Chicago, St. Louis tangle as NHL year begins
The Blues bounced the Blackhawks from the playoffs last spring with a thrilling win in Game 7 of the Western Conference semis. Will Joel Quenneville’s troops exact a little revenge tonight?
As the 2016-17 NHL regular season commences, these two Central Division rivals take center stage. Online sports book Bovada.lv gives Chicago odds of -140 to send the United Center crowd home happy. St. Louis, on the other hand, represents a +110 underdog.
Both clubs made pretty significant roster changes over the summer. Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman jettisoned forwards Andrew Shaw and Teuvo Teravainen in June. The organization also let 25-goal scorer Andrew Ladd leave via free agency. Yet heady defenseman Brian Campbell signed a one-year deal to return to the Windy City, and Quenneville expects rookies like Tyler Motte, Nick Schmaltz and Vincent Hinostroza to assume primary roles as fall segues into winter.
By the same token, we’re fully aware of Chicago’s two biggest linchpins. Perennial Selke Trophy candidate Jonathan Toews anchors the team’s top line, alongside Marian Hossa and Richard Panik. Then there’s Patrick Kane, who merely comes off a campaign in which he tallied 106 points. The rock-solid Corey Crawford (182 career victories) remains between the pipes, too.
As for the Note’s netminding situation, Jake Allen seizes the No. 1 job following Brian Elliott’s trade to Calgary. The former second-round draft pick should anticipate ample offensive support from All-Star sniper Vladimir Tarasenko, emerging left wing Robby Fabbri and two-way stalwart Alex Steen. Longtime captain David Backes moved on during the offseason, though, as did gritty veteran Troy Brouwer.
In last year’s seven-game playoff duel, six of the tilts were decided by a single goal. But with Quenneville and Ken Hitchcock working to integrate a fair number of fresh faces, we’re anticipating a more free-flowing opener. Look for the host squad to pull away in the third period.
WEDNESDAY NHL FREE PICK: BLUES/BLACKHAWKS OVER 5 GOALS