When it rains, it pours.
We went 0-2 last night as my tough start to the season continues with both New York clubs losing by 3-2 counts despite both holding 2-1 leads at one point.
The Rangers scored first and led 2-1 after one, but the Sabres added two in the second and a scoreless third resulted in a 3-2 Sabres win.
At the same time, the Islanders took a 2-1 lead midway through the second period, and with the score tied 2-2 late in the third, the Caps scored a go-ahead marker with less than 30 seconds left, and the Islanders killed a five-minute major, no less.
It’s been a tough start to the year, but if you look across last night’s action, 10 of the 13 games were decided by one goal and only one was decided by more than two goals. It’s such a tight league right now, and the bounces just haven’t gone our way so far.
We’ll look to get things turned around on tonight’s two-game schedule, first with the Blackhawks vs. Predators from Nashville!
- Season Record: 6-10
- Units: -4.98
Blackhawks vs. Predators Betting Odds
- Blackhawks (+155)
- Predators (-172)
- Blackhawks +1.5 (-155)
- Predators -1.5 (+135)
- Over 6 (-108)
- Under 6 (-102)
Blackhawks vs. Predators NHL Pick Breakdown
The Blackhawks were already ravaged with injuries up front before their season began, and the offensive picture wasn’t looking pretty as a result. However, after a tough start, they’ve fared better of late.
The Blackhawks will enter this one tied for 14th (with three teams) while averaging an even 3.00 goals per game on the season, although they put together a nice stretch where they averaged 4.67 goals per game prior to last night’s affair in Nashville.
While that three-game stretch came against the suspect back ends of the Florida Panthers and Detroit Red Wings (twice), the far superior Predators defense held them two just two goals in last night’s 3-2 Nashville overtime win.
It’s of zero surprise to see Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome leading the way up front for the team, but rookie Pius Suter has chipped in three goals in seven games and 37-year-old Duncan Keith has recorded five assists in seven games himself.
Add in three goals from Mattias Janmark and a pair from Philipp Kurashev and the Blackhawks have actually benefited from more secondary scoring than I certainly thought they would this season.
That said, much of the offense has come via the power play where the Blackhawks have stormed out of the gate with a 42.9% clip on the season, good for second-best in the league at the moment.
At 5v5, they rank 20th in scoring chances for/60, 26th in high-danger chances for/60 and 22nd in expected goals for/60, as per Natural Stat Trick.
With power play regression a certainty, it would appear this Blackhawks offense is going to be in tough moving forward if they can’t generate more offense at even strength.
I also expected this Blackhawks back end to struggle mightily this season, but to an extent, I’ve been proven wrong so far.
They’ll enter this one tied for 26th in overall defense this season and their penalty kill hasn’t done them any favors at just 75.9% on the season. Their advanced metrics reveal something far more palatable, however.
At 5v5, the Blackhawks rank 25th in scoring chances against/60, but also 17th in high-danger chances against/60 and 20th in expected goals against/60.
We’re not going to confuse those numbers with a stout defensive club, however they are indeed better than their surface numbers. Their penalty kill could continue to let them down, however.
At the end of the day, I remain bearish on this group. Keith’s offense start has been promising, but there’s just not much to hang your hat on when it comes to names such as Lucas Carlson and Ian Mitchell while Calvin De Haan’s injuries over the last couple of seasons have seen him regress some.
After finishing last in shots against per game last season, the Blackhawks are tied for 26th this time around as this defensive unit remains a liability in front of some suspect goaltending options as well.
The Blackhawks began the season with the Malcolm Subban/Collin Delia duo in goal, but 25-year-old Kevin Lankinen has emerged as the team’s top option in goal since.
Lankinen spent last season in the AHL where he posted a 3.03 GAA and .909 Sv% in 21 games, and even spent time in the ECHL as recently as two seasons ago. However, the Finn has posted a 2.63 GAA and .909 Sv% in three starts this season, although two of those came against an anemic Red Wings offense while he surrendered five goals to the Florida Panthers in his NHL debut.
With Subban taking the loss last night despite turning aside 36 of 39 shots, it would appear to be Lankinen’s net for this one tonight.
Whether he can continue his admirable work between the pipes remains to be seen, but it’s going to be a tough go for whoever resides between the pipes behind this Blackhawks defense.
Last season, the Predators came out of the gate hot on offense before regressing as the season moved along. This season, they hope the opposite will prove true.
The Preds have struggled for consistent offense this season, averaging just 2.50 goals per game in the early going, good for a share of 24th league wide. Their power play is also struggling again, ranking 28th with a putrid 8.3% mark.
It’s a group that lost pieces in the offseason, but a key piece they retained in Mikael Granlund has played in just three games so far, albeit with two goals and three points in 10 shots in that time. He certainly looks rejuvenated.
The problem for the team so far as been the performance of their top two centers. Both players have been held goalless with just two assists in six games each. Defenseman Roman Josi scored the OT winner last, but that goal was just the first of his season as he also sits with just two points in six games.
Josi coming in hot with the OT winner! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/qWejLrhHKB
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) January 27, 2021
Rather, it’s been Granlund and the top-two wingers Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson that have done the heavy lifting. Forsberg has four goals in six games and Arvidsson looks to be bouncing back from a down year last year with five points in six games this season along with 23 shots on goal.
While they sit in the top-half of the league in scoring chances for/60 at 5v5, the Preds are among the worst high-danger chance and expected goals for teams in the league at even strength this season. They’ll certainly need more depth scoring behind their top three wingers if they are to make offensive strides moving forward.
Few would argue that a top-four defensive core featuring Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm and Dante Fabbro aren’t among the better groups in the game. The results haven’t been there so far, but improvement should be on the horizon.
They’ll enter this one ranked 23rd with 3.17 goals against per game on the season, and their 54.6% penalty killing has been absolutely horrendous. That said, the latter has nowhere to go but up and the 5v5 numbers are solid.
At 5v5 this season, the Preds rank 14th in scoring chances against/60 and high-danger chances against/60 while sitting eighth in expected goals against/60. Aside from the penalty kill, their goaltending hasn’t done them any favors (more on that in a minute), but it’s been a better group of late.
Plenty of that 3.17 goals against per game average stems from a 7-0 blowout loss to the Stars two games back. Since then, they’ve allowed five goals over their last two games. If you erase the forgettable 7-0 effort, the Predators have allowed 2.40 goals against per game across their other five this season.
In addition to all of that, they also rank 11th in shots against per game as the overall surface numbers will improve with better penalty killing (inevitable) and increased work from their goaltending tandem.
Pekka Rinne bounce back with a solid effort in last night’s overtime win, and the start tonight would presumably go back to Juuse Saros.
However, neither has been all too reliable this season. Rinne owns a 2.97 GAA and .863 Sv% in two starts (three appearances) while Saros has worked to a 3.02 GAA and .905 Sv% to this point.
Should he start, Saros will be in search of a bounce back effort himself. He was victimized and pulled in that 7-0 pounding from the Stars, and allowed three goals on just 22 shots his last time out, also against the Stars. Dallas scored eight goals on just 34 shots against Saros over his last two nods, giving him a .765 Sv% in that time.
Those two outings came after he stymied the Blue Jackets for a pair of season-opening wins, posting a .959 Sv% in that time.
The early-season results have certainly been volatile, but here’s a player that’s posted a career 2.58 GAA and .918 Sv% in 123 NHL games for his career, all by the age of just 25. Not many goaltenders even get into the league before 25, little own turn in those kind of numbers over a notable sample size.
We’ll see if the young Finn can get back into form in this one.
Blackhawks vs. Predators NHL Pick
In addition to missing the Jonathan Toews, Kirby Dach and Alex Nylander trio that we knew they’d open the season with, the Blackhawks will also be without a key offensive piece in Alex DeBrincat for this one and offensive defenseman Adam Boqvist, both due to league protocols.
Therefore, the offensive picture looks bleak once again for a Blackhawks team that has scored above their head so far thanks to that power play that is due for all sorts of regression.
On the flip side, I expect the Predators’ defensive numbers to improve given their solid work at even strength. There’s little doubt that the PK needs work, but there’s inevitable positive regression there, and I believe in Saros as one of the best young netminders in this league.
The main concern here is the offense from the Preds and whether the big boys can carry them or at least get some help from anyone not named Forsberg, Arvidsson or Granlund.
Nonetheless, this is a game the Preds absolutely need to have and I’ll take them on the 3-way moneyline and look for them to win this one in regulation time.