ride.