Game Preview: Chicago Blackhawks Say Hello to Winnipeg Jets


Jan 26, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) with the puck during the second period against the Winnipeg Jets at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, the Chicago Blackhawks will face their Central Division foes, the Winnipeg Jets, for the first of their 5-game season series, as the Hawks return home after their 2-game North-of-the-border trip.  Both teams will be playing in their 2nd of back-to-back games, tonight.  The Hawks are coming off of a disappointing loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Jets are coming off of a victory in which they shutout the New York Rangers.  

You can watch tonight’s game on WGN-Chicago and you can listen to the game on either WGN 720 AM or 87.7 FM The Game.

Here’s a statistical look at the Hawks and Jets.

[table id=76 /]

Statistically, the Hawks clearly have the advantage, here.  The Hawks and Jets are close in several categories, but the Hawks have an advantage in every single category listed.  Both teams have a hard time finding the back of the net, but both have also done  a good job of keeping their respective nets clean.  Special Teams is where the Hawks might find their key to victory, tonight.  The Hawks have the 16th best Power Play in the league, but they scored 2 Power Play goals last night, and they also have well-known fire power on the man-advantage.  This unit could be getting hot, for the Hawks.  Winnipeg and the Hawks are both very good on the Penalty Kill too, but if the Hawks can keep their momentum on the man-advantage going, it could be the difference in this game.  The Hawks are an elite possession team, while the Jets are a solid possession team.  With possession numbers like the Hawks’ that Goals For Per Game is freakishly low and should start to rise towards the top of the league any time now.

The Jets are 5-5-1, which is good for 11 points and 6th place in the Central Division.  Winnipeg is wrapping up a 4-game road trip, tonight, in which they have won 2 out of the first 3 games.  Evander Kanewho has been limited to only 3 games, this season, due to injury, is easily the Jets’ most dynamic offensive player.  He scored the shootout game winner, last night, but has yet to record an official point, so far this season.  In Kane’s absence, the offensive workload fell to former Hawk, Andrew Laddand Bryan Little.  From the blueline, Tobias Enstrom has chipped in 8 points, so far.  Paul Postma has been a steadying force, on defense, for the Jets.  He gets some of the least favorable zone starts on the team, yet, he has some of the most positive possession numbers on the team.

In net, for the Jets, is usually Ondrej Pavelecwho recorded a 38-save shutout, last night.  Since he played last night, it might end up being backup Michael Hutchinson who gets the nod.  Hutchinson, struggled in his only start, and has a .864 Save Percentage, to show for it.

The Hawks are currently sitting in 4th place, in the Central, with a 6-4-1 record and 13 points.  Losers of 4 of their last 6 games, the Hawks are feeling a bit puzzled about what to do about it.  They consistently out-shoot their opponents, and overall play very good hockey games.  It’s just that when they turn the puck over, their opponents make them pay.  It’s still early and the season will most certainly right itself sooner before later.  Brad Richards scored his first goal as a Hawk, last night.  Hopefully this is just the opening of the flood-gates, as the Hawks need better play from their centers that aren’t named Jonathan Toews.  After a scorching start to the season. Patrick Sharp has failed to record a point in his last 4 games.  Kris Versteeg is off to a fine start to the season, after starting out on Injured Reserve.  He’s made some pretty plays and has cut down on the crucial mistakes, so far.

In net, will likely be Antti Raantafor the Hawks.  Raanta, who seemingly lost his interim-starting goaltender job to Scott Darlingwhile Corey Crawford was injured, will more than likely get the nod in favor of Crawford, who started last night.

So far this season, the Hawks are 1-0 in the 2nd night of back-to-backs, following a loss.  They should be angry and hungry to get back on track.  It’s still early, but these points that they’ve missed out on will definitely play a factor, at the end of the season, especially in the tightly contested Central Division.

Go Hawks!