St. Louis Blues at Chicago Blackhawks
When and Where: Saturday, Oct. 13, United Center, Chicago, Ill., 8:35 p.m. EDT.
A pair of Central Division teams trying to figure out how to tighten their respective defenses meet in Chicago on Saturday night when the Blackhawks host the St. Louis Blues.
Both the Blackhawks (2-0-2) and Blues (1-1-1) are giving up more than four goals per game in the early going. Chicago, which appears to be overturning the bottom half of its lineup, is coming off back-to-back overtime losses in which it has yielded 11 goals. While the Blues did post a 5-3 victory over Calgary last time out, they had given up five goals in each of the previous two games, including a 5-4 overtime defeat to the Blackhawks last Saturday.
Yeo not blaming Allen for Blues’ defensive woes
The Blues picked up their first win of the season with a 5-3 victory over the Calgary Flames on Thursday night thanks to David Perron‘s fourth career hat trick and first since 2016.
Goaltender Jake Allen had a season-high 31 saves, and despite a .854 save percentage thus far, coach Mike Yeo was pleased with his No. 1 netminder’s effort after yielding 10 goals on 55 shots in the first two contests.
“There was more good stuff tonight, but we’re obviously not there yet,” Yeo told the Blues’ official website. “A good result. Really happy for Jake the way he played the game. I wish we could have done a better job in the third period, but he was outstanding tonight, and obviously found a way to score some big goals. I still think we can tighten up and be better.”
For Perron, Yeo’s decision to bump him to the second line with Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz after being benched against the Blackhawks paid immediate dividends. Perron, in his third stint with the Blues after a 66-point season with Vegas in 2017-18, was a minus-3 and pointless in his first two games before scoring three goals in as many shots.
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) October 12, 2018
“[Schwartz] is always a guy who’s easy to play with, he works so hard and gives you chances, so you have to get on the same page with him and work the same,” Perron said. “We created a lot of opportunities and it definitely felt good.
“It’s quite different for sure, more of everything, more of what I was used to from last year, things like that. It’s great.”
Schenn had also been pointless before Thursday’s win while leading scorer Ryan O’Reilly, who along with Pat Maroon assisted on both goals by Vladimir Tarasenko in last week’s overtime loss to Chicago, leads the Blues with four points.
Allen had 25 saves in last week’s defeat, falling to 8-5-2 with a 2.69 goals-against average lifetime against Chicago. He is 4-2-0 with a 2.59 GAA and .921 save percentage in five starts and six appearances at the United Center.
Tarasenko has 13 goals and six assists in his last 14 games versus Chicago, including five multi-goal games.
Hawks looking to settle things in 60 minutes for first time this season
Chicago, which has had all four of its contests go to overtime, has scored and given up 18 goals thus far. The offense has come mainly from three sources — Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat, who have combined for 13 of those goals.
Toews and DeBrincat are on the top line together, with a rejuvenated Toews leading the way with team highs of five goals and eight points. DeBrincat has shown no signs of a sophomore slump with four goals and three assists after a 28-goal rookie campaign.
DeBrincat had two goals and an assist in a 4-3 overtime loss to Minnesota on Thursday night, with the Blackhawks incurring the wrath of coach Joel Quenneville after yielding the tying goal in the final minute playing 5-on-5 after the short-handed Wild pulled their goaltender.
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) October 12, 2018
Saturday night marks a milestone for defenseman Duncan Keith, who will play his 1,000th NHL game — all with the Blackhawks. The 14-year veteran, who has won three Stanley Cup titles, two Norris Trophy awards as the NHL’s best defenseman and the 2015 Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of their most recent title, is eager to add a fourth title along with fellow warhorses Toews and Kane.
“At least one more. Three is nice. There’s a select group of players who have won three. But there’s another select group of players who have won four,” he told the Blackhawks’ official website. “At first, in 2010, I was happy to win one. But then you think to yourself, well, that was Andrew Ladd’s second. He has two. Then when you get two in 2013, you want three. All comes down to hunger. You get hungry for more.”
Toews recorded his fifth career hat trick in last week’s win over the Blues and has 17 goals and 42 points in 54 career games against them.
Cam Ward, who finished with 42 saves in Thursday’s loss, will get the start again as the Blackhawks continue to wait on Corey Crawford. Ward stopped 26 of 30 shots in St. Louis a week ago and is 7-3-4 with a 2.23 GAA and two shutouts in 13 starts and 14 lifetime matchups with the Blues.
The Blackhawks are:
- 7-3 in their last 10 games when their opponent scores five or more goals in their previous game.
- 66-22 in their last 88 games vs. teams with a sub-.400 winning percentage.
- The over is 4-0 in their last four games.
- The over is 5-1-1 in their last seven home games vs. the Blues.
- The over is 11-4-1 in their last 16 games vs. Western Conference teams.
The Blues are:
- 2-6 in their last eight games vs. Western Conference teams.
- 2-11 in their last 13 games vs. Central Division teams.
- 2-7 in their last nine games.
- The over is 4-1-1 in their last six games vs. Central Division teams.
- The over is 10-2-4 in their last 16 games vs. the Blackhawks.
- The over is 6-2 in their last eight road games.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
This may be the game where the Blackhawks settle things in 60 minutes as opposed to 65, but it will still be difficult considering Yeo has figured out how to get production from a second scoring line after moving Perron alongside Schenn.
At the same time, the Blackhawks’ top six forwards have also done plenty of damage, especially while 5-on-5 as all but one of their 18 goals have come at even strength. The key for Quenneville will be to get his top defensive pairing of Keith and rookie Henri Jokiharju against Tarasenko’s line considering the Blues forward has given them fits in recent seasons.
Prediction: Pick: Blackhawks +105
Full-Game Total Pick
There is little reason to believe the bottom pair of defensemen for either team will be able to consistently stop the opposing top two lines when matched up against them, and in the case of Chicago, there are still plenty of growing pains along the blue line.
Even with his 42-save effort against the Wild, Ward has been shaky at times, and Allen only just turned in his first solid effort of the season in Thursday’s victory. Look for another big day among the top six forwards for each team and another high-scoring and entertaining contest similar to last Saturday in St. Louis.
Prediction: Pick: OVER 6 goals
Half-Time Side Pick
The hedge here is that between Tarasenko and the new-found production on their second line, the Blues will at least keep things level through the first 20 minutes. That means grabbing the half-goal as opposed to trying to ride the money line with them.
Prediction: Pick: Blues +0.5 goals (-205)
Half-Time Total Bet
While Allen may be rounding into form, it is very difficult to trust Ward between the pipes for the Blackhawks at the moment. Knowing Tarasenko plays well against them coupled with Toews and DeBrincat off to a torrid start means there should be goals in both nets in the first period to have the over hit.
Prediction: Pick: OVER 1.5 goals