Blackhawks News

Game Preview: Chicago Blackhawks Welcome in Eastern Conference Leading Tampa Bay Lightning

By Brian Kinkade

Oct 5, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) skates with the puck past left wing Bryan Bickell (29) and Tampa Bay Lightning right wing B.J. Crombeen (19) during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

After dispatching the San Jose Sharks by a score of 5-2, on Sunday night, the Chicago Blackhawks look to get on a roll.  However, they will certainly have their work cut out for them, as the hard-charging, leaders of the East, the Tampa Bay Lightning are in town, tonight.

Here’s how the Hawks and Lightning matchup statistically.

[table id=81 /]

Tonight’s game has the feel of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, but the advantage has to go to the Hawks in this one.  The Hawks are the top defensive team in the league, while Tampa is the 2nd best offensive team in the league.  Something has to give, here.  The Hawks are middle-of-the-road offensively, while the Lightning are middle-of-the-road defensively, so it’s hard to pick a favorite here as well.  Similarly, the Lightning boast an elite Power Play unit against the Hawks’ elite Penalty Killing unit.  Things start looking in the Hawks’ favor, now, as their average Power Play will be matched up against Tampa’s near the bottom of the league Penalty Kill.  Faceoffs are another thing that the Hawks have been better at, and that will be important tonight, as both them and the Lightning are almost equal in Corsi For Percentage.  It’s going to be an all-out fight for the puck, and turnovers and penalties might make tonight’s decision.  It should help that the Hawks have home-ice advantage.  Should.

The Lightning are coming in with a 6-game winning streak and are sporting an 11-3-1 record, which is good for 23 points, and 1st place in the Atlantic Division, as well as the Eastern Conference.  When one thinks of the Lightning, one thinks of goal-scoring freak, Steven Stamkos.  Currently, Stamkos has 10 goals in 15 games played.  However, Stamkos is not leading the team in points.  That would be Tyler Johnsonthe team’s 2nd line center.  Talk about scoring depth.  Former New York Ranger captain, Ryan Callahanhas recorded 5 points, in his last 2 games.  Defenseman, Anton Stralman has been Tampa’s most effective blueliner.  He starts most of his shifts outside of the offensive zone, yet has some of he best positive possession numbers, on the team.

In net, for the Lightning, will likely be Vezina Trophy finalist, from last season, Ben Bishop.  Bishop has a 9-1-1 record, but a not-so-great .910 Save Percentage, this season.  Once he gets going, it’s scary to think about what this Lightning team might do.

The Hawks are currently sporting an 8-6-1 record, which is good for 17 points and 4th in the Central Division.  After scoring his first career NHL goal, against the Sharks on Sunday, Trevor van Riemsdyk is gaining confidence and has played well, in his rookie season.  He has yet to, and eventually will go through some downs, but it’s all up for him, so far.  Perhaps he can keep it going, tonight.  Former-Lightning, Brad Richards is quietly building a solid season.  He has a 3-game point streak, a solid 8 points in his last 11 games, and a very nice positive possession numbers.  Despite starting over 80% of his shifts in the offensive zone, this is about what to expect from Richards, as he adjusts to life in the windy-city.  Not enough can be said about the Hawks’ top Penalty Killers, Marcus Kruger, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Duncan Keith, and Ben Smith.  Without this group, the Hawks might be in deep trouble, and they will need to be on top of their game, tonight.

In net, for the Hawks will likely be Corey Crawford.  Crawford has been spectacular, so far this season.  In 9 games played, Crawford has a dazzling .932 Save Percentage.

Tonight is a great matchup, and if the Hawks want to start a real hot-streak, beating the Lightning would be an excellent way to get it going.

Go Hawks!