The NHL is set up with plenty of action on Thursday night. Fourteen games are on the board for February 7. One of the games will be between Western Conference foes in the Vancouver Canucks and the Chicago Blackhawks. Neither team is doing great this season, but I believe this could be a close game. These two teams will meet up at 8:30 PM Eastern time.
The Canucks have jumped out to a 24-24-6 record this season, which has them in fourth place of the Pacific Division. Vancouver is currently hanging onto the second and final wild card spot. The Canucks have lost two games in a row and three of their last four. Vancouver will look to hang onto the wild card spot for a little bit longer with a road win against the Blackhawks.
Chicago had a really slow start to the season, but have picked up their pace as of late. The Blackhawks are sitting in seventh place of the Central Division with a record of 21-24-9. Chicago has won five games in a row, including a come from behind victory to destroy the Edmonton Oilers in their last game. The Blackhawks have been slowly crawling back up in the standings and they will look to keep the winning streak alive with a home win on Thursday night.
Thursday night’s matchup between the Canucks and the Blackhawks will be the second matchup of the season series. Vancouver and Chicago will meet one more time this season on March 18. Both of these teams are still very much alive in the Western Conference playoff picture. I expect this to lead to a close game on Thursday night.
The Canucks and the Blackhawks met up a total of three times last season. The first two of games of the season series were hosted by Vancouver. The Canucks took both games at home by scores of 4-2 and 5-2. The final game of the season series shifted to Chicago. Vancouver was able to pull off the win on the road 5-2 to sweep the season series against the Blackhawks. Both teams missed out on the playoffs, but it was Chicago who finished higher in the standings.
The first game of this season’s series was hosted by the Canucks on October 31. Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews each scored a goal for the Blackhawks. Jake Virtanen scored twice for Vancouver, while Brenden Gaunce had a goal and an assist. Jacob Markstrom stopped 24 of 26 shots to give the Canucks a 4-2 win at home.
Vancouver has won all four games between these two teams over the last season and a half. The Canucks have had Chicago’s number as of late and I believe they have a chance to keep that streak going with another win on the road on Thursday night. In the last four matchups, Vancouver has not given up four or more goals to the Blackhawks. If they keep that defense up, I believe they can pull off the win.
Vancouver’s special teams have not been great on either side of the ice this season. The Canucks have scored on only 16.7 percent of their power play chances. Vancouver’s penalty kill has been doing slightly better, stopping opposing teams power plays around 79.4 percent of the time. The Canucks will need their special teams to step up if they want to pull off the road upset.
The Blackhawks power play has been doing well this season. Chicago has scored on 21.3 percent of their power play opportunities. The Blackhawks penalty kill has really been struggling this season though. Chicago has stopped their opponents’ power play chances about 73.4 percent of the time. The Blackhawks could really use some improvement from their penalty kill.
Chicago has the better power play of these two teams, but I believe that the Canucks could give their power play a tough outing. While Vancouver’s power play has not been great, it could get a lot of chances going up against the Blackhawks lowly penalty kill. The battle at special teams could play a pivotal role in Thursday night’s game.
I believe that Jacob Markstrom will get the nod in net on Thursday night. Markstrom has gone 20-15-5 in his starts this season. He has posted a save percentage of .910 and a 2.78 GAA. Markstrom has put up solid numbers for the Canucks this season and he will need to put up another strong performance to end Vancouver’s losing streak on Thursday night.
Collin Delia will likely start in net for the Blackhawks. Delia has jumped onto the scene in Chicago this season with some really strong numbers. Delia has a .922 save percentage and a GAA of 2.99 this season. In his ten starts this season, Delia has a 5-2-3 record. He will look to keep the strong start going with a win against the Canucks.
Both of these goalies have done well this season and I expect them to matchup well with each other. Delia has had a smaller sample size of game, but has been up to the challenge so far. Markstrom has done really well against the Blackhawks in his last couple games against them. Chicago will need to figure out how to solve him if they want to keep the winning streak alive.
Vancouver is coming into Thursday night’s game on a losing streak, while the Blackhawks have won five in a row. I believe that these two teams will exchange streaks though. The Canucks matchup really well with Chicago on both special teams and in net. The big difference is that Vancouver has seemed to have the Blackhawks solved as of late.
BetOnline has Chicago listed as a -145 against the money line. This implies that the Blackhawks will win this game around 59 percent of the time. I believe that even though Chicago is at home, this game should be much closer to even. The Blackhawks are on a nice winning streak, but I believe that the Canucks have a really good chance to end it on Thursday night. I am taking Vancouver as road underdogs.