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Added December 11th, 2009 by David Glisan

NHL Free Play for 12/11/09:  Blackhawks Down

Big weekend of sports betting action and this is the first of at least three picks we’ll have for you today.  In addition, we’ll have our analysis and selection on both 1-AA/FCS college football games up later this morning.  We may get to some NBA action as well, but we’ll start in the National Hockey League.

Another winning play last night as the Blue Jackets and Predators played over the total.  Our win was ‘in the bag’ at the end of regulation with the teams tied at 3, and the shootout added another goal.  Tonight we’ll move back up to the northeast and take a look at the game between the Buffalo Sabres and Chicago Blackhawks.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS VS. BUFFALO SABRES:

Sabres’ starting goalie Ryan Miller will likely get some rest on Friday night and Buffalo will start veteran Patrick Lalime.  We still like this play, and so does the ‘sharp money’ with much of the early action supporting our position.  As we’ve discussed on many occasions, linesmaking is more about predicting public perception of a game rather than the outcome of the contest itself.  Calgary is perceived as an ‘under’ team, as is Minnesota which is why the total on their game is 5.  For whatever reason, these teams are perceived as more ‘offensive oriented’ teams and the total is 5′.  In reality, its a matchup of the #1 and #3 scoring defenses in the NHL.    Both teams have been solid ‘under’ performers this season:  Chicago has gone ‘under’ in 18 of 29 games including 9 of 14 on the road, while Buffalo has gone ‘under’ or pushed in 18 of 28 (17 under, 1 push).

Recent form is also important when playing totals.  The Sabres have gone ‘under’ in three straight and four of five, while the Blackhawks have gone ‘under’ in three straight, five of six and six of eight.  Chicago’s team offense isn’t bad (#10) but Buffalo’s is in the lower half of the NHL (#20).  Also important to a totals handicap is how many shots on goal the defense allows.  If a team has a good scoring defense and a bad SOGA number, it means their goalie is standing on his head every night to keep them in games.  A good SOGA number equates to overall good defense.  The Blackhawks lead the NHL in shots on goal against (24.2) while the Sabres are number 13 (29.9).  Only 13 of the 30 NHL teams average fewer than 30 shots on goal against per game.  Lo0k for the Sabres to do an even better job on the defensive end tonight.  Competitive NHL teams respond to the absence of their starting goaltender by focusing on their defensive intensity, and that’s what I expect to see from Buffalo here.

Ultimately, we’re getting two of the three best defensive teams in the NHL head to head with a 5′ total.  That looks like a good spot for an ‘under’ position from here.

PLAY CHICAGO/BUFFALO UNDER 5′

 
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