Free NHL Picks: Ducks at Blackhawks Odds
by George Monroy - 1/16/2014
The Western Conference’s top two teams are headed for a marquee matchup on Friday night when the Anaheim Ducks visit the Chicago Blackhawks in what could be the biggest NHL game of the season. Anaheim is on a merciless winning streak that has seen the team win eight straight games and 18 of its last 19 overall matchups. The Ducks are coming off an eight-goal destruction of the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday and are playing dominant hockey on both sides of the puck.
Chicago currently trails Anaheim by six points in the Western Conference playoff standings and is in the unenviable position of having to stop the hottest team in the NHL. The Blackhawks have struggled since the beginning of the New Year and are in the middle of their worst stretch of hockey all season. Let’s take a closer look at Friday’s matchup with predictions and analysis.
Ducks at Blackhawks Betting Story Lines
Anaheim has not lost since Dec. 29, and the team has simply been tearing through the NHL over the last month and a half of the season. During their last outing, the Ducks scored a franchise-record nine goals against Vancouver in what was perhaps their best performance of the season. Corey Perry led the team with two goals and two assists on the night, while veteran Teemu Selanne added three points of his own with two goals and one assist.
The Ducks have been excellent in just about every category during their streak and have played a well-balanced game of hockey over that span. The team hasn’t allowed more than three goals since the end of November and produced five multi-goal victories during its last eight games. Anaheim’s goaltender, Jonas Hiller, deserves his share of the credit for the team’s dominant play as the six-year veteran has a .914 save percentage and 23-4-4 record for the year.
The Blackhawks have surprisingly struggled to start 2014 and even opened up the year with a disappointing loss to the lowly New York Islanders on Jan. 2. The squad, however, is still sitting in the second spot in the playoff standings but probably cannot afford to struggle for much longer before the rest of the conference begins to make ground in the standings.
Chicago has two home games left in a four-game homestand that began on Sunday with a win over the Edmonton Oilers. The only trouble for the defending Stanley Cup champions is that they will host both Anaheim and the Atlantic Division-leading Boston Bruins. The Blackhawks have struggled to score over the last two weeks and have managed only 12 goals during their last five games, which is out of character for a team that is ranked second in the NHL with an average of 3.5 goals scored per game.
Ducks at Blackhawks NHL Betting Odds and Key Trends
Chicago opened as a -126 favorite over the +114 underdog Ducks. The total was set at 5.5 goals, with the “over” being favored at -131. Anaheim is 4-0 over its last four games against the Central Division and 5-0 over its last five Friday games. The team is also 8-1 during its recent road games and 22-5 over its last 27 games after scoring five goals or more. Anaheim has gone over in seven of its last eight overall matchups.
Chicago is 8-2 over its last 10 Friday games and 10-3 over its last 13 against the Pacific Division. The team, however, is only 1-6 during its last seven games played on two days of rest. Chicago has gone “under” in four of its last five home games. Head-to-head, the under is 13-3 over the last 16 games in Chicago.
Free NHL Picks: Ducks at Blackhawks Predictions
If Chicago was simply going through the motions of a long NHL season and perhaps conserving energy for the playoffs, that will come to an end when the Ducks visit the United Center on Friday. Anaheim is the ‘it’ team at the moment, and the defending Stanly Cup champions would love nothing more than to remind the rest of the league that the road to the title still runs through Chicago. And the best way for the Blackhawks to do that is tighten up on defense and not get into a shootout with a streaking Ducks team. Expect this matchup to turn into a hard-hitting playoff type of game where every shot matters. Taking the under on 5.5 goals feels like the strongest play in this matchup.
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