Both the Flyers and Blackhawks are in a must win situation ahead of the March 21st NHL free pick. Philadelphia is holding out hope, as thin as it may be, that they can somehow make up the 6 points they trail the #2 Eastern Conference wild card spot with 9 to play. Chicago is in a very similar boat, trailing Arizona for the West’s 2nd wild card with 10 contests remaining.
Philadelphia is the 1%
The Flyers remain optimistic for a postseason berth, but as of Thursday morning The Athletic lists Philadelphia’s chances of making the playoffs at a measly 1 percent. Philly hasn’t really shown the sense of urgency that you’d expect from a team whose season is on life support, having won just 3 of their last 7 games. The Flyers offense has really sputtered lately, scoring 2 goals or less in three of four games. Even so, there is potential for Philly to light the lamp in this one as Sean Courterier has 5 goals in the past 9 games and Claude Giroux has 17 points in his last 12 contests.
If that Philadelphia offense doesn’t find it’s way in the March 21st NHL free pick it will be up to Carter Hart in net to limit the Blackhawks’ damage. The rookie missed some time with a lower body injury, but has returned for three starts. He’s just 1-2 over that span, but has given up only 3 goals total over the last two while facing 77 shots. Thursday’s O/U is 7, which may seem a bit high.
Chicago Surging – But Running Out of Time
Even with a devastating 2-3 OT loss to Vancouver on Monday (as -246 favorites) Chicago has still scored a point in 6 straight games. They’d like the 2 variety up against Philadelphia on Thursday at the United Center however. One of the reasons Chicago is a solid ‘under’ play is because their offense has really been hit or miss lately. Sure Patrick Kane has tallied the second 100+ point season of his career, Jonathan Toews is approaching a career-high in points, and the Blackhawks are getting nice contributions from the likes of Brendan Perlini, Erik Gustafsson, and Alex Debrincat among others. The Blackhawks have still been held to 2 goals or less in 3 of 5.
The Blackhawks are 4 points back with 10 games to play and they’ve undoubtedly gotten a boost from the return of Corey Crawford in net. The veteran did surrender 3 goals to Vancouver at home in his last start, but prior to that Crawford had allowed just 4 total goals in 4 starts prior. There’s going to be a playoff-like atmosphere at the UC on Thursday and Crawford should be able to build on that.
March 21st NHL Free Pick Betting
Both teams have, or should have, a sense of urgency on Thursday night. It’s only been Chicago that’s been playing that way recently however. The ‘Hawks are at home and oddsmakers have given them solid value. The ‘under’ 7 also looks like the way to go.
NHL Free Pick: Chicago Blackhawks -130