Jan 20, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Arizona Coyotes left wing Brandon McMillan (22) shoots the puck against Chicago Blackhawks goalie Antti Raanta (31) during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
It was a very “meh” Ice Show trip, but right now it the Chicago Blackhawks are feeling pretty good about the way it ended. So, let’s just roll with it, shall we? Tonight, the Hawks are back in Chicago and will be for their next 8 games. This extended homestand is a great opportunity for the Hawks to climb the Central Division ladder and tonight’s game with the Arizona Coyotes should be the start of a beautiful stretch. Should.
This will be the 2nd game of the 3-game season series between the Hawks and Coyotes. The first game was actually the Hawks most recently previous home game, in which the Hawks dominated the Coyotes by a score of 6-1 just before hitting the road for the Ice Show trip. Puck drop is set for 7:30 PM Central Time. Tonight’s game can be seen on CSN-Chicago and can be heard on WGN 720 AM.
Here’s a statistical breakdown of the Hawks and Coyotes.
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Offensively, the Hawks have been very good overall this season and will be up against a Coyotes defense that has been one of the worst this season.
Defensively, the Hawks are an elite team and tonight they will be tasked with shutting down an Arizona offensive attack that is near the bottom of the league.
On the Power Play, the Hawks have been slightly above average this season and will be up against a Coyote Penalty Kill that has also been one of the worst in the league.
For the Hawks, on the Penalty Kill, they have been the best in the league and tonight they will face an excellent Coyote Power Play.
In the faceoff circle, the Hawks have been excellent this season and they will be taking draws against a Coyote squad that has been slightly better in the dot.
In terms of puck possession, the Hawks are an elite team and they will be fighting for the puck against a Coyotes team that has really struggled to possess the puck.
Clearly, the Hawks have a big advantage tonight, but having played last night and this potentially being the dreaded trap game(1st home game after a long road trip which typically is a struggle for the team returning home), tonight’s game should be more interesting than the numbers suggest. Arizona has areas where they excel, but most they tend to really struggle in most areas. It’s curious that the Coyotes are so good at winning faceoffs yet struggle to keep the puck.
The Coyotes currently hold a 19-27-7 record which is good for 45 points and 6th place in the Pacific Division. The playoffs are all but out of the question for the Coyotes, but they have slightly improved recently. Since their 6-1 blowout loss to the Hawks, Arizona has gone 3-2-2 and have earned 8 of the possible 14 points during that span. Not incredible, but certainly a noteworthy improvement.
Defenseman Keith Yandle is expected to play tonight even though he missed yesterday’s practice. Yandle has added 8 assists in his last 6 games. Before going without a point and a combined -2 in his last 2 games, Mikkel Boedker was riding a 4-game goal streak with 6 points in that span. Long-time Coyote Shane Doan has 6 points in his last 10 games. Underrated star defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson has 5 goals in his last 10 games.
In net for the Coyotes figures to be Mike Smith. Smith is having a nightmare of a season with a dismal .894 Save Percentage, in the 2014-2015 campaign. However since the blowout loss to the Hawks, Smith has a .929 Save Percentage.
The Hawks are sporting a 33-18-2 record, which is good for 68 points and 3rd place in the highly competitive Central Division. Currently, the Hawks are 6 points behind the 2nd place St. Louis Blues and 8 points behind the 1st place Nashville Predators.
Patrick Kane is currently tied with Jakub Vorcek of the Philadelphia Flyers for the league lead in points, this season, as he continues his quest for the Art Ross Trophy. Marian Hossa scored the game winning goal as well as the empty-netter, yesterday in St. Louis. Expect Hossa to finish strong, who has a very low shooting percentage of 7.7% this season, which when compared to his career shooting percentage of 12.6%, a very positive regression to his norm is to be expected.
Yesterday, both Bryan Bickell and Marcus Kruger found the back of the Blues’ net. This is encouraging, as throughout the road trip, the Hawks’ bottom six forwards failed to generate much offense. When the Hawks get secondary scoring, they are as difficult to beat as any team in the league. Jonathan Toews has only 2 goals in his last 19 games. Perhaps wearing the red jersey on the United Center ice will be enough to break him out of his goal slump.
In net for the Hawks will be Antti Raanta. Raanta has an excellent .939 Save Percentage in 12 games played this season.
With the Hawks back in the conversation for the top of the Central Division as well as a home-ice advantage in the playoffs, now is the time to make that move. With 8 consecutive home games, the prospect of taking over the Central is looking much sunnier for the Hawks. One game at a time, though. The Hawks can’t expect that they’ll easily run over the Coyotes, tonight. If they do, a much improved Coyotes team could cause this homestand to get off to a rocky start.