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Defense-First Wild Open as Favorites vs Unbeaten Hawks

Devan Dubnyk #40 of the Minnesota Wild defends the net against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center on April 7, 2018 in San Jose, California.

If you took a quick look at the early records for Chicago and Minnesota, you might think that the unbeaten Blackhawks should be favored in this game, but the winless Wild opened as a -170 favorite to win tonight in St. Paul. The line may have been set too high, though, as the Wild were -150 as of this morning while Chicago is a +130 underdog.

SHARK BITES
  • The total has gone UNDER in the Blackhawks’ last four games vs the Wild (avg. combined score: 3.25).
  • Chicago is third in goal scoring and 28th in goals against.
  • The Wild are 1-6 SU in their last seven games vs divisional opponents.

Blackhawks vs Wild Game Center

Blackhawks Will See Something Different Tonight

Joel Quenneville’s charges have had success against offensive-minded, free-flowing teams in Toronto, St. Louis and Ottawa in their first three games, but they will experience a much tighter affair tonight against Bruce Boudreau’s Minnesota Wild.

Boudreau (and many Minnesota coaches before him), long known for defensive play and strong goaltending, has one of the league’s top goaltenders in Devan Dubnyk, who has a .963 save percentage and 1.45 GAA through two games this season. At the other end of the rink, the Wild have just two goals through two games.

Minnesota doesn’t have the luxury of being a wide-open offensive team because it just doesn’t have the horses. Zach Parise is the leader of this group and his offensive production has declined each year since 2014-15 culminating with just over a half-point per game last season. Nino Niederreiter had just 32 points last year, Charlie Coyle had 37 points and Mikko Koivu had 45.

Ward Still Adjusting to New Team

It hasn’t been a warm welcome to the Windy City for Cam Ward. Through three games he’s sporting a 4.63 GAA and .843 save percentage. Not good at all. Ward is the expected starter tonight with Corey Crawford still on the shelf and Anton Forsberg serving as the backup.

The Wild are averaging just 25 shots on goal per game through their first two outings, something they’ll be looking to improve tonight. This game will be a contrast in styles and it will be interesting to see if the Chicago forward group is interested in battling through Minnesota’s defense to get to Dubnyk.

My Pick For Tonight

I’m going to buck the trend of the NHL this week and pick UNDER 6.0 total goals in tonight’s game. Minnesota is still finding its way offensively and the Blackhawks will see the best goaltender and best defense they’ve faced all season.

Neither team has scored a power-play goal this season and the teams have taken just 16 minor penalties combined through five games. If they keep the trend of playing five-on-five for the majority of the game, goals could be hard to come by tonight.

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