The Chicago Blackhawks managed to salvage 7 of the possible 14 points during the last of the annual Circus Trips, but now the focus has to be on the upcoming schedule
In what has been a rather successful start to the season for the Chicago Blackhawks, there is still a great deal of improvement still needed if the ‘Hawks wish to raise Lord’s Stanley Cup come summertime.
Given the fact the Chicago (14-6-3) finds itself in first place of the Central Division, as well as the entire Western Conference, hopes of a successful playoff run could very well become reality.
The disappointing Florida Panthers (11-10-1) will invade the United Center hoping to spark a turnaround in what has been a struggle to say the least. The firing of head coach Gerard Gallant will almost certainly bring together the struggling team, so the ’Hawks must not belittle the Florida Panthers.
Let’s take a look at three keys to success against Florida tonight.
Special teams must improve
Throughout the early going of the season, the Chicago Blackhawks’ penalty kill was absolutely atrocious, as we have previously discussed here at Blackhawk Up.
However, the PK has improved despite the ‘Hawks still ranking dead last in the league in that category (70.8 percent).
This must continually improve along with generating some scoring on the powerplay. It seems like more and more as you watch the ‘Hawks on the powerplay, it’s 99.9 percent passing and the occasional shot on goal. The puck has to get on net if you want to get goals.
Must improve at the faceoff circle
The loss of captain Jonathan Toews to injury hurts in many areas of the Blackhawks’ game, but the most noticeable is with winning battles at the dot.
This injury has exposed just how thin the Blackhawks truly are at center and, further, how awful most other starting centers are as they enter the faceoff circle.
Artem Anisimov, who has assumed the top-line center role since Toews was hurt, owns a faceoff percentage slightly over 42, whereas Toews boasts the second-best faceoff percentage in the league at 60.3. That’s quite a drop, I’d say! Fellow players must step up in his absence.
Play tight on Florida’s D-men
Although the duo of Aaron Ekblad (6 goals, 0 assists) and Keith Yandle (1 goal, 10 assists) hasn’t been off to the start many assumed it would, the ‘Hawks must not let this be a coming out party. These are two of the most skilled offensive defensemen in the league and should be handled as such. Two puck possession D-men with great scoring touch must be contained.
Expect Florida to come out hard as this is a team that on and off the ice is going through some difficult times, but could be out to prove that it should not be taken lightly. Overall, if the ‘Hawks can stick to their game and the young guys continue to pitch in some great minutes, I feel this should be a Chicago Blackhawks home victory. Prediction: 4-2 ‘Hawks win! Cue the Dagger!