Stadium Series Preview: Chicago Blackhawks Set to Host the Pittsburgh Penguins Outside and Under the Lights of Soldier Field


Feb 28, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; The Chicago Blackhawks during practice the day before a Stadium Series hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s going to be a cold one, tonight, when the Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins faceoff against Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks, outside, under the lights of the stadium that is home to the Chicago Bears, Soldier Field.

Tonight’s NHL Stadium Series matchup, will be the first time that Toews and Crosby have ever matched up against one another, in an NHL game.

Let’s take a look at how both teams matchup, against each other.

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Statistically, the Penguins have the advantage.  When comparing goals for and goals against, for both teams, they nearly mirror each other.  Same goes for the Power Play, almost, but then comes the Penalty Kill and Team Save Percentage, and the Penguins run away.  Although, let’s be fair, a big reason why the Blackhawks Team Save Percentage is so low, has to do with early season struggles, that have since been fixed.  The Penguins have lethal special teams, as a whole, which makes them a very dangerous team.

If the Hawks are to defeat the Penguins, it will likely be through their superior possession game.  The Hawks have a slight advantage in the Faceoff circle, while Pittsburgh is no slouch, in the dot, the Hawks are vastly better, in Corsi For Percentage.  This is odd, especially considering how offensively dangerous Pittsburgh is, but this might also be a testament to how dangerous the Pens’ Power Play is.

The Penguins are currently running(or have run) away with 1st place, in the Metropolitan Division.  With a 15 point lead, as well as a game in hand, the Penguins are all but guaranteed to finish in 1st, in the Metro Division, with a record of 40-15-4, good for 84 points, on the season.

As you know, the Penguins are lead by Sidney Crosbywho is arguably the best player, in the world, having arguably the best season of his career.  Fellow all-world center, Evgeni Malkin to go along with Crosby, make the Penguins absolutely lethal.  Rookie defenseman Olli Maattais having an excellent season, as the 19 year old has had to pick up the slack, due to the losses of fellow defensmen, Kris Letang and Paul Martin.  

In net, Marc-Andre Fleury has had a fantastic season, and has rebounded from a disastrous post-season, very nicely.  This season, in 48 games played, Fleury has put up a very good .917 save percentage.

The Blackhawks will need as many points as they can get, as they were already in a dead heat race, with the St. Louis Blues, for 1st place, in the Central Division, and this was before, the big trade that ended with the Blues acquiring Ryan Miller.  The Hawks are 35-12-14, this season, good for 84 points.

As you know, the Hawks have stars of their own, in Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.  The Hawks also have unrivaled defensive depth, that the Penguins do not.  Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson will make it difficult for the Pens’ stars, tonight, and if everything goes according to plan, they will trigger the Hawks vicious possession game, that will leave Pittsburgh, in the cold(literally).

In net, Corey Crawford will get the start, and he has had a fine season.  In 43 games, this season, Crawford has put up a very nice .916 save percentage.

It’s hard to predict how tonight’s game will go, figuring it’s hard to predict what the weather will do, and also the fact that predicting how the weather will affect an NHL game, is far from a well-studied subject.  Two of the two best teams, in the NHL, playing in the huge spectacle of a late-winter, outdoor, prime time matchup.  It should be excellent.