Date/Time: April 9, 8:00 p.m. ET
TV: NBC Sports Network
NHL Betting Odds From BetOnline Sportsbook
With just two games left in the regular season, the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues have a couple more tune-ups before the playoffs. This could be a first-round playoff matchup if the St. Louis Blues are unable to hold off the Nashville Predators for first place in the Central Division. The Blues have a one-point lead, but they do not own the regulation/overtime wins tiebreaker. The Blackhawks have an outside shot at winning the Central Division if the Blues and Predators lose both of their final games and the Blackhawks win out.
The Chicago Blackhawks have been consistent defensively this season and that’s why they are headed to the playoffs. Patrick Kane’s broken collarbone has really set the team back offensively, as they continue to drop down the goal scoring ranks. The Blackhawks are now 16th in goals per game and have the 20th-ranked power play. Fortunately, they’ve only given up 184 goals, which is the lowest mark in the Western Conference by 11 over the Minnesota Wild. Only the St. Louis Blues have a better goal differential than the Blackhawks in the Western Conference.
Jonathan Toews took a long time to get to the top, but he leads the Blackhawks in points with 66. Patrick Kane is still second with 64, even though Toews, Marian Hossa, and Brandon Saad have all played 19 more games than Kane. Hossa is third with 60 points and Saad is fourth with just 51. Those are the only four players with more than 20 goals. The Blackhawks have gotten some excellent goaltending from everybody that has manned the crease this season. Corey Crawford is 32-19-5 with a 2.27 GAA and a .924 SV%, but Antti Raanta (7-4-1, 1.89, .936) and Scott Darling (9-3, 1.86, .939) have both played extremely well when called upon.
The St. Louis Blues are one of the most complete teams in the Western Conference, but they are going through a bit of an identity crisis right now. The Blues have lost six of 10 and seem unsure about who will be the starting goaltender for Game 1 of the playoffs. The Blues are alternating right now between Brian Elliott and Jake Allen. Allen has started three of the last four games. Allen was a tough-luck loser against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night in a 1-0 defeat, so it will be interesting to see who Ken Hitchcock decides to use in this game. The Blues are in the top 10 in the goals for and against per game, as well as both special teams areas.
Vladimir Tarasenko has had a fine season for the Blues with 36 goals and 35 assists in 76 games. Jaden Schwartz and Alexander Steen are tied for second with 62 points. Schwartz has 28 goals and Steen has 34. David Backes continues to be a leader and a physical presence for the Blues. He has also added 26 goals. T.J. Oshie’s next goal will push him to the 20-goal plateau. Brian Elliott is 25-14-3 with a 2.27 GAA and a .916 SV%. Jake Allen is pushing him with a 21-7-4 record, a 2.32 GAA, and a .912 SV%. If Hitchcock values experience, he’ll go with Elliott, who was slighted by the acquisition of Ryan Miller before last season’s playoffs.
NHL Prediction: St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues are inching closer to clinching the Central Division title and they have been a very good team at home throughout the season. The under is going to be a good bet in this game as well, even though the under will be juiced. This projects to be a very tight-checking matchup as the playoffs rapidly approach.
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Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball BangTheBook.com podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.