The slumping Chicago Blackhawks vs. the scorching hot Anaheim Ducks. Both teams are considered among the elite, in the Western Conference, and a win for either team could send the other in the opposite direction that they have been trending. This will be interesting.[table “44” not found /]
Statistically, this is a very evenly matched game. However, a slight edge has to go to the Ducks, in this one. The edge is mainly due to the atrocious Penalty Kill, of the Blackhawks, as well as the superior goaltending, from the Ducks, this season. Each team would be wise to stay out of the Penalty Box, tonight, as each team’s respective Power Play, could be enough to make a big difference, in tonight’s game. Where the Hawks do have an edge, is in puck possession. The Hawks are vastly superior in Faceoffs and Corsi For, and if the Hawks can exploit this, without all of the careless turnovers that we’ve seen lately, they could be in good shape.
The Ducks are setting the league on fire, lately, as they have won 18 of their last 19 games, and they have also won their last 5, against the Blackhawks, including a 3-2 shootout victory, on December 6th, in Chicago. Currently, the Ducks are in 1st place, by a large margin, in the highly competitive Pacific Division, with a 36-8-5 record, good for 77 points, in the standings, which is a whole 11 points(!) ahead of the 2nd place San Jose Sharks.
Much like the Hawks, the Ducks have an elite core of players, themselves. Ryan Getzlaf is having a fantastic season, and is arguably the midseason favorite to win the Hart Trophy. Speaking of Hart Trophy, the 2010-2011 winner, as well as the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy winner, of that same season, Corey Perry, is having yet another great season, for the Ducks. Although he’s old, you can never count out future Hall of Famer, Teemu Selanne, as an offensive threat. On the blueline, Cam Fowler is one of the more underrated defenseman, in the NHL.
In net for the Ducks, is likely to be red-hot goaltender, Jonas Hiller, however, he has recently missed time, due to an illness. Anaheim is also without backup, Viktor Fasth, so they may have to “settle” for Frederik Andersen, who has put up an outstanding .927 save percentage, in his 13 games played, this season.
The Blackhawks are in the midst of a “slump”. They have gone a modest, 4-1-5, in their previous 10 games, a “slump” that many other teams, in the NHL, would settle for, in a heartbeat. While the standings indicate that the Hawks are in 1st place, in the Central Division, that 1st place is a bit of a mirage, when considering that they only hold a 2 point lead, over the St. Louis Blues, who have played in 3 fewer games, than the Hawks.
Even though the Hawks have not played their best hockey, lately, you can’t take them lightly, with their roster. Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp are both having career years, this season, which is saying a lot. Jonathan Toews has been his usual all-world, all-around self, this season. Duncan Keith is on his way to his 2nd career Norris Trophy, as long as he keeps playing the way he has. Let’s not forget about Marian Hossa, who has been all-world, all-around, for many years, and continues to do so, this season. Lately, Andrew Shaw has showed an offensive edge, as he has goals, in his previous 2 games.
In net, tonight, will be Corey Crawford. Crawford has been excellent since returning from injury, and is most certainly the reason the Hawks have been able to salvage some “loser points” after some poorly played games of hockey, lately.
If the Blackhawks are looking for the perfect slump buster, look no further than the Ducks. What better way to break out of a slump, than by defeating the by far, hottest team, in the NHL? For the Ducks, what better way to establish dominance, in the leagues most competitive conference than by pushing the Blackhawks down further? It should be a great game!