Game Preview: Chicago Blackhawks Look to Stay in the Sun Against Tampa Bay Lightning


Oct 5, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Valtteri Filppula (51) scores the game-winning goal against the Chicago Blackhawks during the shootout period at the United Center. The Lightning beat the Blackhawks 3-2 in the shootout. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

First of all, allow me to apologize for the lame title.  I just couldn’t resist.  Now, on to hockey.  The Chicago Blackhawks are looking for a Sunshine State sweep, tonight, as they face the Tamp Bay Lightning in the 2nd of back-to-back Florida road games.

This will be the 2nd and final matchup of the regular season between the Hawks and Lightning.  The Hawks won the 1st game against Tampa, which was held in Chicago, in the shootout by a score of 3-2.  Puck drop is set for 6:30 PM Central Time.  You can catch tonight’s game on CSN-Chicago or NHL Network and you can listen to the game on WGN 720 AM.

Here’s a statistical breakdown of the Hawks and Lightning.

[table id=131 /]

Offensively, the Hawks are very good, even without Patrick Kane, and tonight they will face a Tampa defense that has been roughly average this season.

Defensively, the Hawks are an elite team and tonight they will be up against the elite offensive team in the NHL.  This should be interesting.

On the Power Play, the Hawks have been inconsistent, but ultimately around average this season.  Tonight, their Power Play will take on a very good Lightning Penalty Kill.

For the Hawks, the Penalty Kill has been elite all season.  Tonight, they will be up against a not-so-great Lightning Power Play.

In the faceoff circle, the Hawks have been very successful.  Tonight, they will be taking draws against a Tampa squad that is a tad below average in the dot.

In terms of puck-possession, the Hawks are an elite team and tonight they will be fighting for the puck against an even more elite possession team in the Lightning.

On paper, the advantage has to go to Tampa Bay.  They are the home team, they are well rested, and the numbers slightly favor them over the Hawks.  The key for the Hawks is to hog the puck.  This is much easier said than done, since Tampa is even better at hogging the puck than the Hawks, but if the Hawks can control possession, their chances of winning will increase dramatically.

The Lightning are 37-19-6, which is good for 80 points and 2nd place in the Atlantic Division.  They are currently 5 points behind the 1st place Montreal Canadiens.

When one thinks of the Lightning, one must think of superstar center Steven Stamkos.  Stamkos already has 32 goals this season and 3 of them have come in his last 5 games.  The crazy thing is that he doesn’t lead the Lightning in points.  That honor would go to fellow centerman, Tyler Johnson, who has 59 points in 60 games.  Nikita Kucherov is having a breakout season.  The Russain winger has 4 points in his last 4 games.  Ondrej Palat is on a tear as he has recorded 7 points in his last 5 games.

Starting in net for the Lightning will be Ben Bishop.  Bishop is having a bit of a so-so season with his .912 Save Percentage in 47 games played this season.  However, Bishop’s Save Percentage at home is a very good .924.

The Hawks are 37-20-5, which is good for 79 points and 3rd place in the Central Division.  They are currently 3 points behind the 2nd place St. Louis Blues.

Life without Patrick Kane got off to a very respectable start.  Tuevo Teravainen wasted no time making his presence felt with an early goal last night, against the Panthers, in his return to the NHL.  Tervainen’s return had him playing center on the 3rd line alongside Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw.  Speaking of Shaw, his return to his natural position on the wing allowed him to be Andrew Shaw again.  Brandon Saad scored his 19th goal of the season, last night, tying his career high.  Even though it was an empty net goal, last night’s goal gives Jonathan Toews a 3-game goal streak.

Starting in net for the Hawks will either be Corey Crawford or Scott Darling.  It seems that since it was Crawford last night, it should be Darling tonight.  However, Crawford wasn’t over-worked in last night’s shutout and should probably be the one to face Tampa’s crazily potent offense.  If Darling does start, it would be a high vote of confidence from Coach Q.  We’ll see.

In the temporary post-Kane era, the Hawks can more than stay afloat.  Their key is to be responsible and step up.  Tonight will be a good measuring stick as they face an elite team on the road and on the 2nd half of a back-to-back.  This should be interesting.

Go Hawks!