The Chicago Blackhawks welcome the Toronto Maple Leafs to Chicago with a four-game losing streak on the line for the Blackhawks. The Hawks have been downed by the Sharks, Stars, and Ducks all in the last three games. It ties their longest losing streak of the season. I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions regarding this small rut for the Blackhawks. All teams, even the best, will find these stretches over the course of a long NHL schedule. The Blackhawks are no exception, they are going to be just fine. I’m sure for teams that have played so well for the entire season just want the playoffs to start and skip the rest of the regular season. We still have two or so months to go before we hit then, so the Blackhawks may as well get comfortable and get excited about the next two months. Whenever the Leafs are on the schedule, I think there is an extra bit of reason to get excited. The Leafs are that team others love to beat. Chicago comfortably defeated Toronto in their last two meetings, 4-1 and 4-0 wins. This is a rematch from January 15th in Toronto, where the Blackhawks earned the 4-1 victory.
For the Blackhawks, they are of course in win now mode. The Leafs on the other hand, this season has basically been a year for Babcock to scout what he has to work with, and what direction they want to go in for the future. Babcock gets a free pass in his first season with the Leafs, and maybe next season too, but after that the pressure is going to be on him to produce. After the Leafs hired Babcock, I feel like Leaf fans got a little more patient. Babcock can do no wrong, right? They acquired the best head coach on the market, so that was step number 1. Having Brandon Shanahan in the organization cannot hurt either.
Leo Komarov has been a pleasant surprise for the Leafs this season, but he was drafted in 2006 and is 29 years old. Komarov is not going to be part of the long term plans for the Leafs. Missing out on Connor McDavid in the draft was definitely a hard one to take. You see what he is doing in Edmonton. The kind of player that only comes around a couple times in a decade. The Leafs went with Willian Nylander in 2014 and Mitch Marner in 2015 with their first round selections. Marner looks like a promising find, still in the OHL with the London Knights, he already has 32 goals and 54 assists. The Leafs are banking on Marner being the future of the franchise. But that is in the future, let’s see what transpires tonight at the United Center in Chicago.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Chicago Blackhawks NHL Pick
I suspect that there was plenty of money on the Blackhawks Saturday night against the Anaheim Ducks. The Blackhawks, losing three games in a row? No way. Yes way. The Ducks came out on top with a 3-2 win in overtime, handing the Hawks their third straight loss. Conversely, the Leafs snapped a three-game losing streak themselves against the Canucks in Vancouver on Saturday. This was after they broke a four-game skid, and before that a five game losing effort in a row. Like I said, the Leafs aren’t expecting much right now. Case in point, trading Dion Phaneuf away to garner more room on the salary cap. James Reimer has been a nice bright spot for the Leafs, Jonathan Bernier has had a lost season. If it weren’t for Reimer, things could be real ugly right now in Toronto. Reimer holds a 2.29 GAA and record of 11-10-6. An interesting note to consider, are the Leafs going to trade Reimer away as his trade stock is at an all-time high?
The Leafs need to find offense, and Marner is supposed to be the catalyst for that in the future. However, as it is now, the Leafs are 27th in the NHL, scoring just 2.35 goals per game. In their last ten games they’ve scored 2 goals per game, while allowing 3.10 goals a game against. That had the makings for a 3-7 mark in their last ten outings. The Blackhawks have been stymied themselves, notching only 1.90 goals per game. The Hawks have lost three in a row, all at home, which comes as a surprise. Despite the three losses in a row, the Hawks are still 21-7-2 at the United Center. I don’t see them losing four in a row against the Leafs, especially not four in a row at home. I think this one results in something similar to their last two meetings, a 4-0 or 4-1 victory for the Chicago Blackhawks.
PICK: BLACKHAWKS -1.5 (+113)