Tonight in Anaheim we will witness a meeting of two leaderless hockey teams. The Anaheim Ducks have lost Captain Ryan Getzlaf after he took a puck to the face in the Ducks’ game against the Coyotes on December 28th. He has been diagnosed with multiple nasal sinus fractures, and is listed as being out indefinitely.
Blackhawks’ Captain Jonathan Toews fell awkwardly into the boards with a man on top of him during the Blues game a week ago, and suffered a shoulder injury. He is listed as day-to-day, and was skating at practice on New Year’s Day — a nice present for ‘Hawks’ fans to start 2011. Turns out Captain Serious is also Captain I Dare You To Try To Stop Me From Skating.
The Ducks are holding their own without their captain, taking the game against Phoenix and then beating Philadelphia at home on New Year’s Eve. They’ve won six of their last ten, though the list of losses includes falling to the lowly NY Islanders. The Ducks also hold the distinction of being one of the few teams to have played more games than Chicago has so far this season.
The Blackhawks are, as of this minute, out of a playoff spot by a single point. They have been streaky during December: winning two, then losing three, then winning four, and have lost the last two. Injuries have been the story of this year, as the injury to Jonathan Toews came on the very night that Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane returned to the lineup from their own injuries.
So the question continues to be, who will step up? Patrick Sharp netted his 21st of the year in the losing effort against San Jose. Troy Brouwer hit double-digits on the same night, and Brian Campbell made a terrific pinch in from the point to bang home a pass from Dave Bolland. Bryan Bickell continued his resurgent play, adding an assist to reach 11 points in his last 11 games, which includes 6 goals.
The Blackhawks’ defense has been spotty, allowing 43 shots against in the St. Louis game, followed by only 21 shots against in the San Jose tilt. But we lost both of those games, which means we must turn to the subject of goaltending.
Folks have been saying that Marty Turco has been playing great. I have to disagree with that statement, because it is incomplete. Marty Turco has been playing great about two in every five starts. I direct you to the Game Log tab on Turco’s player page on the Blackhawks’ web site for the evidence supporting this assertion. The other thing to pay attention to is the teams he is losing to, and power play goals against.
Long and short, folks: Turco can’t win the big games. He has also allowed 8 power play goals against in his last 7 starts. Not good. Corey Crawford, by comparison, has allowed only 11 PPG against all year: a total of 18 starts. My point: right now it’s Crawford’s net, and I’m happy to have Coach Joel Quenneville utilize Turco for weaker teams and Eastern Conference opponents. If we’re going to make the playoffs, it’s pretty apparent that it will only happen with Crawford between the pipes.
We’ve beaten the Ducks twice so far this year, once at home and once in California. Corey Crawford starts in goal tonight, and beyond that there’s very little information about who will be playing with whom. The lines from the last outing were scrambled and re-organized so many times, attempting to discern any pattern or preference that would carry over into tonight’s game would be a fool’s errand.
7:00pm puck drop Chicago time. TV is WGN locally, and those out of town can click here to watch the live streaming feed from Yahoo! Sports. Broadcast radio is WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers should surf to channel 204.