Wild vs Blackhawks – NHL Pick for October 12th
After a relatively quiet Wednesday night the NHL returns with seven games on tap this Thursday. There are some great teams in action and plenty of betting opportunities but with the season just a week old we recommend you tread lightly as you try to navigate the tough waters of the early NHL year.
That’s why we’ve picked out one feature game for you to sink your teeth in both from a betting perspective and plain entertainment. The Minnesota Wild enter the hostile environment of Chicago still trying to enter the win column against the scary-looking Blackhawks.
- Minnesota (+129) at Chicago (-142)
The Wild are still looking for their first win of the season and it won’t be an easy task against their Western Conference rivals, especially on the road. Minnesota has done fine finding the back of the net with six goals over their first two games but their normally stout defense has yet to show up this season and now it has the task of taking on the Blackhawks who have averaged an insane 5.25 goals through their first three games. While much of that is buoyed by a ten-goal outburst against the Penguins early on in the season, they’ve still proven already that they know how to put the puck in the back of the net.
Chicago was set back by the Leafs in overtime after giving up a two-goal lead in the third period. These things happen to everyone, but the way in which Chicago lost was ugly after a strong start to the game. The Leafs dominated for the next 40 minutes and if it wasn’t for the superb goaltending of backup Anton Forsberg the score could have been much more lopsided. Still, great teams know how to get over a tough loss and that’s exactly what Chicago did when they beat Montreal 3-1 the very next night. Their defense locked things down in the neutral zone and their offense scored when it mattered most including two goals in 19 seconds.
It’s clear which team is in bigger need of a win, and the Wild fans will start to grow restless if they watch their squad suffer another defeat.Without further ado, let’s see if we can find an edge between these two stiff competitors.
Chicago’s offense has been a thing of beauty so far this season and we see no sign of it slowing down even against a normally defensively minded Wild team. The Blackhawks have outscored their opponents a whopping 21-7 through their first four games of the season and will be itching to find the back of the net again on Thursday night. It’s been the usual suspects at the top of the leaderboard for the Windy City with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews combining for 11 points, but both of them have shied in comparison to the work of Brandon Saad and Richard Panik.
Saad leads the team with seven points while unclaimed free agent Panik is right behind him with six. Saad has already found the back of the net five times this season and has scored the game-winning goal in all three of Chicago’s victories this season. We don’t expect that trend to continue throughout the entire year, but the Wild would be wise to put a few extra eyes on him if they want to try and cool him off.
Chicago is achieving all their offense with just under 30 shots a game and if they really start peppering the net their opponents could be in serious trouble. It will be important for the Wild to get bodies in front of shooters, especially with the struggles their goalies have faced early in the year.
In Minnesota, the offense hasn’t been the problem. They’ve averaged three goals a game in their first two contests and are coming off a four-goal performance in their last defeat. In order for the Wild to be successful this season they’ll need their veterans to show up and so far they have. Eric Staal has a goal and two assists in his first two outings after reinventing himself last season and will be eager to keep up his hot streak against a conference rival.
One area of concern for the Wild is their lack of depth up front. They lost Jason Pominville and Martin Hanzal in the offseason meaning players like Charlie Coyle will need to step up. So far Coyle has just one point in his first two games. It may be difficult for him to breakout against Chicago, but if they have any hope of winning he may need to do just that.
The Wild were one of the league’s best defensive teams last season, but that hasn’t translated over into this year. They’ve given up nine goals over their first two games for an average of 4.5 a contest and that won’t do against any opponent, let alone the Blackhawks. They’ve looked shaky in their own end and haven’t played with any of the usual physicality we’re customary to seeing as hockey fans and bettors.
Still led by plus-minus god Ryan Suter we expect the Wild to turn things around, but will that happen Thursday night against the best offensive unit in the NHL? This is virtually the same unit that tore through the league last season but players like Jared Spurgeon and Matt Dumba will need to improve their play if they want to get back into the win column.
Chicago has always had one of the league’s best defensive units led by Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook and that hasn’t changed this season. They looked tired and underprepared against one of the fastest and youngest teams in the league when the Leafs bounced back from a 3-1 deficit in the third but they tightened up their ship the very next night and allowed just one goal against the Canadiens.
As strong as Chicago’s blueliners are, their best defensive player may play up front. Jonathan Toews was given a lot of criticism for his lack of scoring production last year but keep this in mind: Since 2007-2008 he has led the league in plus-minus with a ridiculous cumulative rating of +200. He backchecks better than any player in the NHL and will harass the less-skilled forwards of the Minnesota Wild all night.
Earlier last year it looked like Devan Dubnyk was going to run away with the Vezina trophy but his performance down the stretch was less than stellar and he was beaten often in the playoffs. Dubnyk was no better in his first game, allowing four goals on 31 shots for a save percentage of just .871. It’s still an incredibly small sample size and Dubnyk is sure to bounce back but it could be tough on Thursday night.
Opposite Dubnyk is likely Corey Crawford who has been arguably the best goalie of the year so far. Through three games he’s posted a goals-against average of 1.00 with a save percentage of .971. He’ll look to continue his strong play on Thursday night.
Charlie Coyle against Corey Crawford. Crawford has been stellar as we noted above but the same can’t be said for Coyle. He’ll need to find his scoring touch and take some of the pressure off his defense if the Wild want to enter the win column.
Minnesota is getting incredible odds and while the Blackhawks have looked dominant this season we still love the money the Wild are getting. Take Minnesota on the spread and the moneyline.