Minnesota Wild vs. Chicago Blackhawks Free Game 1 Pick | NHL Preview

Wild vs Hawks NHL Spread/Handicapping

The President’s Trophy winning Chicago Blackhawks look to carry their stellar Regular Season play into the post season when they kick off the Stanley Cup playoffs Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild – a team that most thought would be significantly better that they were this year.

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#8 Minnesota Wild (26-19-1-2) at #1 Chicago Blackhawks (36-7-0-5)
When: 8:00 PM ET, Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Where: United Center, Chicago, Illinois
Broadcast: CBC, NBCSN, FS-N, CSN-CH
Wild vs. Hawks Betting Lines from
Minnesota Wild +1½ -150 +204 Ov 5 -105
Chicago Blackhawks -1½ +130 -225 Un 5 -105

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The Best vs. the Near Bust – Hawks Host Wild in Game 1 Tuesday Night

The Chicago Blackhawks won two of the three regular-season meetings between the teams this season, outscoring the Minnesota Wild by a slim 8-6 margin. That said the Hawks went 11-2-2 in their last 15 games while the Wild went just 4-5-1 in their last 10 to barely qualify for the playoffs.

The Minnesota Wild are where they thought they would be after giving free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter identical 13-year, $98 million contracts last summer. Just how they got there was unexpected. The team struggled out of the gate, heated up toward the middle of the season and then bumbled down the stretch. Perhaps their worst loss came in their second last game of the season – a 6-1 home loss to the Edmonton Oilers. The Wild looked done after that game but came up with a rather unflattering 3-1 win over Colorado Saturday to get the last playoff spot.

Goal scoring was an issue for this team again – even the addition of Jason Pominville and Parise couldn’t cure their woes. The team averaged 2.46 goals per game this year – bottom third in the NHL and they had a number of super stars struggle at the end of the year. Devin Setoguchi had just four points in his last 14 games, Pierre-Marc Bouchard had one point in his last four and Ryan Suter was held pointless in his last five games. An anemic offense isn’t going to get it done against Chicago – the Hawks were and continue to be one of the most feared offenses in the game.

The Minnesota defense was supposed to be elite this year but the team ended up allowing an average 2.60 goals per game. Niklas Backstrom had an ugly 2.81 GAA and .889 save percentage in 14 April games. However, he did turn aside 29 of 30 shots against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday. [ad-4437448]

The Chicago Blackhawks know that all their work in the regular season will mean virtually nothing if they don’t dominate in the first round – expect them to be ready. And there is no reason to think that they won’t be able to live up to the hype. They were one of the best offensive teams in the NHL this season – an average of 3.10 goals per game and they allowed a league low 2.02 goals per game.

Offensively Chicago is stacked and they played well down the stretch. Patrick Kane closed out the regular season with three goals and nine points over the last six games, Jonathan Toews had four goals and eight points in the last eight, Marian Hossa had seven points in his last seven games and the list goes on and on. There were some that struggled the last couple weeks of the season though – Michael Frolik was pointless in seven games, Brian Bickell was pointless in five and Brent Seabrook, Viktor Stalberg and Nick Leddy were held off the score sheet in the last four games.

Perhaps the biggest question mark surrounds Corey Crawford in goal for Chicago – he will have to be the man as Ray Emery is still dealing with a lower body injury. Crawford went 19-5-5 with a 1.94 GAA and .926 save percentage this season with three shutouts so the questions may be a product of us looking for something to pick apart.

Betting Prediction

A few trends to consider:
• Over is 6-1-1 in MIN last 8 games following a win.
• Under is 12-3-1 in MIN last 16 Tue. games.
• MIN are 4-13 in their last 17 Tue. games.
• Over is 4-1-3 in CHI last 8 home games.
• CHI are 37-14 in their last 51 overall.
• CHI are 37-18 in their last 55 home games.

The Blackhawks only lost three times in regulation on home ice all season long while the Wild were a .500 team on the road. Chicago still possesses a number of players that were with them when they won the Cup only two years ago – these guys know what it takes to win. I suppose that Minnesota could flick the switch Tuesday night but their recent play hasn’t impressed anyone. Chicago is too deep, too good and too experienced to be beaten by a Minnesota team that has been average at best this year. Expect a big night from the President’s Trophy winners.

Pick: Chicago Blackhawks -225

By DaveB

Dave B has been a Fantasy Football writer for us for 10 years. A couch potato wannabe, Dave’s insights have been read by 10’s of people for years. He hope’s for world peace + global relaxation. Enjoy and remember only smoke things that are completely natural.