Only three games on Wednesday night’s NHL hockey board but this interconference game between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings looks like a good betting opportunity. These are dark days for the proud Detroit Red Wings franchise. The Wings haven’t qualified for the playoffs for two seasons now and they haven’t won a playoff series since the beat the Anaheim Ducks 4-3 in the 2012-2013 Conference Quarterfinals. That was the lockout year so the last playoff victory in a full season came in 2010-2011 when they beat Phoenix in the Conference Quarterfinals. They haven’t been to the Conference Finals since 2008-2009 which was also their last appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals where they lost 4-3 to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Their last Stanley Cup came in 2007-2008 and its hard to believe that it’s been over a decade since the Wings won a championship.
It’s doubtful that Detroit will make the playoffs this season either. They’re currently 23-29-8 and 15 points out of the 8th and final playoff spot. They probably won’t finish in last place in the East–it looks like the bumbling Ottawa Senators have that all locked up–but as you can imagine the rabid Red Wings fans aren’t happy about the prospect of finishing 14th in the 15 team Eastern Conference. They’re currently tied with the New Jersey Devils with 54 points and are six points back of the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers who are tied for 13th place. For a franchise more accustomed to challenging for Stanley Cup championships the reality that Detroit is now in a three way tie for the third worst record in the league is a brutal reality.
This hasn’t been a stellar season for the Chicago Blackhawks either. They’ve had success more recently than did Detroit but have fallen more quickly and dramatically than did the Wings. In 2014-2015, the Chicago Blackhawks won their second Stanley Cup in three seasons. The next season, they finished third in the Central Division and lost 4-3 to the St. Louis Blues in the first round. The Central Division is one of hockey’s toughest so it was a positive sign when they bounced back to finish first in 2016-2017 but no one was prepared to see them swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Nashville Predators. They didn’t qualify for the playoffs last year and got off to a horrible start this season which resulted in the firing of longtime coach Joel Quenneville. This was a move that left even non-hockey fans scratching their heads. Lest we forget, Coach Q won three Stanley Cups in six seasons. For a franchise that had won only three Stanley Cups in the previous 82 seasons before Q took over that’s a big deal. At age 60, Q has plenty left in the tank. He’s the second winningest coach in league history (890 wins) looking up at only the legendary Scotty Bowman who no one is going to catch with 1,248 wins.
While there is nothing but questions about the future of the Blackhawks they’ve all of a sudden become one of the hottest teams in the NHL. When Q was fired, for some bizarre reason clueless media types speculated that 30 year old Jonathan Towes and Patrick Kane were ‘over the hill’. As of this writing, Kane has scored points in 18 straight games. He’s got 90 points on the year (36 goals with 54 assists) and he’s threatening to run down Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov for the scoring title–something nobody thought could happen until Kane went on his run. The Hawks’ defense and penalty kill has been awful–30th and 31st in the league respectively. Neither Cam Ward or Corey Crawford has gotten the job done. On the other hand, their offense is downright dangerous tied for #7 in goals for per game (3.32) and 9th on the power play (22%). And if you’ve watched Kane in the past you know that when he gets hot it can be downright scary.
Entering tonight’s contest the Hawks have gone 8-2-0 in their last 10 games. They’re in a four way tie at 59 points with the Colorado Avalanche, Arizona Coyotes and Vancouver Canucks but they’re the only team in that quartet with a winning record in their last 10 games. They’re 1 point back of the Minnesota Wild who hold down the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Detroit hasn’t played badly of late (5-4-1 L10) but based on current form alone we’ll go with the red hot Patrick Kane and the resurgent Chicago Blackhawks.