Chicago Blackhawks (22-9-1) at Columbus Blue Jackets (13-15-3)
|Date & Time||Saturday December 20, 2014, 7:00 PM (EST)|
The Line: Columbus Blue Jackets +137 / Chicago Blackhawks -152 --- Over/Under: 5.5
|TV Channel||Stream NHL games all season on ESPN+. Start your 7-day FREE trial today!|
Right now the Chicago Blackhawks might be the best team in the National Hockey League. They’re firing on all cylinders and as a club that has won the Stanley Cup multiple times in recent years they have the type of players on their roster that know what it takes to win. Going back to the day before Thanksgiving the Blackhawks have lost just once in their last 10 contests. The Blackhawks are fifth in the league in goals per game, second in goals against, and they’ve got the best penalty kill in the league. If the Blackhawks ever get their power play kicking at an elite level they might just be impossible to beat. Tuesday night Chicago secured another victory with a 5-3 home win over the Minnesota Wild. Thomas Vanek opened the scoring for Minnesota in the opening period but the Blackhawks took control with a dominant second period. Chicago unleashed 21 shots in the frame and scored three times. Brent Seabrook tied the score with his sixth of the year, Marian Hossa added his sixth, and Jonathan Toews chipped in his 12th. It looked like the Blackhawks would roll to another victory but the Wild fought back in the third. Minnesota evened the score before Patrick Kane notched a power play goal that gave the Blackhawks the lead for good. Ben Smith would add an empty net goal and Antti Raanta made 26 saves to pick up his fifth victory of the season. There’s no reason to think the Blackhawks are going to slow down, in fact they should only get better when Corey Crawford and Duncan Keith return to the lineup on Saturday when they face the Columbus Blue Jackets. Chicago has played the last eight games without Crawford but that obviously hasn’t affected this hockey club very much. Columbus will bring a hard working mentality to this hockey club but they aren’t overloaded with skill, so it should be a comfortable return for Crawford.
The Blue Jackets finally had their winning streak snapped and it was no surprise to anyone who has been following the club that it came in extra time. Columbus just has a knack for playing these tight knit hockey games and Thursday night it finally came back to bite them. Things started off poorly for the Blue Jackets as they allowed the Washington Capitals to jump out to a quick two goal lead. In the second period Jack Johnson and Nick Foligno each scored to even the game at 2-2 heading into the third period. Foligno would add his second of the night and 16th of the season just 52 seconds into the third period to give Columbus their first lead, but the Blue Jackets were unable to hold leads twice over the final 20 minutes. After Washington tied the game it was Michael Chaput with his first of the season to give them the lead again. The Capitals would tie the game with three minutes remaining and eventually win it 42 seconds into the extra session. Columbus was outplayed for the most part in this hockey game but they were in position to get two points and couldn’t come through. This is the type of game that was expected to happen after all the success they’ve been having in tight games this year. Sergei Bobrovsky has been strong of late but Thursday night wasn’t his best performance. He’ll look to bounce back against a very tough Chicago club on Saturday.
Chicago is a sizeable favorite in this one but with the way they’ve been playing lately it’s actually a pretty fair number. Columbus is bound to lose a few in a row now that their lengthy winning streak has come to an end.