There are only two games on the schedule tonight in the NHL, with the Philadelphia Flyers paying a visit to the Montreal Canadiens and the Flames head to Chicago for a meeting with the Blackhawks. I think I had enough football for the weekend after sitting through that dumpster fire last night between the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals. Monday Night Football can’t be much worse, but I’m going to be primarily watching hockey tonight. Specifically, the Flames and Blackhawks at the United Center in Chicago.
The Blackhawks took advantage of the sloppy Maple Leafs, as they blew yet another lead late. The Leafs were fortunate enough to get a point out of the deal, but this has been the case with them all season long. They managed to botch Auston Matthew’s 4 goal performance in the season opener, losing in overtime to the Ottawa Senators. Their latest mishap was a 5-4 loss to the Blackhawks in overtime on Saturday night.
It was another productive performance from the Leafs’ offense, but their defense needs some work. I suppose the Blackhawks could say the same thing about their defense. It’s been a rough go at it for the Hawks, who have had such a stingy defense over the last five or so years. Whether it’s Corey Crawford or Scott Darling in net, they haven’t been playing well. Crawford enters Monday night with a GAA below 0.90.
The Blackhawks have been looking good as ever offensively, but don’t expect this team to threaten in the playoffs if their defensive woes continue. Good news though, it’s only October and I imagine the Blackhawks will figure things out as the season progresses. Defense has been pretty shoddy in the NHL overall. The offense is going to be there for the Blackhawks, so all they need is an average unit to get going. They face a struggling defense tonight against the Calgary Flames.
Brian Elliott was benched in favor of Chad Johnson on Friday night against the St. Louis Blues. I said that Elliott wouldn’t be too happy to not get the chance to face his old employer, and I’m sure that came to fruition. The Blues won the contest 6-4, so at this point it doesn’t really matter who they go to in net. Elliott hasn’t done much better and it probably would have been the same fate for him against the Blues. However, the stakes are high for Elliott, who the Flames are counting on to be their franchise goaltender, the first since Miikka Kiprusoff. It hasn’t been a smooth transition from the Blues to the Flames. He has to be feeling a sense of culture shock, going from the quality St. Louis defense to this unit in Calgary.
Elliott sports a GAA of 4.72 with a 0.839 save percentage and has yet to record a win. He hasn’t allowed less than 4 goals per game this season, 6, 4, and another 4. He allowed 10 goals in total against the Oilers in two efforts. The Flames are last in the NHL with 4.33 goals allowed per game. Conversely, the Blackhawks are uncharacteristically 24th on defense. The Blackhawks are, however, 4th in the league in scoring with 3.67 goals per game. Calgary has been trying to help the defense out with 3 goals per game. I’m not sure how this one doesn’t end up with 7 or 8 goals. Elliott picked a bad time to come back from off the bench.
PICK: OVER 5.5 GOALS (-105)