The Chicago Blackhawks are finally back in action Wednesday night in Tampa Bay after an offseason that feels like it has lasted forever. With the COVID-19 virus having altered last year’s playoff seeding, the Blackhawks made the Stanley Cup Playoff qualifying round with a 32-30-8. They weren’t expected to do much, especially because they were facing arguably the best player in the world Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers in the qualifying round. However, they managed to pull off the upset, beating the Oilers in their own stadium four games to one. They would end up being defeated by the Vegas Golden Knights in the next round four games to one, but it at least showed the team had fight. It seems as though that was enough for Blackhawks brass to extend head coach Jeremy Colliton for the next two years, a move that will be widely debated by Hawks fans for a while. Captain Jonathan Toews will be out an extended period of time to start the season, and the Hawks will have to start life without him for the first time in years. Tonight, they take on the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning, who will look to begin their journey to repeat as champions on a positive note. PointsBet is offering you a fantastic promotion on the game for you to take advantage of and win some cash.

Spreads and Lines

Spread: TB -1.5, CHI +1.5

Total: 6.5

MoneyLine: TB -235, CHI +195

Blackhawks – Lightning Preview

Tampa Bay will be riding high after having won their second Stanley Cup in franchise history. They will look to start their journey to defend their title against the Blackhawks at Amalie Arena on Wednesday night. This season will be one of the most unusual seasons in memory due to sweeping changes to scheduling because of the coronavirus. The NHL is operating under a 56-game regular season, which is drastically smaller than the regular 82-game stretch we see.

The Lightning are already considered at most sportsbooks the favorite to win their division. Repeating as Stanley Cup champions will be a very difficult task, but Tampa head coach Jon Cooper is one of the best in the league, and he will have his team ready to play for the long haul. Nikita Kucherov will once again be the main guy for the lightning after leading the team in points, goals, and assists last season. The star scored 85 points last season, which saw him notch 33 goals and 52 assists. The best news for Tampa Bay is that they really didn’t have to change much in the offseason, and didn’t lose any key players from their Cup-winning team. Braydon Point scored 14 goals and had 19 assists in the postseason alone last year, making him a similar scoring threat to Kucherov. Veteran Steven Stamkos came back for a very short period of time for the playoffs but was out for the vast majority. He’ll look to return to the lineup and lead the Lightning to another championship.

On the other side, things aren’t as pretty here in Chicago as they once were. The Blackhawks are an outside shot to even make the playoffs at most sportsbooks, and for good reason. This isn’t a team that has a ton of talent, but it is one that lost its 2-time Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Corey Crawford, who retired this offseason after being let go by the Hawks. While they defied many expectations last year by making the playoffs for the first time in 4 years, it did end up being a short-lived run. Patrick Kane has been the most reliable player on the team for years, always being someone the Hawks can rely on when needed most. He once again led the team in goals, assists, and points and will have to do so again if the Hawks want to compete. Kane’s lowest-scoring season came in 2012-13 when he had 23 goals. Regular point scorers behind Kane didn’t really exist last season, with Captain Jonathan Toews second on the team with 60 points.

Prediction

This is going to be a challenging opening night for Chicago in what will most likely be a very challenging season overall. The Lightning are one of the best teams in hockey, and they are opening their defending champion season at home. The Lightning have won eight out of the last nine meetings against the Hawks, going all the way back to when Chicago bested them 4-2 in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. It would be incredibly difficult for me to say the Hawks are going to win this game, or even be competitive. They are severely outmatched in terms of both talents on the ice and strategically at head coach. I would even go so far as to lay the -1.5 with the Lightning, as I think we could see a real stinker to open the year for the Hawks. Fans will continue to call for Stan Bowman’s job while he keeps being promoted by the team. Fun.

Best Bets: TB -1.5, U6.5, TB ML -235

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Matt Horner
Host of a sports talk show at Millersville University radio station 91.7 WIXQ in Pennsylvania. Graduating Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Sports Journalism. Writer for The Snapper newspaper.