Gameday Preview: Chicago Blackhawks Set to Face Former Divisional Foes, the Columbus Blue Jackets


Feb 24, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen (19) is defended by Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) during the third period at the United Center. Chicago won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight’s game will be the first time the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets faceoff against each other, as inter-conference foes.  The Blackhawks are looking for their first win, at the United Center, since January 19th, while the Blue Jackets are looking to solidify, and even improve upon their newly found playoff position, as a wild card team, in the Eastern Conference.

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

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Statistically, the Blackhawks have the advantage, in this one, but the Blue Jackets are solid in pretty much every category, with no real areas, in which they struggle, and a few areas where they are very solid.  The Blue Jackets are a solid possession team, not a great, one, but they are able to grind team defenses into giving up goals, which should be an area of concern, for the Blackhawks.  The Blackhawks are an even better possession team, and rather than grinding out goals, they create them with skill and speed, which isn’t just an area of concern, for Columbus, but for any team that faces the Hawks.

The Blue Jackets are currently in 4th place, in the Metropolitan Division, with a record of 32-25-5, good for 69 points, on the season.  They are currently holding the 2nd and final Wild Card position, in the Eastern Conference, and are only 1 point behind the New York Rangers, for 3rd place, in the Metro Division, and 3 points behind the Philadelphia Flyers, for 2nd place, in the Metro.

Columbus isn’t a team composed of big, individual scoring machines.  Instead, they are a team built up of solid hockey players that collectively make small contributions, and eventually grind out victories.  This is especially true, after trading away Marian Gaborikto the Los Angeles Kings, in order to solidify their blueline, with the acquisition of Nick Schultzin a separate trade.

The Jackets are lead, in points, by center, Ryan Johansenwho has emerged onto the scene, as a scoring threat, this season.  Brandon Dubinsky can also score, but also adds more of a chippy/grinding game, as well.  Artem Anisimov has a great shot, and offensive ability.  The scoring by committee, of the Blue Jackets, doesn’t exclude defenseman, as former-Hawk James Wizniewski has contributed 37 points, in 55 games played.

In net, the Jackets are expected to start defending Vezina Trophy winner, Sergei Bobrovsky.  This season, in 41 games played, Bobrovsky has put up a very good .917 save percentage.

The Blackhawks are looking and needing to pick up the pieces, after a disappointing loss,at home, to the Colorado Avalanche, who moved to within a point of overtaking the Hawks, for 2nd place, in the Central Division, and even have a game in-hand, on the Hawks.  Still, the Hawks are only 2 points out of 1st place, in the Central, but the division-leading St. Louis Blues have a whole 2 games in-hand, on the Hawks.

Captain Jonathan Toews is on a tear, with 10 points, in his last 9 games, as he continues to boast the 4th best faceoff winning percentage, in the NHL.  Other players, like Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharpand specifically Brandon Saad are going to have to step-up, in the absence of Marian Hossa, for the next 2-3 weeks.  Recently acquired center Peter Reginwill be one to keep an eye on, as he will be getting looks at the infamous 2nd center position, and if he is able to work well with Kane, on that line, his addition could be huge.

In net, will be Corey Crawfordtonight, for the Hawks.  Even after a rough night, against Colorado, on Tuesday night, Crawford still has a very good save percentage of .916, in 45 games played, this season.

A win tonight, for the Hawks would be huge, because the alternative would be a 2nd consecutive loss at home, which would cause mini-panic amongst Hawks fans, and quite possibly could break out into a bit of a slump, for the Hawks themselves.  These aren’t the old doormat of the Central Division Blue Jacket’s, either, as this team is dangerous.  The Hawks have their work cut out for them tonight.