Blackhawks News

Chicago Blackhawks’ Week Ahead Takes A Break

By Colin Likas
Feb 13, 2016; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Boston Bruins forward David Krejci (46) banks the puck off Minnesota Wild forward Nino Niederreiter (22) for a goal in the second period at Xcel Energy Center. The Boston Bruins beat the Minnesota Wild 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 13, 2016; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Boston Bruins forward David Krejci (46) banks the puck off Minnesota Wild forward Nino Niederreiter (22) for a goal in the second period at Xcel Energy Center. The Boston Bruins beat the Minnesota Wild 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports /
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Feb 13, 2016; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mark Arcobello (33) celebrates his goal against Vancouver Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller (30) (not pictured) during the second period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports /

Monday: Toronto Maple Leafs at Chicago Blackhawks, 7:30 p.m. (CSN Chicago, NHL Network)

The Blackhawks have trouble getting up for games against bad teams, specifically against bad Eastern Conference teams. The Maple Leafs are the worst of the worst right now, having supplanted Columbus for the worst mark in the league (though the Leafs have three games in hand on the Blue Jackets). Mike Babcock’s first season in Toronto has gone poorly, with the team achieving 49 points in 54 games. Captain Dion Phaneuf was recently traded to Ottawa (I still think the Leafs got a better deal), and no one can score in Toronto.

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The Leafs’ only All-Star, Leo Komarov, leads the team with 35 points in 54 games, and Tyler Bozak is the only other Leaf over 30 points with 31. Nazem Kadri puts the puck on net a lot (team-leading 194 shots, 65 shots more than anyone else), but he’s currently day to day with an injury. Jame van Riemsdyk is a consistent trade target who isn’t coming to Chicago, and P.A. Parenteau is on his 100th NHL team. Oh, and this team employs Roman Polak and expects him to play meaningful minutes on defense.

James Reimer is the only thing keeping this team from never winning games, posting a .926 save percentage and 2.29 goals-against average. He’s dealt with injuries and only started 27 games as a result, and Jonathan Bernier has been absolutely awful in relief/occasional starting duty (.899, 3.10).

The Leafs actually control play at a 52.1 percent clip across all situations, better than the Blackhawks’ 50.4 percent mark. So what’s the problem? Their offense can’t beat opposing goaltenders, and they just don’t get the puck at the net enough. Despite creating 200 more scoring chances than they’ve allowed this season, the Leafs have averaged almost exactly the same number of shots for as shots allowed (30.7 to 30.5). This is a product of not having strong personnel or a ton of proven scorers. You know a Babcock-led team would have more success in this situation with better personnel.

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Feb 14, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers center Derek Stepan (21) celebrates scoring his second goal during the third period against the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden. New York Rangers won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports /

Wednesday: Chicago Blackhawks at New York Rangers, 7 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)

It’s been awhile since we’ve seen the Rangers, who opened the NHL season with the Blackhawks at the United Center. In what was actually a really good game, the Rangers came away with a 3-2 victory. Things have been fine for the Rangers since, as they boast 70 points in 56 games, good for second in the Metropolitan. That’s been paced by a really strong home record of 21-5-3, much better than their lackluster 11-13-3 road mark. So the Blackhawks will already have something against them in this one.

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However, the Rangers are not a good possession team, controlling play at a 48.3 percent clip across all situations. This is generally erased by the amazing goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist (.924, 2.29), whose stats are somewhat pedestrian due to the team in front of him not preventing a whole lot of chances against. The team is capable of scoring on all four lines, though, which also helps erase the possession issues. Mats Zuccarello is making his case for comeback player of the year after almost dying (literally) in last season’s playoffs. His 43 points pace the club, one ahead of Derick Brassard’s 42. Rick Nash is having a down year with 33 points, but 14 other players have 11 points or more.

The Rangers have many established players, but they’ve sort of been treading water throughout this season. If the Blackhawks can win the possession battle, they’re off to a good start in New York. Then, it’s all about beating Lundqvist.

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Feb 13, 2016; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild forward Mike Reilly (4) celebrates his first NHL goal in the third period against the Boston Bruins at Xcel Energy Center. The Boston Bruins beat the Minnesota Wild 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports /

Sunday: Chicago Blackhawks at Minnesota Wild, Stadium Series game, 2:30 p.m. (NBC)

This game has been strongly hyped for months, but if these two teams continue on their recent trajectories, it may be a bit ugly. Things have gotten particularly disgusting in Minnesota, as the Wild are now being led by John Torchetti, who was an assistant coach with the Blackhawks in the 2010 Stanley Cup season. He takes over for Yeo, who got the ax about a year after it was rumored he’d be getting the ax. Yeo was saved by Devan Dubnyk last season … and that isn’t anywhere close to happening this time around.

Dubnyk has been entirely average at .917/2.39, and this team is only going as far as Dubnyk does. The scoring is balanced but not by any means overwhelming, with Mikko Koivu (37 points), Ryan Suter (35), Thomas Vanek (33) and Zach Parise (32) pacing the club. Ten more players have 10 or more points, but the Wild just haven’t gotten enough pucks into the net. Their on-ice shooting percentage of 8.4 is in the league’s bottom third of teams, and their 49.4 percent possession mark isn’t helping matters either.

This game won’t be one you can break down like any other contest, as it’ll be held outdoors in a raucous atmosphere. This one is going to be more about the spectacle than the product, and the Blackhawks tend to show up to big-feel games. With Minnesota digging itself a major hole, that should be enough.

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