Oct 29, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Andrew Shaw (65) and Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Phillips (4) collide during the third period at the United Center. The Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Ottawa Senators 6-5. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
With one point, be it the lone point awarded to an overtime or shootout loss, or the two points earned through a victory, the Chicago Blackhawks will clinch the 2013-2014 Post-Season, with anything but a loss, tonight, against the Ottawa Senators.
Let’s see how these teams matchup.
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Like most matchups, the Hawks have the advantage, in this one. The Senators that the Hawks will be facing tonight, however, may not be the same team reflected, in the stats and rankings. Ottawa’s solid offensive numbers took a big hit, when they just announced that leading-scorer, Bobby Ryan will miss the rest of the season. The awful defensive game, of the Senators looks to be a bit of a mirage, lately, as well, as goaltender, Craig Anderson seems to be rounding into form, a bit, as of late. Still, however, the poor Goals Against, of the Senators will still be a factor, in this game, especially if the Hawks are able to sustain enough pressure, in the Senators zone, this could get ugly.
However, the Senators have very good puck-possession numbers, and they can make this game interesting if they can keep that up and keep the puck off the sticks of the puck-possession elite Blackhawks. Ottawa has taken more minor penalties(336) this season, that any other team, in the NHL. That many penalties combined with one of the league’s worst Penalty Killing units is a lethal combination that has lead to the Senators’ disappointing season. This would be a great opportunity, for the Hawks to jump-start their elite, but scuffling Power Play unit.
The Senators had high-hopes, for this season, but it just hasn’t worked out, for them. Defensive break-downs, too many penalties, and goaltending that hasn’t been able to bail them out of trouble, has them 8 points out of the Wild Card, for the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The departure, of long-time captain, Daniel Alfredsson, coincided with the arrival of the aforementioned Bobby Ryan, was actually a positive, for the Sens, overall. Things just never really came together, for them, this season. Erik Karlsson is still one of the most dynamic, puck-moving, offensive defenseman, in the world, even though his defense leaves a bit to be desired. Jason Spezza, who took over the captain’s role, from Alfredsson, is in his 11th season, with Ottawa and has maintained his solid play. Kyle Turris has shown a bit of maturity, this season, and has had a fine offensive season. Clarke MacArthur has had a quality offensive season, but has also been a big part of the Senators’ league-worst penalties taken problem.
In net, for the Senators, will likely be the previously mentioned, former-Hawk, Craig Anderson. Anderson, who had a fantastic season, a year ago, has struggled a bit, to the tune of a .908 Save Percentage, in 47 games played, this season.
The Blackhawks have fared well, in the 2nd night, of back-to-backs, this season, as they have an outstanding record of 11-1-3, this season. So, the chances of the Hawks clinching the playoffs, tonight, are looking very good, but it’s not like them clinching the playoffs should warrant any celebration, seeing as it’s not exactly a surprise, and the fact that they have a lot of work to do, before the playoffs start.
Teuvo Teravainen has impressed, in his first 2 games, of his NHL career, but has no points to show for it, tonight. Tonight could very well be the night that he breaks the flood-gates. Andrew Shaw is on a bit of an offensive hot-streak, which is exactly what you want to see, especially when Patrick Kane is out until the playoffs start. Shaw has put up 10 points, in his last 11 games. In the only previous matchup, between the Hawks and Senators, this season, on October 29th, Jonathan Toews collected a hat-trick. Just saying.
In net, for the Hawks, tonight, will be Antti Raanta. Raanta will be starting in relief of Corey Crawford, who started last night. Raanta has had his ups and downs, in his first season, in North America. He has complied a less than stellar Save Percentage, of .905, in 21 games played, this season.
Clinching the playoffs will happen, let’s be honest. It may not happen tonight, but it’s inevitable. The Hawks still have plenty to play for. Securing home-ice advantage, in the 1st round, against the Colorado Avalanche, could prove to be a great importance. The Hawks also have several kinks to work out, before the playoffs start, if they want to avoid being a 1st round exit.