Game Preview: Chicago Blackhawks Have No Excuses Against Edmonton Oilers


Jan 12, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Patrick Sharp (10) moves the puck against Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) and defenseman Justin Schultz (19) during the first period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Well rested? Check.  Playing at home? Check.  Carrying momentum from Monday night’s 5-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes?  Check.  Playing against an inferior opponent that embarrassed them in their previous meeting?  Check.  Looking to gain ground in the tightening Central Division race?  Check.  As you can see, the Chicago Blackhawks have no reason to be unmotivated in tonight’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.  Obviously, a win goes a long way.  However, if the Hawks were to lose tonight, it would go more than a long way, but in the wrong direction.

This will be the 3rd and final meeting between the Hawks and Oilers this season.  So far, the season series is split, with the Oilers winning the most recent meeting by a score of 5-2, in Edmonton.  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 Oilers.

Offensively, the Hawks have been solid overall and tonight they face an Edmonton defense that is one of the worst in the league.

Defensively, the Hawks are an elite team and they will be facing an Oiler’s offensive attack that is close to being the worst in the league.

On the Power Play, The Hawks have been a tad below average and tonight they will be up against an Edmonton Penalty Kill that is near the bottom of the league.

For the Hawks, the Penalty Kill has been in the elite class all season and tonight they will be up against an Oilers’ Power Play that is one of the least effective in the league.

In the faceoff circle, the Hawks have been very good and tonight they will be taking draws against an Edmonton squad that has been sub-par.

In terms of puck-possession, the Hawks are an elite team and tonight they will fight for the puck with an Oilers’ team that has struggled mightily at possessing the puck.

Clearly, the Hawks have a huge advantage tonight.  No question they should win and they should win easily.  However, the parity in the NHL is at an all-time high, so this is still far from a guaranteed win for the Hawks.  They need to win.  They should win.  They better win.  A loss would raise too many questions for the Hawks.

The Oilers are 18-36-10 with 46 points, which has them in last place in the Pacific Division, far from playoff contention, but firmly in the Connor McDavid/Jack Eichel sweepstakes.

Edmonton certainly has fire-power, in the likes of Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.  They usually have even more, but Taylor Hall remains out with an injury.  Eberle leads the team in points and has 3 in his last 3 games.  Nugent-Hopkins is currently riding a 3-game assist streak.  It seems like the hockey world is always waiting for Nail Yakupov to put up a huge season or get traded.  After a very promising rookie season, Yakupov has seemingly fallen off the map.  Be it due to mismanagement, attitude or something else, Yakupov has not lived up to they hype despite the talent.

Starting in net for the Oilers will be Ben Scrivens.  Scrivens has had a rough go of it with a .896 Save Percentage in 44 games played this season.

The Hawks are 38-21-5 with 81 points this season.  They are 4 points behind the 2nd place St. Louis Blues, 8 points behind the 1st place Nashville Predators (who have played 2 extra games than the Hawks) and only 4 points ahead of the scorching hot 4th place Minnesota Wild.  As you can see, the Central Division is going to interesting to watch from here on out.  The Hawks have to avoid going into another cold stretch.

With 5 goals and 6 points in his last 5 games, Jonathan Toews appears to be heeding his own words and stepping up in the absence of Patrick Kane.  Toews’ linemate, Marian Hossahas 4 points in his last 4 games.  The newest member to Toews and Hossa’s line, Kris Versteeghas gone pointless in his last 3 games, but that doesn’t figure to last much longer.  Newcomers Antoine Vermette and Kimmo Timonen now have one game and a few practices with the Hawks, respectively.  A wise man would expect their performances to improve as their familiarity with their new team grows.

Starting in net for the Hawks will be Corey Crawford.  Crawford is having a very good season with a .920 Save Percentage in 43 games played.  Interestingly, Crawford has struggled to the tune of an .888 Save Percentage in 12 career games against the Oilers.

Yes, the Hawks should and need to win, but will they?  Probably.  It should be a fun race for the Central Division crown and in order to close the gap and eventually grab 1st place, the Hawks must win games that they should win.  That all starts tonight.

Go Hawks!