This morning I was approached by Michael Marzzacco from Stars and Sticks to do an article on todays matchup between (his) Capitals and (my) Blackhawks. You can read Michael's article by clicking on this paragraph.
In a few hours the Chicago Blackhawks will look to win their third straight (they won back to back games for the first time yesterday by defeating the St. Louis Blues 3-1). Petr Mrazek has done all the heavy lifting in the two victories as he has only allowed 1 goal in his last 6 periods. To put it bluntly, the Blackhawks won both of these tilts based on his excellent play of late.
Luke Richardson has relied heavily on his bottom 6 forward lines. Jason Dickinson has been a revelation, scoring 7 goals in his last 10 games while only playing around 15 minutes a game. It is also noteworthy that his 7 goals and TOI are of the 5 on 5 variety or while on the penalty kill making his usage that of a typical defensive nature.
The other standout (and for me all season) has been Alex Vlasic. At the beginning of the season I was one of the first to sing his praises as an imposing and dependable blue liner. Vlasic has now solidified himself as a top 4 defenseman for the Blackhawks. At 6'6, with great reach, stand up ability, and an improving two-way game it is easy to start penciling him in as a top 4 staple in Chicago for maybe the next decade.
The Capitals come in with 29 points in 24 games and are looking to reach the playoffs in what will likely be one of Alex Ovechkin final seasons. The 38 year old is not having one of his more productive seasons and only has 5 goals in 24 games played. The 1500 point scorer will look to get back on track this evening at the United Center as he faces a young defensive core.
According to Marzzacco, (the Capitals) "are third in the wild card with a 13-8-3 record" and "they're two points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for the second wild card spot". My take on both teams is simple; the Blackhawks are trying to get better while the Capitals are going to fight for their playoff lives all season. To take advantage of the time they have left with their future Hall of Famer is evident in the teams moves of late and I expect a good battle at the United Center tonight.
Will it be three in a row for Chicago or will the Capitals make their punctuation mark on tonight's matchup?
You can read Michael's work over at www.starsandsticks.com.