Blackhawks vs. Stars NHL Odds, Pick, Prediction (Dec. 18)

Blackhawks vs. Stars NHL Odds, Pick, Prediction (Dec. 18) article feature image

Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images. Pictured: Kevin Lankinen.

  • The upstart Blackhawks are underdogs on Saturday in Dallas.
  • Both the Blackhawks and Dallas are struggling to score at the moment and prefer to play low-scoring games.
  • Nicholas Martin breaks down the matchup and makes his betting pick below.

Blackhawks vs. Stars Odds

Blackhawks Odds+155
Stars Odds-180
Time8 p.m. ET
TVNHL Network
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

Two Central Division rivals in Dallas and Chicago will get reacquainted Saturday night, with both the Blackhawks and Stars desperate to make moves up the Western Conference standings.

Dallas will likely by eyeing two home points from some lesser competition as a near must-have, but Chicago has been far from a pushover under interim coach Derek King, with some greatly improved defensive play helping it to a strong 10-7-0 record following Friday's game in Nashville.

Can Chicago Maintain Low-Scoring Success?

King has managed to change the Blackhawks' fortunes of late and has them striving to win low-event, hard-fought games while making fewer mistakes than the opposition.

Their record under King comes with just a 48.47 expected goals for percentage (xGF%) at even strength entering Friday, comprising a very low (expected goals against (xGA) per 60 minutes of 2.22 and an even lower 2.09 xGF rate.

However, I'm unsure the team can continue to post a record considerably above .500 with this play. A 6-0 record before Friday's game past regulation under King has considerably boosted his perceived success. As we know shootouts and 3-on-3 always trend closer to a coin-flip situation long-term, and regression there would make the team's record appear considerably weaker.

When you look toward what their roster currently offers, it certainly isn't surprising to see that the Blackhawks' offense has not produced effectively at even-strength.

Jonathon Toews, Dominik Kubalik, Dylan Strome and Kirby Dach have all struggled more than expected. With those names all offering less than scintillating form this season, the support behind Patrick Kane, and Alex Debrincat has been very poor. Really only Brandon Hagel has produced better play than expected up front this season.

Strome is currently the number one center, and I have to believe that long-term success with him in that role is less than likely, although Kane and Debrincat could certainly carry him to some offensive success.

Altogether, this offensive unit appears quite thin, and the lowly 29th-ranked goals for per game total of 2.29 entering Friday is on par with the underlying numbers. It seems that the talent may simply not be there to trend upward much this season.

With Marc-Andre Fleury starting Friday against Nashville, we will most likely see Derek King go to backup Kevin Lankinen here.

Lankinen has struggled to start the year, posting an .882 save percentage and a -12.8 Goals Saved Above Expected rating (GSAx).

However, I believe he could be a likely candidate to trend upward as the season rolls along. Lankinen was very solid last season, and his numbers are widely tanked by two awful starts against deadly attacks in Toronto and Edmonton.

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Dallas Needs More Scoring Beyond Top Line

Dallas entered Friday night's game against the Blues having hit a wall offensively during its four-game losing streak, scoring just six times in that span with a very lowly 2.18 xGF per 60 minutes.

Roope Hintz missed the last two and returned, but the stretch has exposed the Stars' lack of scoring depth behind the top trio of Hintz, Joe Pavelski and Jason Robertson.

I felt that it could be taken as both a positive and a negative that the Stars achieved such a strong run of play prior to their losing streak. Essentially, only one line was producing an absurd amount of Dallas' goals. The depth behind that aforementioned trio needs to step up its play to offer Dallas a potent offense.

However, that has not come to fruition so far. It seems more and more I may have overrated the potential play of Tyler Seguin, Alex Radulov and Dennis Gurianov this season.

Without those pieces able to find the form I expected, Dallas is left with a lesser offensive punch yet again. A team built upon winning low-event, tight hockey games as we have seen in years when true to form under coach Rick Bowness is yet to emerge.

Jake Oettinger has been stellar in net for the Stars and should start against the Blackhawks on Saturday with Holtby getting the nod against St. Louis. Oettinger holds a +6.8 (GSAx) rating with a .938 save percentage throughout eight games this season and will have a good opportunity to continue his excellent play on Saturday night.

Blackhawks vs Stars

Under King, Chicago has transitioned into one of the stronger teams at preventing high-danger chances against in low-event games. As I alluded to, the Blackhawks are currently skating without a wealth of offensive talent, so it's unlikely that they raise their lowly 5-on-5 outputs seen so far this season anytime soon.

Dallas, meanwhile, has always strived to play low-event hockey under Bowness, and is no doubt known to be a considerably more defensive-minded bunch under him. I think this sets up as a good spot to see the Stars play to that identity against a Hawks team with little offensive depth that will look to clog it up at 5-on-5.

Later this season, I think this matchup could likely feature a total of 5, so I think getting 5.5 here at -120 offers strong value, and I would play that number down to -140.

Lankinen starting for Chicago is a little concerning, and I do lean toward Dallas as a side at -180. Even with those reservations about who's between the pipes for the Blackhawks, I still feel this one stays close and low-scoring enough to give us value on that under.

Pick: Total Under 5.5 Goals

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