The Chicago Blackhawks will face the Florida Panthers tonight in the first of a two-game series, hosting them at the United Center for the first time this season.
The ‘Hawks will look to end a four-game skid that has seen the team fall off the wagon almost completely. Chicago has won only two of their last nine contests, taking only five out of a possible 18 points. This is definitely a far cry from February, a month that saw the Blackhawks become one of the league’s most pleasant surprises.
One thing that has become clear is that the defense has to be better, both tonight and going forward in general. The ‘Hawks have allowed 104 goals this year, the sixth-most goals against in the league. They need to start finding ways to prevent the puck from going into the net.
This is especially true against the high-flying Florida Panthers. The Cats have had a very productive season this year under former ‘Hawks coach Joel Quenneville. Florida has a .710 point percentage, and beyond that, they know how to score. Just as the Blackhawks have allowed 104 goals this year, the Panthers have scored 104 goals this year. This includes 20 goals scored against Chicago in only four games played this season.
With high-caliber offensive players like Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Patric Hornqvist, the Panthers clearly know how to find the back of the twine, and the ‘Hawks will have to dig deep defensively to stop them. They’ll need young guys like Adam Boqvist to be better than they have been, and their physical side from players like Nikita Zadorov will have to come through in order to prevent goals.
In addition, the ‘Hawks goaltending tandem will have to stand tall as well. Kevin Lankinen has been outstanding all year for Chicago, but he had his first truly poor performance a few games ago against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Assuming he gets the start tonight, Lankinen will hopefully have benefited from a few days of rest and can help carry the ‘Hawks to a victory tonight.
Every aspect of Chicago’s team will have to come through tonight to pull out the victory and grab a win that they desperately need. Find out what happens when the Blackhawks drop the puck against the Florida Panthers tonight at 7 p.m. CST.