It’s been a very strange first half of the season for the Blackhawks which included seeing Joel Quenneville, the coach who led them to three Stanley Cup championships, get fired. Chicago was the worst team in the league for portions of this year but thanks to strong play lately they find themselves just 7 points out of a playoff race. The 2nd half of the season kicks off for Chicago in the February 1st NHL free pick at Buffalo. The Sabres sit in the 9th spot in the East so they need Friday night’s game as well.
Blackhawks Try to Get Momentum Brewing
Chicago has a 3-4-3 stretch over their last 10 but compared to earlier in the season that record is actually marked improvement. The Blackhawks had two impressive wins heading into the break which has given them at least a glimmer of hope at the postseason. Chicago took down defending Stanley Cup champions Washington 8-5 on Sunday, January 20th and followed that up with a victory over one of the hottest goaltenders in the league in a 3-2 OT win over Robin Lehner and the Islanders. Could the February 1st NHL free pick see a case where the Winter break actually hurts a team as the Blackhawks momentum was interrupted?
Chicago’s turnaround has definitely been fueled by their offense, which has scored 3+ goals in seven straight. Patrick Kane returns to his hometown of Buffalo on Friday hoping to build on an insane run of 21 points in his last 9 games. Kane isn’t the only guy doing damage for Chicago as Alex Debrincat has netted 7 goals in his last 9 games. It’s for these reasons that the Blackhawks have great value at +150. Anything can happen with 10 days off however.
Buffalo Tries to Score Early and Score Often
Over the past week teams have come back from the all-star break often looking a little rusty in their return to the ice. Buffalo for example won a 5-4 slugfest vs. Columbus on Tuesday in their first game in 11 days. The Sabres were thrown a back-to-back right out of the shoot and ended up dropping a 0-1 decision to the Stars the following night. That raises a good question. Does Buffalo have an advantage vs. Chicago with the Sabres already having two games post-break under their belt? Then again is Buffalo actually tired having to play 3 games in 4 nights right after a vacation?
Jeff Skinner and the Sabres offense looked solid in their return to the ice Tuesday scoring 5 goals on 34 shots vs. Sergei Bobrovsky. They were absolutely stonewalled the next night with Ben Bishop of the Stars turning away 30 shots. Things should go better for the offense in the February 1st NHL free pick vs. Chicago’s Cam Ward who had surrendered 17 goals in four starts prior to a 3-2 win in his last start. Those numbers aren’t as bad as Buffalo’s Carter Hutton however who has given up 13 scores in his last three appearances.
February 1st NHL Free Pick Betting
Friday’s line has really jumped, from BUF -130 at the open to BUF -172. The Sabres do have the advantage of already having two games in after the Winter break and Buffalo is back home where they are 14-6-3 on the season. Chicago is 8-14-3 on the road but they are refreshed after 10 games off whereas the Sabres are logging their 3rd game in 4 nights. The value is on the ‘Hawks.
NHL Free Pick: Chicago Blackhawks +150