Mar 6, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad (20) skates with the puck against Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Nathan Horton (8) during the third period at the United Center. Chicago defeats Columbus 6-1. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
What is it with the Chicago Blackhawks? Why is it that when they play a team that is clearly inferior to them it ends up being the Blackhawks who look inferior? It’s a not very cool magic trick that they need to stop doing. Hopefully, they stop it tonight when they take on the Columbus Blue Jackets.
This will be the 2nd and final matchup of the season between the Hawks and Blue Jackets. The Jackets won the previous matchup in Columbus back on December 20th by way of a 9-round shootout. Tonight’s game will be in Chicago and puck drop is set for 7:30 PM Central Time. You can catch tonight’s game on CSN-Chicago and you can hear it on WGN 720 AM.
Here’s a statistical breakdown of the Hawks and Blue Jackets.
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Offensively, the Hawks have fallen to being below average but tonight they face a Blue Jackets defense that is near the bottom of the league.
Defensively, the Hawks are still in the elite class and tonight they will be tasked with shutting down a sub-par Columbus offense.
On the Power Play, the Hawks are overall a bit below average and tonight they face a Jackets Penalty Kill that is close to the bottom of the league rankings.
For the Hawks, the Penalty Kill can still be considered elite but tonight they will be without Joakim Nordstrom and they will face the Blue Jackets’ elite Power Play.
In the faceoff circle, the Hawks have been very good overall and tonight they will be taking draws against a Columbus team that is below average.
In terms of puck-possession, the Hawks are overall very good but have been struggling lately. They should do well tonight as the Jackets are one of the worst possession teams in the league.
Once again, the Hawks hold a big paper advantage. Sadly and weirdly things don’t always turn out well for the Hawks when they are supposed to win. They have the pieces in place to play up to what their numbers say and then some. Even without Patrick Kane, but for some reason they aren’t doing it. Simply put they need to hog the puck like they are known to do. That is why and how they win. Once they do that, the goal will start coming again. Hopefully.
The Blue Jackets are 34-35-4 with 72 points, which is good for 7th place in the Metropolitan Division. They are far from playoff contention but are riding a 4-game winning streak and have also won their last 6 road games.
Nick Foligno leads the Blue Jackets in points and is in the top-20 in the NHL in goals scored. Ryan Johansen is the main guy who makes things happen for Columbus, offensively. Johansen has 63 points in 73 games played, including 6 in his last 5. Scott Hartnell is coming off of a hat-trick in the previous game, which was a victory over the Anaheim Ducks. Columbus will be welcoming back Brandon Dubinsky, who is their best puck possession forward.
Starting in net for the Blue Jackets will likely be Sergei Bobrovsky. Bobrovsky, the 2012-2013 Vezina Trophy winner, is having an okay season with a .916 Save Percentage in 43 games played. In 5 career games against the Hawks, Bobrovsky has a very good .929 Save Percentage.
The Hawks are 44-23-6 with 94 points, which is good for 3rd place in the Central Division. Currently, they are 6 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(who have played 1 more game than the Hawks) and only 3 points ahead of the 4th place Minnesota Wild(who have played 1 more game than the Hawks).
Kris Versteeg will be skating on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. All three of those need a rebound game. Brad Richards is centering the 2nd line with Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp as the wings. Richards and Sharp have played very well lately and hopefully they kickstart Saad.
Antoine Vermette is centering the 3rd line with Bryan Bickell and Teuvo Teravainen along his side. Look for this line to make some noise tonight as they will see some good offensive opportunities. Andrew Desjardins will replace Nordstrom on the 4th line with Marcus Kruger and Andrew Shaw.
Starting in net for the Hawks will either be Corey Crawford or Scott Darling. With back-to-backs games coming up on Sunday and Monday against the Winnipeg Jets and Los Angeles Kings, it wouldn’t be surprising if Coach Q went with Darling tonight and Crawford for both of the back-to-backs.
Every time the Hawks have no excuses to lose, they tend to go out and lose it seems. Let’s change that tonight and start moving back up the Central Division ladder.