Chicago Blackhawks @ Minnesota Wild Free NHL Pick 12/14/11
The Blackhawks have been playing a slew of games in overtime of late. A 3-2 win at home on Sunday against the San Jose Sharks was their fourth OT game played in their last five, and they are 3-1 in those games. There is still a big problem in net, and it is a wonder who is going to get the call on Wednesday night. The seeming frontrunner for the position is Corey Crawford, who led this team in the playoffs last year. However, he has allowed 11 goals in his last three starts and has gotten yanked in two of those three games. He is down to just a .896 save percentage and up to a 3.00 GAA. Ray Emery, who struggled last with the Anaheim Ducks at times, including in the playoffs. He has now taken over as the goalie over the course of the last few games, allowing just six goals in his last five outings since getting torched for seven against the Edmonton Oilers on November 19th. Either way, the offense is going to have to get the job done. This unit is still averaging 3.2 goals per game, No. 4 in the league, and that’s why this squad is leading a tight Central Division.
The Wild weren’t supposed to be competing this year in the Northwest Division, especially with the defending Western Conference champs, the Vancouver Canucks in the fold. However, this wasn’t just the first team to 20 wins in the division, but it was also the first team in the entire league to reach that coveted 20-win mark. It doesn’t seem to matter who is in net for Minnesota. Everyone seems to be incredibly well. Nicklas Backstrom and Josh Harding have nearly identical marks. They are a combined 18-10 with three total shutouts on the season, and they have GAAs of 2.09 and 2.14 respectively. The newcomers that came in the offseason, Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi have been fantastic. Heatley is the second highest goal scorer on the team with nine strikes, and Setoguchi has 13 points in 28 games. There aren’t any legitimate stars on this team, as Mikko Koivu leads the team with just 26 points. However, there are nine players with at least a dozen points, and there are a number of players that can get the job done.
Chicago Blackhawks @ Minnesota Wild Pick: The Wild have a 10-4-1 mark at home this year, and though the Blackhawks are a solid 9-6-1 on the road, we just don’t trust them in this spot. Minnesota is still underappreciated by the oddsmakers, and we are going to take advantage of that fact.
Free Hockey Pick: Minnesota Wild
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