The Chicago Blackhawks are on the verge of missing the playoffs for the first time in 10 years.
Captain Jonathan Toews and his teammates have won the Stanley Cup three times in that stretch, but this season has been nothing but a struggle.
The Blackhawks, who have a mediocre record at 24-24-8, are dead last in the Central Division of the Western Conference. They meet the best in the West on Tuesday at T-Mobile Arena in the Vegas Golden Knights, who are 3-3 for the month of February and 36-15-4 overall.
The Blackhawks lost their sixth in a row on Monday in Glendale, Ariz. The Arizona Coyotes won for just the 14th time this season when they crushed the Blackhawks 6-1. Chicago now plays in back-to-back games against Vegas as a +170 underdog (odds provided by Bovada).
This is the third time this season the Blackhawks will face the Pacific Division leaders. The Golden Knights have won both matchups — winning 4-2 at home on Oct. 24 and 5-4 on Jan. 5 at the United Center. The Blackhawks were favored in both games.
The Blackhawks are 2-10 in their last 12 games, which include a four- and six-game losing streak. They have won three or more games in a row only once this season — they won five straight in December.
Chicago has 26 games remaining in the season in its hunt for one of two wild card spots in the Western Conference. The Blackhawks have 23 games left against teams with winning records and 19 against rivals from the West. They rank ninth in penalty killing, but are a dismal 29th on the power play.
Patrick Kane leads the team in scoring with 21 goals and 32 assists for 53 points. He’s tied for 20th among the league leaders. Corey Crawford (16-9-2) is fourth in the league in goals against average at 2.27 per game, but the netminder has been sidelined for six weeks with an upper body injury.
On the other side of the ice, it still feels like the Golden Knights continue to hit the jackpot each and every night. The latest NHL expansion team is almost unbeatable at home on the Las Vegas Strip. No team has fewer losses than Vegas (19-4-2) on home ice, even though the Golden Knights have lost two of their last three at T-Mobile Arena.
Even with the best record in the Western Conference, the Golden Knights have only been favored in 25 of their 55 games. They have 27 games remaining in the season, with 16 of them at home.
Jonathan Marchessault leads the team in scoring with 20 goals and 34 assists for 54 points — 19th among league leaders. He’s one of five players with 40 or more points for the Golden Knights, who are second in the league in scoring and eighth in goals allowed. Marc-Andre Fleury (16-6-2) ranks sixth among the league’s starting goalies.
Even though the Golden Knights have stumbled of late at home, it’s hard to bank on the Blackhawks this season.
VGB’s pick — Vegas (-210), Over (6)
VGB’s Top 10 NHL Teams
(Current odds to win the Stanley Cup listed after team record. Odds provided by Bovada.)
- Tampa Bay (38-15-3) +600 — Biggest goal differential in league at +52.
- Nashville (33-12-9) +850 — Just one loss in Predators’ last 10 games.
- Boston (34-12-8) +800 — Bruins 10-2 in their last 12, second in division.
- Las Vegas (36-15-4) +600 — Knights 4-2 in recent six-game road trip.
- Winnipeg (32-15-9) +1200 — Jets 3-3 in midst of 10-game homestand.
- Toronto (34-19-5) +1500 — Surging Leafs have won nine of their last 11.
- Washington (32-17-6) +1500 — 11 points separate all Metropolitan rivals.
- St. Louis (34-21-3) +1800 — Blues 7-4 in last 11, favored in nine of them.
- Dallas (33-20-4) +2500 — Stars favored in every game since Jan. 15.
- Pittsburgh (31-22-4) +900 — Pens lead NHL on the power play (26.3%).