The Chicago Blackhawks have started off the 2018 campaign with three straight OT games. That being said, the return has been OK with a 2-0-1 record. In the October 11th NHL free pick the ‘Hawks head to St. Paul to take on the Wild who are looking for their 1st win of the season. Chicago has seen some goaltending issues through the 1st three games and Minnesota was one of the best teams in the NHL at home last year. This has led oddsmakers to make Minnesota huge -160 favorites but can the talent of Chicago make it three straight defeats for the Wild?
Blackhawks Showing Offense Early – But That Goaltending
Perhaps nobody has made more money by doing nothing than injured Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford. “Crow” is set to return next week and that can’t come soon enough for a Blackhawks team that has allowed 15 goals through three games. It’s not as if goaltender Cam Ward is getting pelted either as Chicago is 12th in the NHL in SOG allowed (29.7). Ward has allowed 14 of those goals but does have back-to-back 30+ save nights and was good enough to help the Blackhawks get two straight OT wins to start the year. The Wild offense is struggling so maybe Ward can be good enough to get the W in the October 11th NHL free pick as Crawford gets one game closer to his return.
The Chicago offense can definitely help their struggling goaltender out – and that’s what they’ve done racing out to be the NHL’s #2 scoring offense with 5.0 gpg coming on 34.7 SOG which is 8th in the league. The Wild have allowed the 2nd worst amount of SOG per game so it could potentially be a big night for the Chicago offense. The Blackhawks do look refreshed after missing the postseason last year for the first time in a decade. Patrick Kane has scored 4 goals in three games, Jonathan Toews has him beat with 5, and youngsters Henri Jokiharju and Nick Schmaltz are making things happen with a combined 9 assists.
Dubnyk Will Keep Wild In This Despite Their Offensive Woes
Minnesota has scored just 2 goals through their first two games and they’ve dropped both contests as favorites thus far in 2018. Even so, goaltender Devin Dubnyk has been his usual dominant self. Dubnyk allowed only 2 of the 4 goals that Colorado put up in the opener and surrendered 1 to Vegas last time out while stopping 80 shots total in the two games. The Minnesota starter was rock solid against Chicago last season too. In four games vs. the Blackhawks Dubnyk was 3-1 with a .974 save percentage and a 1.01 GAA. Dubnyk’s goaltending has the O/U of 6 in the October 11th NHL free pick looking like a solid play.
It’s hard to pinpoint Minnesota’s offensive struggles so far through two games except for the simple explanation of, “it’s early.” The Wild aren’t getting a lot of shots off (25.5, 27th in NHL) but that has to be looked at as an enigma and not the norm. Minnesota is too talented to be limited offensively like this with a lineup that includes Eric Staal, Mikael Granlund, and Zach Parise. That and although they lost in a shootout at home to Vegas the last time out, they enjoyed one of the best home ice advantages in the league last year with a 27-6-8 record at the Xcel Energy Center. Their 6 regulation home losses were the fewest in the league.
October 11th NHL Free Pick Betting
Minnesota has already started tweaking their offensive lines so it will be interesting to see if that pays off immediately against Chicago tonight. The Blackhawks have put up some good offensive numbers so far, but have also struggled in the past against the Wild’s Dubnyk. With the issues that Ward is seeing in net for Chicago, expect the Wild offense to finally get going tonight.
NHL Free Pick: Minnesota Wild -1.5 (+175)