After last night’s overtime loss, to the New York Islanders, the Chicago Blackhawks fell to 5-0-1, against the Metropolitan Division. While that seems like a small sample size, it is worth 11 points, in the standings. With the Central Division being as highly competitive as it is, those 11 points, against the lackluster Metro Division are the difference between 1st and 4th place, in the Central, for the Blackhawks. See? Even the non-divisional games are important, and a win over the New Jersey Devils, tonight will do wonders, for the Hawks.[table “38” not found /]
Since both teams just played, a little over a week ago, these numbers haven’t changed a whole lot, so this is still an interesting matchup. The edge would have to go to the Blackhawks though, but not by as much as you’d think. The Blackhawks have the best offense, on the planet, while New Jersey has been excellent at keeping the pucks out of their net. When considering special teams, the Hawks have one of the best Power Plays, in the NHL, while the Devils have one of the best Penalty Kills, in the NHL, so this should be very interesting. Both the Devils and the Blackhawks are in the top-5, in Corsi For Percentage, so both, are excellent at creating opportunities, while limiting opportunities against, although the last time these 2 teams met, the Blackhawks dominated in Corsi, which is unlikely to happen again, but stranger things have happened. With the Blackhawks having one of the worst Penalty Kills, in the league, and the Devils having an average Power Play unit, it almost seems like the Devils might have an edge there, if the Hawks are routinely sending men to the Penalty Box. The Hawks are one of the best teams, in the league, at winning faceoffs, while the Devils are one of the worst, so as long as the Hawks work with that, and don’t turn the puck over, this game should be theirs.
The Devils are currently sitting in 4th place, in the Metropolitan Division, with a record of 17-16-8, and 42 points. They are only 4 points out of 2nd place, in the division, with 1st place looking very out reach, as the Pittsburgh Penguins are 17 points ahead of the Devils.
While the Devils aren’t scoring a lot of goals, Jaromir Jagr is doing his share of scoring, and should be one to watch out for. Fellow veteran, and long-time Devil, Patrick Elias is also having a fine season. From the blueline, Andy Greene has chipped in a solid amount of offense. The rest of the roster, for the most part hasn’t supplied a great deal of scoring, which to be fair, high-octane scoring, isn’t exactly their philosophy.
Martin Brodeur figures to get the start, in net. The legend has put up an okay .907 save percentage, in 23 games played, this season. If it’s not Brodeur, it will be Cory Schneider, who owns a solid .914 save percentage, in 18 games played.
The Blackhawks will be looking to get back on track after a loss, last night, even though they took the game to overtime, after being down 2-0. The Hawks beat the Devils, last time, by hogging the puck, and last night they coughed up the puck, and it cost them. Patrick Kane is coming off his 2nd straight 1st star of the month honor, and is the likely early season Hart Trophy favorite. Patrick Sharp is also on fire, and having a career-year. Jonathan Toews propels the Hawks, everywhere they go, with his all-around play. While Kane is en route to a Hart Trophy, Duncan Keith is well on the path to his 2nd Norris Trophy, if everything keeps going the way it has gone.
While Corey Crawford looked great, last night, in his return from injury, it is unlikely he will be playing on back-to-back nights. So, this might be the last we see of Antti Raanta for a while, as the Hawks might opt to send him ton Rockford, of the AHL, to get regular playing time. Raanta has been solid, in his rookie season, with a .913 save percentage.
While both teams just recently met, in a game that went wildly out of probable expectations, look for the Devils to want to strike back, as they are currently trying to climb their way into comfy playoff positioning, while the Blackhawks will be hungry to return to their dominance, of the Metropolitan Division, after last night’s loss. It should be a good game!