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Nashville Predators vs Chicago Blackhawks Gambling Preview & Free NHL Picks

Predators vs Blackhawks NHL Handicapping

The Blackhawks have been one of the most consistent teams in hockey since they quenched their Sahara Desert-sized Cup drought in the spring of 2010; perhaps that’s why it’s so maddening that Chicago is showing such inconsistency of late.

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Date/Time: Friday, March 14, 2014, 8 pm EST
Venue: United Center, Chicago IL
Odds: Chicago -1.5
MoneyLine: Nashville 2.80, Chicago 1.45
Odds from Bovada

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After Wednesday’s loss to the Colorado Avalanche, the ‘Hawks let the Avs jump ahead of them in the Central division standings. It’s been a long time since Chicago sat third in the Central. For a team with designs of improving their playoff seeding, Chicago’s medicore 5-4-1 over its last 10 games just isn’t good enough.

Lucky for the Mad Dogs on Madison, tonight’s opponent has been unable to find any measure of consistency throughout the 2013-14 campaign. Nashville has also gotten used to being a contender in recent years, but last year’s departure of stud defenseman Ryan Suter and this year’s injury woes to marquee goalie Pekka Rinne have been a monumental hole to climb out of for a team built more on heart and character than glitz and glamor.

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True, the Predators still have three phenomenal defenseman in Shea Weber, newly-minted Swiss star Roman Josi and the teenaged Seth Jones, but goal-scoring – not goal prevention – has been the problem in the Music City. The Preds only average 2.41 goals per game, a stark contrast to Chicago’s healthy 3.33 mark.

Nashville goaltender Carter Hutton has been only OK in Rinne’s absence (2.79 GAA, .904 save percentage) but Hutton is much better suited to a backup role. Also, when your team’s top goal scorer is the unknown and unheralded Craig Smith (20 goals), it is evident that your hockey club’s offensive game is rather unimpressive.

The same couldn’t remotely be said for the Blackhawks. Chicago has an arsenal of weapons that would make Nikita Khruschchev blush; studs Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are both virtually point-per-game players and Chicago also features Canadian Olympian Patrick Sharp (29 goals), sniper Marian Hossa and up-and-comer Brandon Saad.
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The ‘Hawks can also match the defensive exploits of Weber and Josi with their dynamic D-man duo of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, with Scandinavians Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya not far behind them.

Basically, Chicago is stacked (we should note that Hossa has been out with injury, but should be back as soon as this weekend) which makes it all the more vexing why it is stumbling along in such a way.

If Chicago can develop that cliched but all-important sense of urgency, it should dust Nashville and most other teams in the latter portion of the regular season. Still, the Preds play a grinding style and usually always give their division rival a tough contest.

Assuming the ‘Hawks can earn a decent amount of puck possession in Nashville’s end (puck possession – the NHL’s current in-vogue metric – has always been a strong suit of Chicago’s) they should be able to pepper Hutton and light the lamp a few times.

Nashville has a decent collection of blue-collar forwards in the prime of their careers, but they must all chip in for the Predators’ offense to become respectable. When Rinne is healthy and between the pipes, he is so excellent that, combined with a water-tight blueline corps, Nashville doesn’t need to score much and can still win games.

But now that Hutton is letting a couple more through, the Preds’ admirable (if unexciting) game-plan does not have the same potency.

The proof is in the pudding, with Nashville currently sitting dead last in the Central. The Preds are coming off a nice 4-1 victory over the woeful Buffalo Sabres, so maybe Barry Trotz’s men can use that to buoy themselves in a divisional showdown on Friday night.

For whatever the power of positive thinking is worth, the smart play is to take the Blackhawks in this game, as they should right the ship with their offense that will be just too overwhelming for the struggling Predators.

Chicago 3, Nashville 1

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