Chicago Blackhawks @ St Louis Blues – Busch Stadium at 18:00
The annual NHL Winter Classic goes to the American Midwest as old foes Chicago and St Louis lock horns for the outdoor event. The fixture will take place at the Busch Stadium – home of the MLB’s St Louis Cardinals.
Chicago still at the top of the Central
The Blackhawks still rule the roost in the Central division. The franchise has been at the summit of the division for the majority of the campaign. On the other hand Chicago head into the Winter Classic with indifferent form. They have lost 4 of their last 5 games. 2 of those 4 defeats were to Colorado and Winnipeg who are divisional rivals. Hot on the Blackhawks tail are the Minnesota Wild, who finally lost on Saturday to fellow in-form side Columbus. Prior to their defeat the Wild had won 12 straight.
The biggest news to come out of the Blackhawks camp in recent days was the 2-year extension of Artemi Panarin. The Russian took less to stay on board with Chicago, with the new contract being worth $12 million. The reigning Calder Trophy winner is proving to be no flash in the pan (no pun intended) with 38 points (15G 23A) in 39 games. The Russian leads the franchise in points as his stock continues to rise in the NHL.
Mixed Fortunes in The Lou
Just like their opponents, St Louis come into the Winter Classic with mediocre form. The Blues have won 3 of their last 8 games. It wasn’t the best end to the year for the franchise, especially with the emergence of Minnesota who have overtaken them. As per usual in recent years, St. Louis are on course for another postseason with a 19-13-5 record.
Franchise player Vladimir Tarasenko has been in dazzling for for the Blue Notes and leads the side in all 3 attacking stats: goals (16) assists ( 23) and points (39). Tarasenko has been the main attacking output for St Louis this campaign by some margin. Kevin Shattenkirk has the 2nd most points for the franchise with 24, 15 less than the Russian. Head coach Kevin Hitchcock will have been impressed with Robby Fabbri’s contribution to the team. The 20-year old is certainly not slumping in his sophomore year and scored his first NHL hat trick last week. The American sits behind both Tarasenko and Shattenkirk for points with 23.
The Blues have one of the best defensive cores in the game, however the side has struggled in that aspect. With players such as Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester and Colton Parayko on the blue line, The Blues have a very solid defence. It is worth pointing out that 20 of the 25 players who have laced up for The Blues this season are on minus, despite the fact that this statistic is disregarded by many these days.
This will be the ninth Winter Classic since it’s debut in 2008. Only 3 of these games have produced less than 4 goals. I think that it’ll be wise to head into the O/U market as there is some serious value on display. 2.43 for over 2 goals after 3 periods of play is very enticing considering the amount of goals scored in previous NHL outdoor games.
Handicap Betting Recommendation: Over 2 goals after 3 periods at 2.43
Prices correct at time of writing
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