Game Preview: Chicago Blackhawks to Face New York Islanders in St. Patrick’s Day Showdown


Oct 11, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; New York Islanders center Frans Nielsen (51) and Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) fight for a face-off during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Go ahead and file this under the “lame titles” tab but it works, so let’s get on with it.  The quietly hot Chicago Blackhawks will welcome the contending but recently struggling New York Islanders to the United Center.

This will be the 2nd and final meeting of the season between the Hawks and Islanders.  The Islanders won the first matchup, back on December 13th, by a score of 3-2.  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 Islanders.

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Offensively, the Hawks have improved recently and are now an overall above average offensive team.  Tonight, they will be up against a New York defense that has struggled this season.

Defensively, the Hawks are an elite team and they will be tasked with shutting down an Islanders offense that is also elite.

On the Power Play, the Hawks have dramatically improved in the last couple of games.  They are overall slightly above average on the man-advantage.  Tonight, they will face an Isles’ Penalty Kill that is one of the worst in the league.

For the Hawks, the Penalty Kill has been elite and tonight they face an Islanders Power Play that is roughly average.

In the faceoff circle, the Hawks have been great and tonight they will be taking draws against an Islanders team that has been a bit below average in the dot.

In terms of puck-possession, the Hawks have been great and tonight they will be fighting for the puck against a New York squad that has been very good but not quite great at possessing the puck.

On paper, the advantage goes to the Hawks.  As long as the Hawks can play their game and create more chances than the Islanders, they should get the win.  The Hawks must play responsible defense, otherwise the Isles will make them pay.  With home-ice, momentum, an opponent that is struggling and the paper advantage, the signs are all pointing to a Hawks win.

The Islanders are 43-24-4 with 90 points, which is good for 2nd place in the Metropolitan Division.  They have played 3 more games than the 1st place New York Rangers and are also 5 points behind them.  With 1st place in the Metro likely out of the question, the Islanders can still hold home-ice advantage in the 1st round of the playoffs if they stay in 2nd place.  They are currently 2 points ahead of the 3rd place Pittsburgh Penguins, who have played 2 fewer games than the Islanders.  The Islanders have plenty to play for, and they are also trying to avoid a season-high 4-game losing streak, so expect them to come out flying tonight.

John Tavares leads the Isles in points and is having a fantastic season.  In 65 games this season, rookie forward Anders Lee has a very impressive 23 goals.  Kyle Okposo is healthy again and is having a great season with 44 points in 49 games, but has gone pointless on the Islanders’ current 3-game skid.  Josh Bailey scored the Isles’ lone goal in their most recent loss, a 3-1 defeat to the Montreal Canadiens.  The Hawks will not get to see their old friend, Nick Leddyas he is out with an upper-body injury.

Starting in net for the Islanders will likely be Michal Neuvirth.  Neuvirth will likely be starting in place of the injured Jaroslav Halak.  In 30 games this season split between the Islanders and the Buffalo Sabres, Neuvirth has an okay Save Percentage of .916.  In one previous start against the Hawks, Neuvirth allowed 4 goals on 28 shots against.

The Hawks are 41-21-6 with 88 points, which is good for 3rd place in the Central Division.  They are 5 points behind the 1st place “tie” between the St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators.  However, the Hawks have played in 1 less game than the Blues have and 3 fewer games than the Predators have played.

Patrick Sharp, Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell have all broken extended scoring slumps while on the just completed 2-game road trip.  Sharp scored 2 goals in Saturday’s 6-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks and will begin tonight’s game on the top-line alongside Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.  Shaw scored against the Arizona Coyotes and has been very effective as a net-front presence on the Power Play.  Bickell scored against San Jose in his 2nd game following being a healthy scratch.  Speaking of healthy scratch, it appeared that Kris Versteeg was going to be one tonight, but now it looks like he will be skating on the 3rd line along with Bickell and Brad Richards.  

Starting in net for the Hawks will be Corey Crawford.  Crawford has been on fire and is having his best season with an excellent .924 Save Percentage in 47 games played.  In his 3 career games against the Islanders, Crawford holds an excellent .933 Save Percentage.

After tonight’s game against the Islanders, the Hawks head out and will be back in action tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden as they take on the New York Rangers.  That will be the first game of a 4-game road trip.  One game at a time, though.  Let’s take care of the Islanders and keep taking it one game at a time.  The Hawks are developing a new look and a new swagger and they face a good test tonight.

Go Hawks!