Jan 5, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) is congratulated by his teammates for scoring a goal against the San Jose Sharks during the third period at the United Center. The San Jose Sharks beat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in the shootout. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
The Chicago Blackhawks have fallen into a bit of a skid lately. While they haven’t been getting blown out by teams, not by a long shot, but their sloppy play has lead to Achille’s Heel turnovers, that have lead to close losses. They will be looking to get back on track, tonight, against yet another fellow Original Six opponent, the Montreal Canadiens.
[table id=41 /]
The statistical matchup is very close, but the edge has to go to the Blackhawks, in this one. The Blackhawks are far and away the better offensive team, but the Canadiens are a much better defensive team. Something has to give, however, and on paper, it looks like the Hawks have a bit of an edge. If the Hawks end up in the Penalty Box, regularly, they could be in trouble, as the Canadiens have s very strong Power Play unit. The edge goes to the Hawks due to the fact that they are so far ahead of the Canadiens, offensively, that they should be able to crack Montreal’s elite defensive play and goaltending.
The Canadiens are currently sitting comfortably in 3rd place, in the Atlantic Division, with a record of 25-15-5, good for 55 points, on the season. They been okay, in their last 10 games, as they have gone 5-3-2, which is more manageable, in a weaker Eastern Conference. The Canadiens are lead by offensive superstar defenseman, P.K. Subban, the defending Norris Trophy winner. While Montreal is not an offensive juggernaut, they do have players that can score, in Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty.
In net, the Canadiens are in very good hands with Carey Price. After a less than stellar 2013 season, Price has rebounded beautifully. In 35 games played, this season, Price has put up an incredible .928 Save Percentage.
The Blackhawks are now technically in 2nd place, in the ever competitive Central Division. While they have the same amount of points(67) as the St. Louis Blues, the Blues have played in 2 fewer games, this season, and therefore, 1st place, is theirs. Even with the recent struggles, the Hawks have been able to squeak points out of games, as they are 5-1-4, in their last 10 games. Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp are the usual suspects, on the score sheet, for the Hawks, as they have provided the most offense. It still, always, starts and stops with captain Jonathan Toews, who puts up exceptional offense, as well as all-world defense. It will be a great matchup of defensemen, with last season’s Norris winner, Subban, and for the Hawks, Duncan Keith, who won the Norris, in 2010, and is the midseason favorite to win it again, this season.
In net, the Hawks are glad to have Corey Crawford, back from injury. Since his return, Crawford has been heavily tested, and has put up a .923 Save Percentage, in his first 3 games, back. He has kept the Hawks in games that they didn’t deserve to be in.
Two good Original Six teams, that are good for two entirely different reasons. This won’t be an easy road game, for the Hawks, but it will definitely help get them back on track, and a win for the the Canadiens, over the defending Stanley Cup Champions could be the spark they need to set them on a hot streak. It should be a good game!