Oct 1, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Marcus Kruger (16) shoots the puck against Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby (70) during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
No, not really. This is the first of 2 matchups, this season, between the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals, the other being the 2015 Winter Classic, on New Year’s Day. So, it felt wrong giving so much glory to one over-blown matchup between two inter-conference opponents, that tonight’s game was getting the short end of the stick. So, Indoor Classic will have to do. Sorry.
Here’s a statistical look at the Blackhawks and Capitals.
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This is a very even matchup, and looking strictly at the numbers, it would seem that the Capitals have the slightest of slight edges. Both teams are elite possession teams, but Washington has been able to find the back of the net more consistently. The Hawks have kept the puck out of their own net more effectively than any team, in the NHL, while the Capitals have been so-so. Much like with 5-on-5 numbers, the Hawks and Caps are very much each other’s yin and yang on Special Teams. The Hawks have been average on the Power Play, while the Capitals have been one of the league’s best. At the same time, the Caps have been around average on the Penalty Kill, while the Hawks have been elite. The Hawks have been significantly better in the faceoff circle, so that will have to continue for the Hawks to have their best chance of winning, tonight.
The Capitals are very much like the Hawks, but have found far less success, so far this season. They are currently mired in a 5-game losing streak in which 3 of the 5 losses have been on home-ice. Washington has a 4-5-3 record which is good for 11 points and 6th place in the Metropolitan Division. The Capitals are a much improved team. New head coach, Barry Trotz, has instituted a much more structured system that the Caps haven’t had in a while. The results are in the stats and it’s only a matter of time before they start climbing the standings ladder. Everyone knows that the one to watch out for, on the Caps, is Alex Ovechkin. Typically a goals only kind of guy, with terrible posession numbers, Ovechkin has seemingly embraced Trotz’s system and has been driving the puck as well as scoring. Nicklas Backstrom shares the team lead in points with Ovechkin and is performing well, all-around, despite both players getting somewhat favorable zone starts. Mike Green has chipped in 11 points from the blueline, but he receives very generous zone starts, as he is purely an offensive defenseman.
In net for Washington will likely be Braden Holtby. Holtby and goaltending in general, has been a bit of an achilles-heel for the Caps. Holtby has a dismal .891 Save Percentage, in 9 games played.
The Hawks looked to be in true form, in their 5-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens, on Tuesday night. Currently, the Hawks are sporting a 7-5-1 record, which is good for 15 points and 4th place in the Central Division. If the Hawks are to get on a roll, they will have to get on it without Patrick Sharp, who is expected to be out for a couple of weeks. Not enough can be said about Marcus Kruger, who scored his first goal of the season, in Montreal. Kruger always starts his shifts in the defensive zone and has put up a remarkable 61.3% Corsi For Percentage. Not an easy thing to do, this is what happens when you win faceoffs consistently. It’s hard to praise Jonathan Toews without sounding redundant, but the Hawks would be totally lost without him. Always winning faceoffs, always driving the puck, and he leads the team in points. Expect a Patrick Kane hot-streak. H had been struggling, but he scored a goal on Tuesday. Expect the flood gates to be opened, especially now that he is going to have to pick up some slack for the absence of Sharp.
In net for the Hawks will likely be Corey Crawford. Crawford recorded his 11th career shutout, Tuesday night, and has been fantastic this season to a tune of a .938 Save Percentage, this season. Goaltedning might be what gives the Hawks an edge, tonight, and they will need Crawford to keep up the good work.
This is a very good matchup, tonight. Lots of star-power, all-around, and there is a little bit of a buzz due to the approaching Winter Classic between the Hawks and Capitals.