The Chicago Blackhawks got the job done the last time we used them winning in overtime at Detroit on Wednesday night. They got caught by the surging Colorado Avalanche on Friday but we’ll go with them again in this spot.
The firing of NHL coaching god Joel Quenneville still makes no sense but at this point the Blackhawks have put it in the rear view mirror and are playing some very good hockey. They’re still in last place in the Central Division and 11th place in the Western Conference but they’re definitely moving in the right direction. They’re the only team outside of the top 8 in the West with a winning record in their last ten games so it’s obvious that they haven’t quit on the season.
Chicago will enter this contest having won 9 of their last 12 games and with Patrick Kane in absolutely insane form. When Kane gets hot he’s among the most unstoppable players in hockey and he’s most definitely hot right now. He scored a goal in the loss to Colorado to stretch his consecutive game point streak to 20. Sure, that’s still a gargantuan distance from the ungodly all time record point streak of 51 straight games by the equally ungodly Wayne Gretzky in 1983-1984 but for a team that needed a spark Kane has delivered. It looked like Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov was going to run away with the points title and Alex Ovechkin was going to take home another goal scoring title. Not so fast–Kane is up to 93 points which puts him 7 back of Kucherov and 8 up on Connor McDavid. He’s got 39 goals which leaves him 4 back of Ovechkin and 3 up on Leon Draisaitl and Jeff Skinner. He’s even up to 4th place on the assist leaderboard one up on McJesus, 2 back of Brent Burns and 5 back of Blake Wheeler. It’s doubtful that anyone will run down Kucherov here–he’s got 70 assists on the season.
The Hawks are not without their issues. The defense is awful and that’s on both their goaltending and defensive play. The Blackhawks have allowed 35.3 shots against per game which puts them ahead of only the Ottawa Senators. They’re dead last in both goals against per game (3.73) and on the penalty kill (73.5%). The good news is that they’re a top ten team in scoring (7th place at 3.34 goals per game) and on the power play (7th place at 22.5%).
Dallas has undergone a completely personality transformation from their recent vintage teams. It wasn’t that long ago that Dallas was like a video game hockey team–all offense and sieve-like defense. That’s done a complete 180–now they’re a very solid defensive team that can’t score goals. The Stars allow just 2.60 goals against per game which puts them at #4 in the NHL. They’re very solid on the penalty kill (82.1%) at 7th in the league. They’re middle of the road on the power play (19.9%, 16th) but are 29 out of 31 teams in scoring. Only Los Angeles and Anaheim score fewer goals per game than the Stars.
Dallas is in a bit of a slump winning only 2 of their last 8 games (2-5-1). They’re also one of the teams the Blackhawks are going to have to run down if they’re going to reach the playoffs. Chicago is 4 points back of Dallas and a win here would go a long way toward furthering the Blackhawks improbable playoff run. This is definitely a team that they can just outscore.