Feb 7, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Phoenix Coyotes center Antoine Vermette (50) and Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) battle for the puck in the first period at Jobing.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
The Chicago Blackhawks have seemingly forgotten how to score goals. In all fairness, they haven’t played any hockey since Sunday’s 1-0 loss to the New York Rangers, but notice how they didn’t score any goals in that game and they only scored one in the game before that against the lowly Edmonton Oilers(not counting the shootout). So, playing hockey or not playing hockey, the Hawks aren’t scoring goals. Tonight, they head out to wander the desert in search of their offensive soul as they take on the Arizona Coyotes. It better be there somewhere…
This will be the third and final meeting of the season between the Hawks and Coyotes. The teams have split the previous two games with the Hawks winning in blowout fashion on January 20th and the ‘Yotes winning by way of the shootout on February 9th. Puck drop is set for 9:00 PM Central Time. Tonight’s game can be seen on WGN-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 fallen to being an overall below average team. Tonight they will be up against an Arizona defense that is one of the worst in the league.
Defensively, the Hawks are elite and will be facing a Coyotes’ offensive attack that is the 2nd worst in the NHL.
On the Power Play, the Hawks have struggled mightily lately and are overall bad this season. Tonight, they will be up against a ‘Yotes Penalty Kill that is in the bottom-5 of the league.
For the Hawks, their Penalty Kill is elite and tonight they will face a very good Arizona Power Play.
In the faceoff circle, the Hawks have been very good and tonight they will be taking draws against a Coyotes team that has been slightly better.
In terms of puck-possession, the Hawks are excellent and tonight they will be fighting for the puck against an Arizona team that is lackluster at possessing the puck.
On paper, the Hawks have a huge advantage. They had a huge advantage back on February 9th as well and that ended in disappointment. However, this time the Coyotes are with a lot of their fire-power that they traded away at the trade deadline(including the Hawks’ Antoine Vermette). The Hawks better win. There’s no excuse for losing tonight and if they do indeed lose, how are Hawks fans supposed to be confident about their favorite team’s ability to beat elite teams? This should be a win for the Hawks. If it’s a loss, the ensuing anxiety from the fan base will be warranted.
The Coyotes are 21-38-8 with 50 points, which is good for 6th place in the Pacific Division. They are far from playoff contention, but they firmly entrenched in the Connor McDavid/Jack Eichel sweepstakes.
Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson leads the Coyotes in points, including 17 goals this season. Captain Shane Doan is a -5 in his last 4 games and has struggled to a 47.42 SAT Percentage this season. He’s still a very difficult player to play against. Klas Dahlbeck will be playing in his 5th game for Arizona. This will be his first time playing against the team that developed him in the minors. Dahlbeck is looking for his 1st point as a Coyote. His lone goal this season came as a member of the Blackhawks.
Starting in net for the Coyotes will be Mike Smith. Smith has struggled badly this season to the tune of a .897 Save Percentage. In his career, Smith is 7-5-1 with a .917 Save Percentage against the Blackhawks.
The Hawks are 39-21-6 with 84 points, which is good for 3rd place in the Central Division. Currently, the Hawks are 7 points behind the 1st place Nashville Predators(who have played 2 more games than the Hawks), 5 points behind the 2nd place St. Louis Blues and 3 points ahead of the 4th place Minnesota Wild(who have played 1 more game than the Hawks).
With Patrick Kane on the shelf, Jonathan Toews leads the Hawks in points. He also has 4 points in the last 3 games for the offensively challenged Hawks. It makes too much sense for Antoine Vermette to have a big game tonight as he’s facing his former team. I mean, duh! Also, it doesn’t hurt Vermette to be playing on a line with the ready to offensively burst Teuvo Teravainen. Just wait, it might be scary what happens once these two become more accustomed to one another. Hawks fans also need to remain patient with Kimmo Timonen, who should be given plenty of time and games to adjust to his new team as well as getting himself into late season mode. It’ll be interesting to see how Bryan Bickell responds to being scratched in the previous game.
Starting in net for the Hawks will be Corey Crawford. Crawford has been on fire lately and is solely responsible for the Hawks 3-1-1 record since Kane’s injury. Crawford has an excellent .923 Save Percentage in 45 games played this season. In his career, Crawford is 4-2-2 with a not-so-great .894 Save Percentage against the Coyotes.
There’s simply too much going in the Hawks’ favor tonight for them to lose. Again, this is what we said about their previous loss to the Coyotes. However, Arizona is half the team it was after being hard sellers at the trade deadline. The Hawks better win. It could get ugly if they don’t.