Tonight, the Chicago Blackhawks will face off against a familiar foe in the Dallas Stars. While these two teams faced each other last Saturday night, when the ‘Hawks handled them 5-1, they each have gone out and played one game since them.
The Stars played the Minnesota Wild and beat them — which a lot of teams have been doing lately — 4-3 in overtime Tuesday. In that game, the Stars got their offense back, which went away when they faced the Blackhawks. John Klingberg, who is still really good, had the game-winning goal in overtime to pull the Stars within three points of the ‘Hawks. This point differential that just got smaller needs to get back to a five point gap since the Stars still have the all important three games in hand. The ‘Hawks are coming off a stinker where they lost 2-0 to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.
In case you did not catch the game, the biggest storyline was yet another ‘Hawks goal being disallowed due to goaltender interference. The puck was clearly not kicked in from Brandon Mashinter, but whether Dennis Rasmussen interfered with Martin Jones is a completely different story. I think it is a lot more arguable than Marian Hossa‘s disallowed goal in Arizona, but I think this call could have gone either way. Sure, Logan Couture had some shoving in there, but it did seem like Rasmussen had some time to get out of the way and it did look like he did not let Jones get his glove out.
But it is tough to say. Bottom line from this is that the NHL needs to take a look at this rule, and the replay rule, and make a change because it is starting to get a little ridiculous. Joel Quenneville also said earlier today the NHL did not agree with the on-ice officials’ decision to overturn the goal call. The league had no comment.
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In terms of the rest of the San Jose tilt, the ‘Hawks really did not play a terrible game, to be quite honest. They matched the Sharks in shots on net, dominated the faceoff dot, got in shooting lanes to block more shots than the Sharks and played disciplined hockey as Niklas Hjalmarsson was the only player who obtained a penalty. Where the difference came in was the big gap in the second line without Artemi Panarin, as Teuvo Teravainen did not have that great of a game. I will give him the benefit of the doubt in this one though and say that his chemistry was thrown off with different linemates.
The big surprise from this game for the ‘Hawks was Jiri Sekac. In only about seven minutes of ice time, he managed to get the puck to the net four times. He had a great game as he was playing tough deep in the zone. It will be interesting to see how many shifts and how much ice time he gets in the game against the Stars, as opposed to the San Jose game where he came over the boards 11 times. Keep an eye on it.
The ‘Hawks went 0-3 on the powerplay Tuesday night, which is annoying considering how good the ‘Hawks have been all season with the man advantage. Going into the game against the Sharks, they ranked sixth in the league with a conversion percentage of 20.6. Now, they sit ninth in the league since it dropped to 20.2. Not a big deal, but I mention it to make the point that the ‘Hawks had plenty of chances to get back in this game. They just have to make teams pay for making mistakes.
In the past two seasons, not counting this one, the ‘Hawks have gone 8-6-4 in the month of February. So while it is a record that does not scream “hit the panic button,” it is definitely something to keep in mind as we go through the month of February.
As for the team that never should have changed its logo, the Stars have won three of their last four games, scoring four or more goals in the games they won. The ‘Hawks were able to shut down the potent offense Saturday, mainly because Corey Crawford had a crazy game in which he stopped 37 of 38 shots. The ‘Hawks even managed to get dominated in possession metrics while winning more faceoffs, but Crawford was there to clean up the mess. So hopefullt the ‘Hawks will actually give Crow a bit more help this time. Because as we all know, Crawford can go and easily let up five goals really quickly.
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More recently, the Stars are coming off their win in Minnesota, where I think they are all still mad about Blair Walsh. I personally did not catch much of this game, however, from the numbers it looks like the the Stars really got outplayed, but escaped the State of Hockey with two points. The top line in hockey, consisting of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Patrick Sharp, had back to back overall bad games. So watch for that line to come over the boards tonight to try and get back on track.
Crawford and Keri Lehtonen are both expected to start. Artemi Panarin will also not play again tonight, as he has an illness comparable to the one Jonathan Toews suffered from before the All-Star break.
The ‘Hawks and the Stars will meet two more times after this game, and the series is tied at a win each with the winning team beating the other by four goals each time. The last note on this game is that the ‘Hawks did not practice Wednesday, as Coach Q probably just wanted to calm down all day.
That is all I have for this matchup between two of the league’s best. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. Central on Comcast SportsNet and on 720 WGN in the car if you can’t make it to your TV. As always and until next time, Let’s Go Hawks!