December 30, 2016

NHL Hockey Betting: Chicago Blackhawks at St. Louis Blues

NHL Hockey Betting:  Chicago Blackhawks at St. Louis Blues&h=253&w=372&zc=1

More outdoor hockey on Monday as a couple of Central Division rivals go at it at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Note the early 1:00 PM Eastern Start time for this game though if yesterday’s game in Toronto is an indication weather conditions could push that back a bit. The Chicago Blackhawks had expected to be in a pitched battle for the Central Division title this year and they’re getting one–just not from the source they expected. Their biggest challenge at this point is from the Minnesota Wild who recently had their 12 game winning streak broken by the Columbus Blue Jackets. That game was the first in any major North American sport where teams with 12+ game winning streaks faced each other. It left the Wild 1 point back of the Blackhawks and, interestingly, five of the six teams in the division are coming off a loss at this point.

The only team that *isn’t* off a loss are the Nashville Predators and they beat St. Louis 4-0 last time out. The Blues are now 7 points back of second place Minnesota and 8 points behind the Blackhawks. They’ll enter this game just 4-5-1 in their last ten games and they’ve been very good on home ice this year (14-3-4). Of course, it’s hard to consider an outdoor game as a ‘home ice advantage’ even if it is in their home town. The Blues’ biggest problem so far is defense and goaltending. They’ve been one of the best in the league during recent years but they’re currently #22 in goals against per game (2.95). The Blackhawks, meanwhile, are tied with Boston for the #8 scoring defense (2.38). Scoring offense is a much more comparable matchup with the Blues at #12 (2.78 goals per) and the Blackhawks tied for #13 (2.72 goals per). The Blues’ special teams have been solid (#8 power play, #4 penalty kill) while Chicago’s have been mediocre at best (15th power play, 28th penalty kill).

Yesterday’s overtime win by Toronto was the exception but for some reason these outdoor NHL games have tended to favor the road team. It could be that the home field ‘enthusiasm’ that gets factored into the line isn’t enough to compensate for the strange ice surface that both teams are dealing with. We’ll take the opportunity to use the better team as a small dog.