Tuesday evening, the Chicago Blackhawks and Florida Panthers will face off once again in Sunrise, Florida, for the second time in three days. In their first meeting on Sunday, the teams went back-and-forth before Florida dominated the third period to win 5-2.
Here’s a little of what you can expect from each team tonight, along with a free pick to win. Florida is -170 favorites, with Chicago listed at +145.
Blackhawks Season Summary
Two teams in the NHL don’t have a point in the standings. One is the Dallas Stars, who have yet to make their season debut due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the organization. The other is the Blackhawks, who three games in are 0-3-0 with a goal differential of -10.
It’s tough for Chicago to begin the year on the road against the Stanley Cup champion Lightning, but neither game was close. For the opener, Dylan Strome scored the lone goal for the Hawks on the power play to prevent a shutout, as they lost to Tampa Bay 5-1.
Getting the first crack in net, Malcolm Subban allowed all five goals on 33 shots. The next game, Chicago trailed by just one after Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane each scored to cut a three-goal deficit to one. However, Collin Delia let up a pair of goals in the third as the Hawks lost 5-2.
Sunday against Florida, DeBrincat scored his second power-play goal of the season, while defenseman Connor Murphy tied the game early in the third period. Like the game before, the Hawks let up three goals in the third and lost 5-2. It was Delia who once again drew the start in net, allowing all five goals on 29 shots.
Panthers Season Summary
As mentioned earlier, the Stars had a COVID-19 outbreak and have yet to play a game this season. If they had played, their first two games wouldn’t have been against the Panthers, who were slated to host them last Thursday and Friday. As a result, Florida didn’t make their return to the ice until Sunday, when they took on coach Joel Quenneville’s former team.
After a scoreless first period, defenseman Aaron Ekblad broke the tie 12 seconds into the second period with a goal from just outside the right circle to put the Panthers up. A little over five minutes later, veteran Keith Yandle scored to widen the lead. Not only was it Yandle’s 100th career goal, but his appearance in the game marked his 867th consecutive NHL game, the fourth-longest streak in NHL history.
After coughing up the two-goal lead, Florida took the lead back for good in the third. Twenty-three seconds after Murphy tied the game for Chicago, the 22-year old Eetu Luostarinen scored his first NHL goal, a wrister past the glove of Delia to put the Panthers up 3-2.
Florida would then get goals from Patric Hornqvist and Jonathan Huberdeau and go on to win 5-2, Huberdeau’s goal coming on the power play. Chris Driedger earned his first win of the season as well, stopping 25 of 27 shots in the game.
Chicago has yet to announce who will be in net, but after Delia started the last two, it makes sense that Subban would return to the crease. The 27-year old allowed five goals Wednesday against Tampa and carries a career 3.01 GAA, and .898 save percentage.
Meanwhile, Florida will get their franchise goalie back in Sergei Bobrovsky. Bobrovsky, who was considered “unfit to play” earlier this month, returned to the ice last week and appears to be caught up to speed. The 32-year old is in the second year of his long-term deal in Florida, where last year he went 23-19-6 with a 3.23 GAA and .900 save percentage.
As mentioned earlier, the Panthers are -170 favorites to win this one at home, while the Blackhawks are +145 underdogs. It’s tough to gauge these teams fully so early in the season, especially the Panthers after only one game. I do worry about rust for Bobrovsky and think he might be susceptible to a couple of mistakes.
However, Quenneville knows Chicago’s stars well, and more importantly, how to play against them. With that, and Florida is the more well-rounded team by a mile, I’m sticking with the favorites to finish the sweep of their new division foes.
Pick: Panthers -170