Dec 20, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Vancouver Canucks left wing Daniel Sedin (22) defends Chicago Blackhawks right wing Ben Smith (28) during the third period at the United Center. The Canucks won 3-2 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
The Chicago Blackhawks have not been getting the results that they are used to, as of late. They haven’t necessarily played all-around bad hockey, but bad enough ton where they aren’t winning games. While slumps are annoying, they are also gut-checking opportunities to shore up some weak spots. However, this slump could have come at a better time, than at the start of a brutal 7-game road trip, that has them going through a Pacific Division gauntlet. Tonight’s game, against the Vancouver Canucks, is only game 2 of the trip. It’s due time for a quality win, for the Hawks.
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Statistically, the Hawks have the advantage, in this game. Although lately, it doesn’t seem like it. The Hawk’s season stat line should serve as a good reminder, for those fans that think the Chicago hockey world is coming to an end. These bigger picture stats are more of what we can expect the Hawks to play like, not the current skid of sloppy play, which should be considered an exception, rather than a norm. The Canucks are a solid team, and can be a tough matchup, for the Hawks. Look for the 22nd ranked offense, that Vancouver boasts, to improve, throughout the rest of the season.
The Canucks are currently sitting in 4th place, in the highly competitive Pacific Division, firmly in the playoff, and wildcard races. Like the Hawks, the Canucks have struggle, lately, to a 4-5-1 record, in their last 10 games.
Vancouver’s scoring leaders are the usual suspects, of Henrik Sedin(who is currently injured), Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kessler, but the actual amount of scoring, from these players, as well as the rest of the team, is off the pace most people have grown accustomed to. The Canucks have played a more balanced game of hockey, this season, and the dip in scoring totals, is likely a result of that. The shift in philosophy is likely reflective of new Head Coach, John Tortorella, who will not be behind the bench, tonight, as he is serving a suspension.
In net, will likely be Roberto Luongo, who is having a fine, as well as drama-free season, for the Canucks. In 38 games played, this season, Luongo has put up a very good save percentage of .921.
The Blackhawks need to get back on track, and fast, otherwise this could be a devastating road trip. The Hawks are now in 2nd place, in the Central Division, as the St. Louis Blues have moved past them. Even though, they each have 77 points, on the season, the Blues have played in 3 fewer games, than the Hawks. In the last 10 games, the Hawks have gone a dismal 3-3-4.
Play hasn’t been all around bad, during the skid. Patrick Kane has gotten back into the his normal lamp-lighting ways. Marian Hossa has been playing his best hockey, of the season, during the skid. Jonathan Toews has been his consistent “200 foot” self, during the entire season. Duncan Keith starts most of the positive play, for the Hawks, as he continues his quest for his 2nd career Norris Trophy.
In net, is anyone’s guess, but it will likely be Corey Crawford, for the Blackhawks. Crawford played well, in relief of Antti Raanta, last night, and could very well get the nod to start, tonight. Sometimes Coach Q is full of surprises, though.
The Blackhawks need to break out of this slump, as soon as possible, as the schedule, is only going to get more difficult, on this road trip. It won’t be easy, tonight, as the Canucks are in the thick of the playoff race, and always play the Hawks well. It should be a good game!