Sunday NHL Odds & Pick for Blackhawks vs. Stars: Expect Low-Scoring Affair in Dallas (Feb. 7)
Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Kevin Lankinen.
- Thought to be one of the worst teams entering the NHL season, the Chicago Blackhawks face a tough challenge against the Dallas Stars.
- Former third-string goaltender Kevin Lankinen leads Chicago against a Dallas team that features one of the league's best defenses.
- Pete Truszkowski gives his analysis and explains why he finds value on the under below.
Blackhawks vs. Stars Odds
|Time||3 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Saturday night and via DraftKings.|
The Chicago Blackhawks will visit the defending Western Conference-champion Dallas Stars on Sunday afternoon.
It’s been a mixed bag for the Blackhawks, as they enter with a 4-4-4 record on the season. On the bright side for Chicago, it seems like it has found its starting goaltender.
Will the Stars roll in this game as large favorites, or will the Blackhawks have something to say about that?
The Chicago Blackhawks’ record is good for fifth place in the Central Division. After their offseason moves and their first few games, many had penciled the Blackhawks into the bottom-dweller tier of the league, so their record might be slightly surprising to some.
While nobody will confuse these Blackhawks for the 2013 version, they are performing better than many expected. Under the hood, Chicago’s numbers represent those of a slightly below average team instead of one of the league’s worst. They rank 23rd in shot-attempt rate, as well as expected goals percentage.
It’s not like one side of the puck carries the other for the Blackhawks either. They are 23rd in both expected goals scored and expected goals against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. Chicago is marginal at both ends of the ice. This is an improvement from last season, when the Blackhawks were dead last in expected goals against.
The Blackhawks entered the season with Malcolm Subban and Collin Delia as their two goaltenders. After both were awful to begin the season, they turned to third-string netminder Kevin Lankinen, who has been a revelation for this team. Lankinen ranks in the top six in the league in both goals saved above expectation (GSAx) and goals saved above average (GSAA). He has taken over the No. 1 job for Chicago.
Patrick Kane remains one of the top players in the league, posting 15 points in 12 games. However, he no longer has the extraordinary supporting cast that led Chicago to three cups in six seasons years ago. Instead, the Blackhawks are relying on youngsters like Dominik Kubalik, Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome.
The focus of this Stars team (5-2-1) remains its defense. The Stars are conceding just 2.50 goals per game, which is the sixth-best mark in the league. This lines up well with the advanced stats, as the Stars have the fifth-best expected goals against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5.
Goaltender Anton Khudobin has been thrust into the starting role due to Ben Bishop’s injury. Khudobin has been solid but unspectacular to begin this season. However, with the Stars team defense, that’s good enough.
Speaking of defense, the Stars are led by a trio of top-notch defensemen. John Klingberg is a top-end offensive defenseman who can score and make plays with the best of them. Miro Heiskanen is a smooth-skating defenseman who can transition the puck with ease. Esa Lindell is one of the better shutdown defensemen in the league, often tasked with defending the opponent’s best line.
The Stars are also scoring on average four goals per game through their first eight games. This number is currently being propped up by their 40% success rate on the power play, which is likely unsustainable and should cool off as the season progresses. At 5-on-5, Dallas is posting an expected goals scored of 2.02 per 60 minutes. This is a bottom-10 mark in the league.
While the scoring is likely to slow down for Dallas, their elite defense should keep them winning hockey games.
Blackhawks vs. Stars Best Bet
Lankinen has finally made the Blackhawks a non-impossible team to handicap. To begin the year, Chicago was playing non-awful hockey but still conceded five goals a night. With Lankinen, the Blackhawks have a chance to win every night.
While I do see value in betting on Chicago in this spot if the line moves to the +150 range, I prefer targeting the total.
This Chicago offense is not what it used to be. Without Jonathan Toews, the Blackhawks are missing their captain and top-end offensive contributor. On the other side, Dallas is due for some regression in their power-play success rate, which should lead to less scoring overall.
Both teams are bottom-10 in terms of generating offense at 5-on-5. With Lankinen providing great goaltending for the Blackhawks and the Stars elite team defense, I think we’ll see a low-scoring game.
If for some reason the Blackhawks decide not to start Lankinen, I’d shy away from betting this game as Chicago’s other two options in net are concerning.
Pick: Under 5.5 Goals (-105)