This will be the final game, of the season series between the new Central Division foes, the Chicago Blackhawks and the Winnipeg Jets. So far, this season, the Blackhawks have won all 3 games, with the Jets, and are going for the season sweep, tonight.[table “49” not found /]
Statistically, the Blackhawks have a huge advantage. The only are where the Jets have a clear advantage is the Penalty Kill, where they have been solid, and the Hawks have been atrocious. In all the other categories, the Hawks either have a big advantage, or the Jets have an ever so slight one.
The Jets may have a disadvantage, in the season’s statistics, but they have played much better, since their recent coaching change. Former Head Coach, Claude Noel, was fired and replaced by Paul Maurice, and so far, it has made a tremendous difference. Since Maurice took over, on January 12th, the Jets have gone 5-0-1. However, it may be too little, too late, as the Jets are currently in last place, in the Central Division, and are 16 points out of the final divisional playoff spot, and 9 points out of a wildcard spot.
Winnipeg is lead, in points, by Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler. Former Hawk, Dustin Byfuglien has been chipping in, offensively, from the blueline, but Hawks fans are familiar with the fact that “Big Buff” is a bit of a double edged sword. Another former Hawk, Andrew Ladd, is having a solid season, as captain, of the Jets. Arguably the most dangerous Jet, to look out for, would be Evander Kane, who has an electric skill set, and provides highlight reel offense.
In net, figures to be Ondrej Pavelec, who has struggled a bit, this season. Pavelec has put up a less than stellar, .902 save percentage, in 41 games played, this season.
The Blackhawks are coming off of 2 consecutive road losses, and a much needed 3 days off, before tonight’s game. Currently, the Hawks are in 1st place, in the Central Division, but are only 1 point ahead of the 2nd place St. Louis Blues, who have played in 2 fewer games, than the Hawks. The Hawks have been off their expected pace, in their last 10 games, as they have gone 4-2-4, in that stretch.
Patrick Kane seems to be back to his Superman quality of play, as he appears to be out of his funk, as he has 3 points, in his last 2 games. Marian Hossa has been on fire, lately as he has been the main source of the Hawks’ offense, lately. Jonathan Toews has been his usual steady self as he continues to play a “200 foot” style of play. The Hawks sorely missed Norris candidate, Duncan Keith, in their most recent loss, to the Minnesota Wild. Thankfully, Keith is expected to be in the lineup, tonight, for the Hawks.
In net, will be Corey Crawford, for the Hawks. Since his return from injury, Crawford’s value to the team cannot be overstated, as he is the main reason the Hawks have been able to collect some points, in the midst of their recent spell of poor play.
The bit of rest after the poor mini-road trip should do the Hawks some good, as they are set to face a very much improved Jets team, that has been surging, since their recent coaching change. The Hawks can’t look past them, even though they have easily won 3 out 3 games, against them, because the Jets are desperately trying to climb back into the playoff picture. It should be a good game.