Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 10:35 AM EST.
8:35 PM EST. OT included. Well, this is interesting. What we have here is perhaps the two most underachieving teams in the NHL in terms of where they are in the standings. Carolina is on the playoff bubble, as they are just four points back of the Jackets for the final Wild Card spot with the same number of games played. Chicago, on the other hand, has just three points less than Carolina but it is 11 points out of a playoff spot, thus, the Blackhawks are essentially dead.
The NHL media has attempted to explain why both have struggled so miserably this season and one can make their own conclusions but we promise you that the only reason that Chicago is going to miss the playoffs is because Corey Crawford got injured and the Blackhawks Plan B didn’t work out. Chicago’s goaltending is putrid without Crawford and tonight they’ll roll the dice with Jean-Francois Berube in goal after a number of others have failed. Berube was in goal for Chicago’s 2-1 OT victory over Colorado on Tuesday, which is nice but every goaltender at this level can have a good game from time to time so put no emphasis on it. Berube lost 7-2 to the Sharks the game prior. Chicago has used Anton Forsberg, Jeff Glass and of course Crawford this year before they used Berube so he was the fourth man on its goaltending depth chart. Even in the unlikely event that Berube allows just one or two goals, Chicago’s offense can go over this number on its own against Scott Darling.
Out of 65 qualified goaltenders, Scott Darling ranks 65th in Goals Saved Above Average. That makes him the worst goaltender in the game. Darling will be the Hurricanes' starter here after Cam Ward was yanked on Tuesday after allowing four goals on 13 shots, so Darling will get another opportunity and it will come against his former team. Now you take the worst goaltender in the game and put him up against his former team and it isn’t likely to turn out well. You see, those snipers on the Blackhawks practiced shooting on Darling for years and know precisely where to shoot to beat him. The Blackhawks know his weaknesses better than anyone. Furthermore, over the past six weeks, Chicago ranks first in the entire league in Scoring Chances For per 60 minutes during 5-on-5 play. The Carolina Hurricanes are an incredible -48 in goal differential and it’s all because they have no goaltending.
In order for any game to stay under 5½, you need at least one hot goaltender. That’s not likely to occur here. Both these teams create a lot of scoring opportunities and they are both among the best possession teams in the NHL. The more likely scenario is that both goaltenders are either average or below like they almost always are and this game easily goes over this beatable number.
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CHICAGO/Carolina over 5½ -114 (Risking 2.28 units - To Win: 2.00)