Blackhawks News

Chicago Blackhawks Look for Ninth Straight Win

By Mike Brennan
Dec 29, 2015; Sunrise, FL, USA; Montreal Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty (67) celebrates his goal with defenseman P.K. Subban (76) , left wing Daniel Carr (43) and center David Desharnais (51) in the first period of a game against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 29, 2015; Sunrise, FL, USA; Montreal Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty (67) celebrates his goal with defenseman P.K. Subban (76) , left wing Daniel Carr (43) and center David Desharnais (51) in the first period of a game against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports /
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After extending their win streak to eight straight games, the Chicago Blackhawks will be heading north of the border to Montreal in hopes of extending the streak to nine. This is the first of two meetings for these two teams this year, as the second will come on Sunday night at the United Center. Last season, the Canadiens won both games by a combined score of 9-3.

For the Canadiens, they are dealing with a big loss between the pipes. They are 7-13-1 since their goalie Carey Price went out with an injury in late November. Price was 10-2-0 this season with a .934 save percentage and a 2.06 goals against average, so his loss has been a big hit for the Habs this season. However, they are 3-3-0 in their past six games.

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Whoever is set up to take on the task of defending the Canadiens’ top line will have a tough task all night long. The Habs’ top line of Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher have a combined point total of 87, and a combined plus/minus rating of 16, with Max Pacioretty being the leading scorer on the squad with 17 goals. So needless to say, this line has some of the best offensive production of any line in the league. Look down a little bit to their third line and you will find David Desharnais. He is fifth on the team, of forwards, in points with 21 points on nine goals. It really shows how deep and spread out their scorers are on the team by having Desharnais on the third line. This is a big change of pace for the Canadiens considering their downfall last season was not being able to score in the postseason. Now, they have the 7th most goals in the league with 122 goals through 43 games.

The back end of the Canadiens is led by the all-star P.K. Subban. Subban currently has two goals and 27 assists, and ranks third among all NHL defenseman in the assist category. He is one of the best defenseman in the league, and has been for the past three years or so. He has the speed and skating ability to go deep in the offensive zone with the puck, and get back to shut down the opposing offense going the other way. He can play the role of a skilled shooter, then turn right around and be the player who initiates contact and gets under the skin of opposing players. You could go on and on about the skills of this 26 year old.

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As for the ‘Hawks, they are flying as high as they have ever been this season. Just about everything is clicking for the ‘Hawks as of late. All three lines have been producing, not like earlier in the season when the second line was the only line putting the puck in the net. The defense has been playing much better than they have all season long and Corey Crawford is continuing to have a career year.

The biggest takeaway from the Blackhawks’ win on Tuesday night was the emergence of Andrew Shaw‘s play on the first line. Emergence may not be the word, but it was the first game I have seen all season long where Shaw played the type of game that he needs to play night in and night out. He was not trying to be pretty in the neutral zone and was not trying to play a type of game more catered to skill players like Patrick Kane or Artemi Panarin. He was getting in front of the net and being a pest. His past two games have also made me eat my words. If he continues to play that style without trying to do too much, he will continue to be a perfect fit for the first line, and create space for Jonathon Toews and Marian Hossa.

I also thought it was amazing that Teuvo Teravainen jumped in the second line, and that line did not miss a step all night. They were rotating, getting pucks deep and had the puck on a string all night long, even with the first change of the line since October. This does not at all mean that Joel Quenneville will even think of changing the second line, but Teravainen clearly will fit in nicely until Artem Anisimov is feeling well again.

On that note, Anisimov did not travel with the team to Montreal, so the second line will continue to have Teravainen penciled in. The Blackhawks also did not practice at all on Wednesday, so they will be well rested in the hostile Bell Centre environment.

On the injury list for the Canadiens, it will be goalie Carey Price with a lower-body injury, defenseman Tom Gilbert with a lower-body injury and defenseman Jeff Petry will be a game time decision. For the ‘Hawks, Marcus Kruger is still out with a wrist injury and Artem Anisimov is out with an illness.

Head coach Michel Therrion announced that Mike Condon will be in net for the Habs. After taking over for the fallen Carey Price, Condon is 12-10-3 with a .910 save percentage, and letting in about 2.35 goals per game. Montreal native Corey Crawford is expected to get the nod in goal for the ‘Hawks, after winning his past six starts. On the season, Crawford is 24-10-2 with a .927 save percentage and letting in about 2.20 goals per game.

This tilt can be seen on Comcast Sportsnet locally, NBCSN nationally and as always on 720 WGN in the car. This will be a big test for the red hot Blackhawks. Go ‘Hawks!

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