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NHL Odds & Pick for Red Wings vs. Blackhawks: Expect Defensive Struggle in Saturday Showdown (Feb. 27)

NHL Odds & Pick for Red Wings vs. Blackhawks: Expect Defensive Struggle in Saturday Showdown (Feb. 27) article feature image

Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jonathan Bernier.

  • Two of the NHL's Original Six square off Saturday when Chicago hosts Detroit.
  • The Blackhawks have a perfect 4-0 record against the Red Wings this season.
  • Pete Truszkowski details why he lives Detroit as a live underdog below.

Red Wings vs. Blackhawks Odds

Red Wings Odds +145
Blackhawks Odds -167
Over/Under 5.5
Time | TV Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Odds as of Friday night and via DraftKings.

Two of the NHL’s more storied franchises meet Saturday in a Central division matchup in Chicago. The Blackhawks will host the Detroit Red Wings, with two of the Original Six teams meeting for the fifth time this season. 

The Blackhawks have shocked the hockey world with their impressive start to their campaign. Additionally, they’ve won their first four matchups against the Red Wings. Will those trends continue in this latest showdown?

Detroit Red Wings

It might sound crazy, but the Red Wings and their 6-13-3 record deserve come credit. After a historically bad season in 2019-20, Detroit is at least playing closer games and respectable hockey. However, with the franchise in a  ebuilding phase, the talent level isn’t quite there to get better results. 

The Red Wings have kept games close due to their defense. The team ranks in the top 10 in terms of expected goals against per hour at 5-on-5. Detroit is only giving up 8.1 high danger chances against per hour, which is the second-best mark in hockey. 

Goaltender Jonathan Bernier might be in the process of stealing the starting job from Thomas Greiss, and for good reason. Five of Detroit’s six wins this season have come with Bernier in net, and he has been much better than Greiss. Greiss has been the second worst goalie in the league in terms of goals saved above expectation (GSAx) with a figure of -10.9, while Bernier has posted a solid +0.8 mark. 

Bernier actually has a winning record, which is an impressive feat for a team that’s seven games under .500. It shows that when you combine Detroit’s defensive effort with solid goaltending, it has a chance of turning games into coin flips and outlasting its opponent. 

Detroit relies on its defense to keep it in games, because its offense is offensive. Only the Anaheim Ducks are scoring fewer goals per game than the Red Wings, who have scored just 44 goals through 22 contests. The Red Wings rank last in expected goals scored per hour and have the second-fewest high danger chances per hour at 5-on-5.

Chicago Blackhawks

Most hockey pundits wrote off the Blackhawks prior to the season. They weren’t very good last season, they lost some key pieces for a myriad of reasons in the off-season and even publicly announced a rebuild.

The team must not have gotten the memo, as it has an 11-6-4 record through 21 games and would be in the playoffs if the season ended today. So, what’s the deal? Are the Blackhawks for real?

Underlying metrics suggest they’re getting a bit fortunate. The Blackhawks rank bottom five in terms of expected-goal rate, shot-attempt share and high danger chance percentage. They are bottom five in terms of generating expected goals.

A notable change has been on defense for Chicago. In terms of expected-goals against, they’ve gone from 31st last season to 23rd this year. Not great, but bottom 10 is better than dead last. 

The face of the franchise has been — and continues to be — Patrick Kane. If the Blackhawks make the playoffs, he’ll get some MVP talk, but then we’ll remember Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews, and quickly move on.

However, Kane has put up 31 points in 21 games, so he hasn’t lost a step as he approaches his mid-30s. Alex DeBrincat and Dominik Kubalik have also been impressive.

While Kane probably won’t win an award, another Blackhawk might. Kevin Lankinen is among the front runners for the Calder Trophy. The first-year net minder has an 8-3-3 record, posting a GSAx of +3.69. Goaltending was a big question for Chicago coming into the year, but he’s answered that.

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Red Wings vs. Blackhawks Best Bet

When betting the NHL, it’s always important to check the starting goaltenders. With the shortened and compacted schedule, that’s even more paramount this year. When teams have a big discrepancy between their two goaltenders like Detroit does, it makes it even more important. 

If Bernier gets the start for the Red Wings, this game becomes much more attractive. Despite Chicago’s much better record overall and its 4-0 record against Detroit this season, the underlying metrics suggest these teams are relatively close. 

They played a little over a week ago, with the Blackhawks winning a game in overtime and then taking a game, 2-0, which included an empty net goal. Both of those tilts were coin flips, with the Red Wings on the wrong side of them. 

My favorite bet in this game is the total. I don’t expect the Red Wings to generate much offensively with the way Lankinen has played, combined with their own offensive woes. At the same time, Detroit plays solid defense and if Bernier starts, he should give them good enough goaltending. 

If Bernier is a go, I’d bet the Red Wings at +140 or better. I’d also bet the under on total goals.

Picks: Detroit (+140 or better) | Total Under 5.5 Goals (if Bernier starts)

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