After being in a golden situation regarding the postseason, Chicago has shifted themselves into almost do or die mode. After home losses to Colorado and Dallas over the weekend the Blackhawks now find themselves 6 points off the 2nd wild card spot in the West. Jeremy Colliton’s team has a winnable game in the February 27th NHL free pick vs. Anaheim…but is it?The Ducks have dropped three straight, but they will get a boost from being back home for the first time in four games.
Crawford Back in Net for Chicago Wednesday
Chicago is just 2-3 over their last five and it’s no secret that the major cause for that poor record is their defense. In the five games since February 16th the Blackhawks have given up 25 goals including 4+ in each contest. It’s kind of a testament to the Chicago #7 scoring offense that they even won two games during that stretch. The Hawks look for a boost in the February 27th NHL free pick with the return of #1 goaltender Corey Crawford. The veteran is great (when healthy) but he also hasn’t played a game since December 16th.
The big question ahead of Wednesday’s game is how Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks offense will fare going out to the West Coast? Chicago has had 2 nights off since Sundays loss to the Stars but has also played 7 of their last 9 at the United Center. Kane had his 20-game point streak snapped, but he should be able to get right back into the swing of things vs. the Ducks defense that is 29th in the league in SOG allowed. Jonathan Toews, Alex Debrincat, and Dylan Strome provide depth in case Kane is corralled again in this one.
Ducks Have Been Getting Solid Defensive Play
Wednesday’s O/U is just 5.5 which normally would scream an ‘over’ pick the way Chicago’s offense has been playing (19 goals past 4 games). The Ducks defense has been going out and getting it done lately however. Save for an 0-4 loss to Vancouver on Monday, Anaheim has allowed 2 goals or less in 5 of the 6 games prior. Kevin Boyle and Ryan Miller have done a superb job in net, but it’s John Gibson that makes his return vs. Chicago. Similar to the Hawks, the return of their #1 goaltender still has some question marks for Anaheim. For one, Gibson lost his last four starts, allowing a total of 18 goals. Also, he hasn’t played since February 7th.
Besides the Anaheim defense, another reason Wednesday’s contest could be on the low scoring side is the Ducks’ offense has been struggling. Anaheim has scored a total of 2 goals the past three games and now ranks last in both scoring and SOG. Corey Perry has just two shots in 3 games and Ryan Kesler has 1 point his last 10. What gives in this one – Chicago’s struggling D or Anaheim’s slumping O?
February 27th NHL Free Pick Betting
This game is the equivalent of a PK as both squads are listed at -111. The case could be made for either team – Chicago has won 10 of 14 and features an MVP candidate in Kane. The Ducks are struggling with a 1-3 record over their last four, but are finally back home where they are 12-9-6 on the season. This game will come down to defense where Anaheim’s has been playing great – and the Hawks’ have struggled.
NHL Free Pick: Anaheim Ducks -111