Sunday NHL Odds & Picks for Red Wings vs. Blackhawks: Underdog Has Value in Detroit-Chicago Battle (Jan. 24)

Sunday NHL Odds & Picks for Red Wings vs. Blackhawks: Underdog Has Value in Detroit-Chicago Battle (Jan. 24) article feature image
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Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images. Pictured: Vladislav Namestnikov, Andrew Shaw

Red Wings vs. Blackhawks Odds

Red Wings Odds +115
Blackhawks Odds -139
Over/Under TBD
Time 12:30 p.m. ET
TV NBC
Odds as of Saturday at 12 p.m. and via DraftKings.

The Chicago Blackhawks got their first win of 2021 on Friday night, defeating the Red Wings, 4-1, at the United Center. The Hawks were the last team (aside from the Dallas Stars who hadn’t played a game yet) to earn their first victory of 2021.

Chicago closed as a -137 favorite on Friday and has opened in that same range for Sunday’s matinee, which should generate a decent handle since its airing on NBC at 12:30 p.m. ET before the NFL games.

Detroit Red Wings

After a historically bad performance in 2019/20, the Detroit Red Wings look like a reinvigorated bunch in 2021. Detroit is still one of the worst teams in the NHL, but there’s no question that this version of the Red Wings is much better than the one we saw a year ago.

Outside of a big upgrade in goal, Detroit also brought in some solid depth players to help round out the middle of the roster. Vladislav Namestnikov, Bobby Ryan, Jon Merrill and Troy Stecher are not game-changers, but they are all capable in the right role and give the Wings NHL-caliber players in places where they didn’t have them in 2019/20. Those kind of modest improvements for bad teams may not land on the radar of Big Hockey Media or with casual fans, but bettors should take note because it can help you beat the rest of the market to a team “on the rise.”

It’s only been five games but so far the biggest improvement for the Wings has been on defense. Last season, Detroit allowed 2.98 goals and 2.6 xG per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. So far in 2021 those numbers have tumbled to 2.02 and 2.21, respectively.

To the naked eye, the improvement comes from the Wings being able to move the puck better. Stecher and Merrill aren’t top-pair rearguards, but they both can make a breakout pass to relieve pressure. That is something the Wings had oodles of trouble with last season.


Chicago Blackhawks

I think the Chicago Blackhawks will finish in last place in the Central Division. While that isn’t that bold of a prediction as it will almost certainly come down to the Red Wings and Hawks, it is relevant for this matchup because I think that Detroit is slightly better than Chicago’s current roster.

Chicago’s identity is pretty well known. The Blackhawks have some terrific offensive talent headlined by Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik, but their defense is shambolic. Chicago finished last in the NHL in expected goals allowed in 2019/20 but their goals allowed was middle of the road thanks to stellar goaltending from Robin Lehner and Corey Crawford.

Neither Lehner nor Crawford are in the Windy City anymore and the Blackhawks didn’t bring in any proven goalies to shore up the position. Instead, Chicago is rolling with Malcolm Subban, Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen.

Lankinen earned the win over Detroit on Friday, so I’m assuming that Jeremy Colliton will go back to him on Sunday, but no matter who gets the nod the Red Wings will have a decided edge in the blue paint.

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Red Wings-Blackhawks Pick

On paper, these two teams are pretty close with Chicago having the edge in scoring talent, while Detroit projects to have the stronger goaltender and a slightly better team defense.

In a situation like this, I’ll always lean towards the underdog, even on the road. I just have no interest laying juice with the worst defense in the NHL playing in front of an unproven goaltender.

The Red Wings may not be the Lightning, but they have some talented offensive players like Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi and Bobby Ryan. It may not be a roster that strikes fear into most teams, but the Red Wings should have plenty of opportunities against the Hawks and I’m betting that Jonathan Bernier (or Thomas Greiss) will make the requisite saves for the Wings to win this game.

One thing to keep an eye on for this tilt is that it could do a pretty big handle, all things considered. The NHL isn’t a huge betting sport, but its Championship Sunday so folks will have their gambling shoes on and a 12:30 p.m. ET start should attract some action from people who normally wouldn’t wager on the NHL, especially a game featuring two of the worst teams in the NHL. Casual bettors usually lean towards the favorite and Detroit’s reputation is still sullied from last season, so I would guess that if this line does move, it would be towards Chicago.

Even so, I think this game is pretty close to 50/50, so I’ll take the underdog and would play the Wings down to +107.

Pick: Detroit +115

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