Like a few other long shots, the Chicago Blackhawks have punched above their weight through the first month of the 2022-23 NHL season. The Hawks are not going to win any awards for starting 6-5-3. Still, their .536 points percentage is the 17th-best mark in the circuit so far and ranks ahead of contenders like Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Calgary, Washington, St. Louis, and Nashville.
Will it last? Probably not.
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Hurricanes vs. Blackhawks prediction
One of the great things about hockey is that lesser teams can level the playing field just by outworking their opponents. It may sound like a cliche, but getting a roster to buy in and have everyone pull in the same direction is a massive part of getting results, especially for a team that is in the middle of a rebuild.
It also helps to get great goaltending.
Chicago is definitely getting great goaltending, but the source of said netminding is a surprise. Rookie Arvid Soderblom was not expected to be much of a factor this season with journeymen Petr Mrazek and Alex Stalock ahead of him on the depth chart. That all changed when both veterans got hurt, leaving Soderblom in charge of the blue paint.
The 23-year-old Swede has answered the call admirably, posting a .931 save percentage and +3.51 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx) in five games. Soderblom is a big reason why the Blackhawks rank third in the NHL with a .934 save percentage at 5-on-5.
It’s unlikely that Chicago’s goaltenders will continue to operate at this level. Maybe Soderblom is “the goods” and at the beginning of a successful career, but it’s still hard to imagine any goalie playing to a .931 save percentage behind a thin Chicago defense that is missing Seth Jones.
In fact, any downward trend from the goaltenders would have a pretty significant impact on Chicago’s results as the superb netminding is providing a lot of cover for a team that ranks 29th in expected goals percentage and 30th in high-danger scoring chance rate. The Blackhawks are getting caved in at 5-on-5, but Soderblom keeps them in contests long enough to nick a result.
Betting on the NHL?
That will be hard to do against a Carolina Hurricanes team that ranks second in both expected goals rate and high-danger scoring chance percentage through the first month of the season.
Although the Canes may not convert on enough of their chances, they should create more than enough scoring opportunities to give themselves every chance of blowing out the Blackhawks on Monday night.
Underdogs have been performing better in the NHL this season, and the Hawks are playing hard, but everything about Chicago’s modestly successful start seems unsustainable. When Soderblom falls back down to earth, the Blackhawks will start to look a lot more like the team everyone expected.
Hurricanes vs. Blackhawks pick
Hurricanes -1.5 (+120, BetMGM)
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