Game Preview: Chicago Blackhawks Begin Circus Trip with Calgary Flames


Nov 27, 2013; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Kris Versteeg (23) tries to score in front of Calgary Flames goalie Reto Berra (29) during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Chicago Blackhawks won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s here, the annual “circus trip”!  It’s almost become an annual tradition, like Thanksgiving, where the Chicago Blackhawks head out on a western road trip, while the circus takes over the United Center.  Six games in ten days, of what the Hawks can use to improve upon their not-so-great road record of 3-4-0.  It all starts with tonight’s matchup at the Saddledome, with the surprise of the Western Conference, the Calgary Flames.

So far, the Flames are 1-0, against the Hawks, during this season’s 3-game season series.  You can catch tonight’s game on CSN-Chicago and you can listen tonight’s game on WGN 720 AM as well as 87.7 FM The Game.  Coverage starts at around 8:30 PM.

Let’s take a statistical look at the Hawks and Flames.

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The advantage in this one would have to go to the Hawks.  Offensively, the Hawks are starting to find their stride and will be up against the respectable, but not exceptional defense of the Flames.  Defensively, the Hawks have been fantastic, while the Flames offense has been great, as well.  The Hawks Power Play has been a bit below average and will be up against the Flames’ near-the-bottom of the league in Penalty Killing.  Will this be the spark the Hawks Power Play unit needs?  Penalty Killing has been a strength, of the Hawks, as they are at the top of the league, while the Flames’ Power Play has been very good, this season.  This could be an interesting matchup.  In the faceoff dot, the Hawks are far superior to the Flames as the Hawks are very good, and the Flames are near the bottom.  Possession-wise, the Hawks have another big-advantage, as they are, again, near the top of the league in CF%, while the Flames are again near the bottom.  The stats suggest that the Flames are overachieving a bit and will likely eventually come back down to earth.  They could also be this year’s Colorado Avalanche, and find their way to the playoffs.  We shall see.

The Flames, like the Avs last year, have been the surprise of the Western Conference.  Currently, the Flames hold a 12-6-2 record, which is good for 26 points and 3rd place, but only 1 point out of 1st place, in the Pacific Division.  Calgary is currently in the midst of a 5-game home-stand, in which they have gone 3-0 on so far.  Up until their last game, defenseman Mark Giordano had a 9-game point streak, and he currently leads the team in points.  Fellow defenseman, TJ Brodie is right behind Giordano, in points, and has 12 assists on the season.  After a 3-game pointless streak, Johnny Gaudreau recorded an assist, in their last game.  Gaudreau and fellow young up-and-comer Sean Monahan are having solid seasons, but not great.  They are considered to be the future of the franchise, and if they can get hot, this season, the Flames could very well wind up being for real.

In net, for the Flames, will likely be Jonas Hiller, who had the Hawks’ number when these teams last met.  So far, Hiller has been solid, in his first season in Calgary, with a .920 Save Percentage, in 14 games played.

The Hawks are well-rested, and currently sporting a 10-7-1 record, good for 21 points, and 4th place in the Central Division.  With 5 points, in his last 4 games, Patrick Kane appears to be finally hitting his stride.  Speaking of strides, aside from a careless turnover here and there, Kris Versteeg has been in-stride all season.  Like Kane, Versteeg also has 5 points in his last 4 games.  The Captain, Jonathan Toewsis currently leading the Hawks in points, as he kept the team afloat, while the rest were treading water, offensively.  Things look to be on the up now, though.  Brad Richards’ quietly good season is starting to be less quiet and just good.  Look for these positive trends to continue on the circus trip, as the Hawks are getting hot at the perfect time.

In net, for the Hawks, will be Corey Crawford.  Crawford has been fantastic, this season, with a .929 Save Percentage in 12 games played.

While the Hawks have gotten hot and are now carrying some momentum, going into the lengthy circus trip, they face a curious Flames squad tonight, that they know not to take lightly.  A big win, in the Saddledome, against a competitive Flames team, would d wonders for continuing the hot streak and help heal the the black-eye that is the Hawks’ road record.

Go Hawks!