Two teams heading into different directions
The 6-5-0 Nashville Predators are flying to Chicago to face the 1-9-2 Blackhawks. The home team is in a very difficult position after CEO Danny Wirtz just fired Chicago’s entire coaching staff on Saturday afternoon. It wasn’t just head coach Jeremy Colliton that was let go, but both his assistants, Tomas Mitell and Sheldon Brookbank as well.
AHL coach with losing record stepping in
Taking Chicago’s coaching duties will be AHL coach Derek King. King will be stepping in on extremely short notice as he will have to lead the team to battle less than 24 hours after being named interim coach. If you look at King’s AHL record, it won’t give you confidence, that he will be the answer to Chicago’s questions. After being named head coach of the Rockford IceHogs (Chicago’s AHL affiliate), King delivered an 87-92-26 record in 206 games. A sub-.500 coaching record in the AHL is usually not the sign of great things to come.
Chicago in shambles
The Blackhawks in 2021-22 have played some of the worst hockey that we’ve seen from this team in ages. Despite spending on some big names in the offseason, the Blackhawks have only won one game this year while getting outshot on average by more than 15 shots on goal per game. Chicago is only scoring 1.47 goals per game on average while allowing 4.12. This –2.65 goal differential is something that only the absolute worst teams in the league can come close to.
In 12 games, Chicago is only shooting 6.12%, after shooting 7.95% last season. Both marks are below league average, and you can certainly not say that this team has improved from last year. All this, despite the Blackhawks facing a relatively easy early-season schedule.
Marc-Andre Fleury, Chicago’s new #1 goalie only has a 91.22 fSV% through the season with a –6.5 GAR (goals above replacement). He simply needs to be better for this team to become at least a league-average squad.
First line center Tyler Johnson is also unavailable for the team on Sunday as he was recently placed into the Covid-protocol right after missing a few games with a neck injury.
Predators in top form
After a mediocre start of the season, the Predators have won 5 of their last 6 games over the past two weeks of action. Their only loss came against the 9-1 Edmonton Oilers. Nashville managed to stay competitive even with top teams despite the tough early schedule. Much of this is thanks to goalie Juuse Saros, who is replicating his stellar numbers from last season. Saros has a 94.35 fSV% with over 5 goals saved over replacement in the early going. In 9 starts Saros has only allowed more than 2 goals just twice.
Nashville’s offense is spearheaded by Matt Duchene, who already has five goals and five assists. The team’s leader in points is Roman Josi with 4 goals and 8 assists (12 points).
Pick: Nashville Predators ML –110 (1.91x) Bet365
We are taking the Predators on Sunday evening. The team is fully rested, almost fully healthy, and on a strong win streak. Juuse Saros has also been outstanding for Nashville, while Chicago is getting questionable goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury. The team also has a brand-new interim coach stepping in on a short notice. All this combined with the recent Covid-issues around Chicago makes this much more of a 60-40 game than a 50-50 game as the market is pricing it at the moment.
Note: This play has strong value even if the line moves a bit towards Nashville. We would bet it at –120 (1.83x) or better.