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Chicago Blackhawks vs. Toronto Maple Leafs NHL Picks | Preview

2011 NHL Hockey Free Predictions: Canadiens vs Lightning

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Chicago Blackhawks (35-23-6) at Toronto Maple Leafs (29-27-9)
Date/Time: Saturday, March 5, 2011, 7:00 PM ET
Venue: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario
Broadcast: CBC (HD), WGN (HD)
Hawks vs. Leafs Betting Lines from Bodog.com
Spread: OFF
Moneyline: Chicago -130: Toronto +110
Over/Under: 5.5 goals

The Chicago Blackhawks have turned the corner… and the Maple Leafs have too. The two Original Six teams meet on Saturday night in a matchup of two of the hottest teams in the NHL. The Hawks spanked the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night for their seventh straight victory while the Maple Leafs have won two straight and have gained at least a point in nine straight games.

Chicago has climbed to fourth place in the Western Conference and look like a team that could easily repeat as Cup champions this season. The offense is clicking and the unheralded goaltending resembles the tandem that snuck up on the league and guided the Hawks to the title last season.

Jonathan Toews was named the NHL First Star for February and has continued his torrid pace into March. He scored again on Friday and now has seven points in his last three games. Marion Hossa has five points in three games and even Patrick Kane hit the score sheet on Friday night. The defense has been chipping in offensively as well – Brian Campbell, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are all averaging around a point per game in their last five.

Defensively, the Hawks have really tightened up and Corey Crawford has been playing lights out for the club. Crawford got the win on Friday night but there is a chance that Marty Turco could start on Saturday – he has been good as of late as well.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are coming! Those of you waiting for the wheels to fall off could be waiting a long time. The Leafs are full of belief right now, are getting stellar play from their best players and are finally receiving some competent goaltending.

Toronto is 6-1-3 in their last 10 games – they have been winning low scoring games and high scoring ones. Phil Kessel has led the charge offensively and now has nine points in his last five games. Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski each have three points in three games. It seems that everyone is contributing in one form or another at present. It is hard to believe that the Leafs are a better team without Chris Versteeg, Tomas Kaberle and Francois Beauchemin!

The biggest difference for the Leafs is the fact that they are not giving up the soft goal anymore. The forwards and defenseman can do their jobs without having to worry about bailing their goaltender out. James Reimer has been a beast and has gone 2-0-0 in his last two starts with a 1.53 goals against average. He will have to be the difference on Saturday night!

Betting Prediction: The Chicago Blackhawks are 15-9-6 on the road this season, have won seven straight games overall and have won five straight games against the Leafs. The Toronto Maple Leafs are 15-11-7 at home this season and have won six of nine games overall.

From a talent perspective, this game shouldn’t be close but the Leafs are playing with some divine intervention. Although I see them making a strong push at a playoff spot, I can’t see them being able to slow down the hottest team in the NHL. Toronto may have the emotion but Chicago has the momentum and the talent.

Pick: Chicago Blackhawks -130

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  1. The Leafs have had trouble with the ‘Hawks in their own barn and this was a tough one to swallow. Credit the Leafs for keeping the fight in them, but young James Reimer in net looked human in this one, and you can’t give a team with firepower like Chicago a bunch of mistakes to capitalize on.

    This was a big game for both teams, but the East is still wide open if Toronto can shake this one off and keep gathering points.