With the trade deadline officially in the rearview mirror, one of the fiercest rivalries is set to take center stage Tuesday night. The Chicago Blackhawks (27-27-8) are set to visit the St. Louis Blues (36-17-10) in a Central Division showdown.
Here is a preview for tonight’s game, along with odds and a free pick.
By the Numbers
The Blackhawks took advantage of the trade deadline, shipping out defenseman Erik Gustafsson and goaltender Robin Lehner in separate deals yesterday to acquire minor league prospects and draft picks. The moves were welcomed for a team that is just 2-6-2 over their last 10 games and sitting in last place in the division.
This season, Chicago is averaging 2.89 goals per game, 20th in the NHL, on 31.7 shots. Their shooting percentage of 9.1 also ranks 20th, while their 14.2 power-play percentage is currently the worst in the league.
Defensively isn’t much better, as the Blackhawks have allowed an average of 3.11 goals, 21st in the league, on a league-high 35.4 shots. However, their 82.1 penalty kill percentage is a solid ninth in the NHL.
The Blues were one of a few teams to not make any moves yesterday, with their big acquisition being the trade for defenseman Marco Scandella earlier last week. And it makes sense why the defending champs are happy where they’re at, as they have broken their slump with a four-game winning streak in which their combined score is 13-2.
So far, St. Louis ranks 13th with 3.16 goals per game on 30.7 shots. Even though their shots rank in the bottom third of the league, they boast the 10th-best shooting percentage at 10.3, as well as a 23.5 power-play percentage that is an impressive sixth in the NHL.
Despite all that, it’s on defense where the Blues shine. They are allowing an average of 2.71 goals per game, seventh in the league, while also giving up the fifth-fewest 29.8 shots. While their 80.6 penalty kill percentage is only 15th, only five teams average fewer penalty minutes than St. Louis’ 7.3.
Who to Watch
In what has been a down year in Chicago, Dominik Kubalik is one of the few who are enjoying career-best numbers. The 24-year-old has found a home on the top line, racking up 26 goals to go along with 13 assists.
With four goals in his last five contests, Kubalik is just one goal shy of Patrick Kane for the team lead. Even though he is a little streaky, look for Kubalik to get pucks on the net tonight.
Other players on the Blackhawks to watch include Kane and Duncan Keith. Kane has once again been magnificent, earning two goals and six assists over his last five games to give him 77 points on the year.
Meanwhile, Keith, who has struggled offensively for much of the year, is starting to find his groove. The veteran d-man has four assists in his three-game point streak to give him 18 helpers this season.
With tons of scoring options, the Blues are still held together by center Ryan O’Reilly. The reigning Conn Smythe winner has had no problem dishing out assists, serving up two more recently against Dallas.
With 43 assists on the year, O’Reilly is now within seven of his career-high in that department. With 11 goals as well, the veteran is well on his way to his second straight 70-point campaign.
Along with O’Reilly, watch out for Colton Parayko and Jordan Kyrou. There aren’t many defensemen who have had better months than Parayko, who enters tonight on a three-game, five-point streak. In February, he has five goals and 11 points in 11 games, making up close to half of his 24 total points this season.
As for Kyrou, the youngster has tallied a goal in back-to-back contests, giving him four goals and four assists in 24 games.
With Lehner out of the picture, you’ll see a lot more of Corey Crawford in net for Chicago. Crawford comes in at 11-17-3 with a 2.80 GAA and .915 save percentage.
There should be no surprises on the St. Louis side, with Jordan Binnington expected to start. Binnington has a record of 27-11-7 with a 2.55 GAA and .913 save percentage.
Odds and Pick
In a battle of first versus worst, the Blues are heavy favorites at home tonight at -200. This is the third meeting between these rivals this season, with St. Louis winning both of them, one in each arena.
With St. Louis snapping their funk and getting back on the horse, it’s hard not to love them tonight. Their defense has been suffocating opponents over their last four games, and will now welcome a Chicago club who is struggling as a whole.
I expect the home team to dominate tonight, plain and simple. Give me the Blues -200 to make it five wins in a row.
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