Chicago Blackhawks @ Pittsburgh Penguins Free NHL Pick 12/20/11
NHL betting action continues on Tuesday night in the Steel City, where the Pittsburgh Penguins will play host to the Chicago Blackhawks in a battle of one of the best teams in the West and one of the beasts of the East.
If you take away the pesky Phoenix Coyotes, the Blackhawks haven’t been beaten in a game since November 23rd. That’s a nine-game winning streak against all other teams in the league. Things haven’t nearly been so easy, as four of the nine wins (and one of the two losses to the Coyotes) came in overtime or a shootout. However, that shows just how resilient this team has been, finding ways to get the job done even in the closest of efforts. The offense has put up at least three goals in eight straight duels, and it has averaged 3.75 goals per game in this stretch. Ray Emery has gotten the start in goal in every game for Chicago since December 3rd, apparently supplanting the incumbent, Corey Crawford as the everyday starter for the team. And why not? Emery’s GAA is down to 2.50, and he has nine wins to show for his 13 appearances. Crawford has a 3.00 GAA and has a 12-9 mark overall in his 23 appearances. Neither net minder would be anywhere without the offense in front of him though, as 3.2 goals per game for the season is good enough for fifth in hockey.
Things just haven’t gone the way of the Penguins this year for the most part. They enter this week in third place in the Atlantic Division, and things clearly could be getting worse before they get better. They are three points back but have played two more games than the division leading Philadelphia Flyers and three more than the New York Rangers, and for as long as Sidney Crosby remains on sidelines and off of the ice, the more mediocre that this team is starting to look. Sure, Pittsburgh would be the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs if they were to start today, but if you just go strictly based upon points per game, the Pens are only good for 1.21 points, which probably won’t ultimately be good enough for more than maybe the sixth or seventh seed in the East when the season is said and done with. For now though, the Penguins are going to try to run their very impressive home record up to 10-3-2 with a win in this game, and if that were to be the case, they would be the fourth team in the East to reach double digits in wins on their home ice and the first in their division.
Chicago Blackhawks @ Pittsburgh Penguins Pick: Still, Chicago is just a hotter team right now, and the truth of the matter is that it is the better team in general as well. Go with Emery and the hot hands of the Blackhawks, and expect to see a war on the ice between two of the best teams that the league has to offer.
Free Hockey Pick: Chicago Blackhawks
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