Nov 6, 2015; Newark, NJ, USA; New Jersey Devils defensemanAdam Larsson
(5) congratulates goalieCory Schneider
(35) after their 4-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
Thursday: New Jersey Devils at Chicago Blackhawks, 7:30 p.m. (CSN Chicago)
Yeah, these guys again. They really aren’t anything to be feared. The Blackhawks showed some impressive sleepwalking abilities in New Jersey on Friday, and NHL players are going to take advantage of that. They have a chance for revenge against an opponent that is still readily beatable.
The Devils followed their win against the Blackhawks with a 4-3 triumph against Vancouver on Sunday. They’ll host the Blues tomorrow before traveling to the United Center, so the Devils should be coming in off a loss (wouldn’t mind seeing them come in off a win, though). They have the same number of points as the Blackhawks with one fewer loss to their name.
The story here is still goaltender Cory Schneider, who didn’t have to be great until the waning moments of Friday’s game, when the Blackhawks decided to play better. He’s carrying a .923 save percentage and 2.15 goals-against average into the tilt against St. Louis, and if he’s strong, the Devils at least have a chance to win any given game.
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The first line of Mike Cammalleri–Travis Zajac–Kyle Palmieri can no longer be ignored, as all three players have more than 10 points and have combined for 37. Lee Stempniak somehow has 12 points, one of those gifted to him by Hjalmarsson early Friday, and Adam Henrique is a scoring threat when he isn’t losing fights to Toews. Those are all the players above 10 points, and the rest of the cast has six or fewer apiece. With Joel Quenneville being able to dictate line matchups, the Blackhawks really should roll these guys with their second chance.
Nov 7, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; St. Louis Blues left winger Alexander Steen (20) is hit from behind by Nashville Predators defensemanRyan Ellis
(4) after both players were called for minor penalties during the second period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Saturday: Chicago Blackhawks at St. Louis Blues, 7 p.m. (WGN)
How this game couldn’t find a national telecast, I have no idea. The Blues walloped the Predators 4-0 on Saturday and will take on New Jersey (Tuesday) and the New York Rangers (Thursday) before this rivalry matchup occurs. St. Louis is bound to have high confidence heading in, considering they overcame a 5-2 deficit at the United Center last week.
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Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk returned from his groin injury Saturday to play in just his fourth game for the Blues this season, but they’re still without key pieces in Jaden Schwartz, Paul Stastny and Patrik Berglund. Still, Shattenkirk’s return brings a heavy offensive element to the blue line, so the Blackhawks will need to be aware of that. Jake Allen appears to have taken starting duties from Brian Elliott, and I’d be shocked to see anyone other than Allen in net Saturday unless some sort of injury occurs between now and then.
Considering the Blackhawks have a game against Calgary the day after this, I’d say there’s little chance they’ll be caught looking ahead. Everyone in an Indian Head will want to atone for the massive letdown against this Blues outfit last week, and a thrilling game should be the result.
Nov 7, 2015; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau (13) celebrates his empty net goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Flames won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports
Sunday: Calgary Flames at Chicago Blackhawks, 7:30 p.m. (CSN Chicago)
The Flames have experienced a violent market correction after their stunning playoff berth last season. They have more points than just four teams in the league with 11, having gone 5-9-1 early on. Some of this team’s statistics are amazing, as Kris Russell is already a minus-12 on the year and former Blackhawk Brandon Bollig has amassed 35 penalty minutes in 12 starts. Maybe most disgusting (from the Flames’ perspective): The goaltending triumvirate of Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo and Joni Ortio has combined for an .873 save percentage and a 3.82 goals-against average. Those are mind-bogglingly bad numbers.
And it really helps explain why this team isn’t winning. It does have good offensive pieces in place, as Johnny Gaudreau has 17 points while Jiri Hudler and Michael Frolik each have 11. Sean Monahan also checks in with 10. But we have to remember this team overachieved dramatically last season. The pieces weren’t in place for a Stanley Cup contender, and they still aren’t. Another very beatable opponent for the Blackhawks, even if they’ll be coming off an emotional high against the Blues. Plus, the Flames will be coming off three previous games earlier in the week, so they should be ripe for the picking.
So, how should the Blackhawks fare this week, in my estimation? 2-1-0 is the worst they can manage, but you really don’t want to pile up in-division losses, or any more road losses. A road win against the Blues would really boost the team’s confidence away from the United Center, and we know the Blackhawks could use it. 3-0-0 is the only acceptable outcome this week. The Devils aren’t that good, the Flames are really not good and the Blues can bring out the best in the Blackhawks. We’ll see how it goes.