Just two games are on the NHL schedule on Wednesday, as the Chicago Blackhawks (2-3-2) and Nashville Predators (3-3-0) wrap up a quick two-game series. This is the second game of the back-to-back, and Nashville won the first at home on Tuesday night, a 3-2 game that was decided in overtime.
Here is a closer look at each team before revealing the free betting pick. It’s no surprise the Predators are decent -180 favorites at home, with the Blackhawks at +150.
The Blackhawks probably wish they were back at home and playing the Red Wings, for that matter. Chicago cruised to back-to-back wins last week against Detroit, outscoring them 10-3 over the two games.
However, Chicago has spent the rest of the year on the road and the losing end. They dropped their first four games of the season, giving up five goals in each game against the Lightning and Panthers. And then Tuesday, when Chicago dropped the game in OT to Nashville but was out-shot 39-20 in the contest.
One area where Chicago has been dangerous this year is on the power play. The Hawks are scoring on a whopping 42.9% of their power-play chances so far, the second-most in the NHL. That number helps them average three goals per game on just about 30 shots per game.
However, the struggles reside on defense, where those first four games of the year have brought Chicago’s goals allowed average to 3.71. They’re also giving up over 33 shots on average and have the 21st-ranked penalty kill.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more consistent veteran than Patrick Kane. The three-time champ and former MVP is tied for the team-lead with three goals while sitting all by himself with seven points.
Another player with three goals is Mattias Janmark, including one on Tuesday against Nashville. Dylan Strome scored Chicago’s other goal on Tuesday, which was assisted by Dominik Kubalik, as both players have five points to start the year, tying them for third on the team with defensemen Duncan Keith Connor Murphy.
However, the Blackhawks will continue to be without second-leading scorer Alex DeBrincat and Adam Boqvist. Both were played on the COVID-19 reserve list and are expected to miss the next couple of weeks of action.
Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster
The Predators, aiming to improve off last year’s fourth-place finish in the division and qualifying round loss, have had a start full of nice highs but sad lows. Things started well in the Music City, as Nashville won their first two games of the year against the Blue Jackets by a combined score of 8-3.
But they then lost by a pair to the Hurricanes and even had a game postponed to Carolina’s COVID-19 concerns. The Preds had to then go to Dallas to take on a Stars team making their season debut, which ended up in Nashville dropping both games, including a 7-0 defeat. But Tuesday’s win against Chicago in their return home helped them snap their funk and get back on track.
Nashville has been a decent possession team all year, averaging close to 32 shots per game but harmed by a low shooting percentage that gives them just 2.5 goals per game. They’re also just outside the Top 10 in shots allowed with 28.
However, their special teams on both sides of the ice have been problematic. The Predators are scoring on just 8.3% of their power-play chances, the fourth-lowest mark in hockey. And while they’ve done a good job of limiting the amount of time they’re in the box, Nashville’s penalty kill has been the worst in hockey, shutting down power-play chances just 54.5% of the time.
In Nashville’s win over Chicago, they received some scoring help from some new places. Yakov Trenin scored his first goal of the season to tie the game in the second period, while captain Roman Josi buried the overtime winner for his first tally of the year.
As far as other point contributors, Viktor Arvidsson leads the team with five points thanks to four assists, while Filip Forsberg has four goals through six games. Mikael Granlund, who tied the game in the third period on Tuesday, already has three points in as many games. However, key veterans like Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene are still itching to get their first goals of the season.
With Malcolm Subban and Pekka Rinne starting yesterday, expect both teams to turn to their regular starters. For Chicago, that means Kevin Lankinen. The 25-year old from Finland is making a strong case to be the every-game man for the Blackhawks, going 2-0-1 in his first three starts with a 2.63 GAA and .909 save percentage.
Nashville, meanwhile, has been rolling with Juuse Saros. Saros is another 25-year old Fin, just like Lankinen, who carries a 2-2-0 record but a 3.02 GAA and .905 save percentage to boot.
The Predators managed to win on Tuesday, but I like the Blackhawks to get their revenge. Nashville has not been nearly strong enough to be -180 favorites, especially when you consider their play in net and on special teams.
I like Chicago to bounce back with a decent Lankinen in net to claim their first road win of the season.
Pick: Blackhawks +150