As February comes to an end, the Chicago Blackhawks are heading into a tough schedule in March as they will take on some of the better teams in the Discover Central Division, including the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers a combined nine times.
With the toughest month of the Blackhawks’ season just three games away, here’s a closer look at who and what the team will be facing in March.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Starting with the Lightning, Chicago will match up against them on March 4, 5, 7, 18, and 20. In their last meeting in January, the Lightning dominated the Blackhawks in both of the games that were played, scoring a total of 10 goals in the two games that were played.
The Lightning won their first game against the Blackhawks 5-1 on Jan 13, and took game two winning 5-2 on Jan 15.
However, in their first series against the Lightning, the Blackhawks were still figuring out their goaltender situation. Malcolm Subban and Collin Delia started those games, while Kevin Lankinen, who is now the team’s starter, did not make an appearance.
With that said, Subban will likely start against the Lightning in one of the three games that will be played on the 3rd, 4th, or 7th as he looks to bounce back from his last outing on Jan 13, allowing five goals.
The Blackhawks have to do a better job of containing Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos who had a field day against the Blackhawks scoring two goals and three assists in the two-game set. They will also have to be aware of netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy who is arguably the best goalie in the NHL as of now, ranked second behind Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen for most wins with 10.
The next five games against the Lightning should be more competitive as the Blackhawks have improved greatly as a team since their meeting with Tampa Bay back in January.
The Blackhawks play the Stars twice in March, on the 9 and 11. They’ve been successful against Dallas this season, winning in their first two meetings against each other in OT.
The Blackhawks’ first meeting against the Stars came on Feb 7, and their second game on Feb 9 as they took care of business taking both games winning 2-1. The key to success for Chicago is shots on goal as they led in that category in both OT wins against Dallas.
Jason Robertson has done well against Chicago with a goal and an assist in two games, but he has cooled off since. The Blackhawks will also have to keep an eye on Joe Pavelski and John Klingberg as they’ve been leading the offense for their squad season.
Pavelski currently leads his team in all three offensive major categories with nine goals, 10 assists, and 19 points for the Stars this season. Klingberg is also doing everything he can to help his team win games this season with three goals, 10 assists, and 13 points.
I`m expecting to see more of the same from the Blackhawks in their March meeting with the Stars and should be able to take care of business again.
The Blackhawks meet the Panthers four times in March, on the 13 and 15 with another two games on the 23 and 25.
They last played the Panthers in January, losing both games and allowing five goals in each loss. The Blackhawks fell short to the Panthers on Jan 17 losing 5-2 and then went on drop their second game on Jan 19 in OT 5-4.
Right-winger Patric Hornqvist and left-winger Jonathan Huberdeau were both extremely productive against the Blackhawks in their last meetings. Hornqvist finished the series with three goals and four points. Huberdeau scored one goal and also had a total of four points.
I’m excited to see how Chicago matches up with the Panthers this time around as the Blackhawks are much more confident and formulated now.
The Blackhawks will host the Predators at home in March in back-to-back games on the 27 and the 28.
Their last meeting was also back in January when the Predators won in a shootout. Overtime was an issue early on as Chicago lost their first four games that went to extra time. However, they made adjustments and have been quite successful since those four losses. They’ve won four of their last five games that went to OT. That success comes from getting more shots on goal in the extra frame.
The Predators are struggling this season, but Filip Forsberg has been producing solid numbers as he leads the team in all three major offensive categories with nine goals, eight assists, and 17 points. The Blackhawks will want to keep an eye on one of Nashville’s most dangerous players.
I feel good about the Blackhawks’ chances against the Predators this time around as the Blackhawks have fixed their OT issues, and if they end up in a similar situation, they should be just fine.
The Blackhawks will finish March with the first game of their two-game set with the Hurricanes on the 30th. These teams have met three times this season, and the Blackhawks have struggled against them with only one win.
Chicago will have to look out for right-winger Nino Niederreiter who has scored three goals and two assists against the Blackhawks this season.
If the Blackhawks come out of this month still in a playoff spot, we could potentially see them back in the playoffs for the second straight year, and on the other hand, if the Blackhawks struggle, we can all appreciate what this team has accomplished this year and be proud of the growth of their young rookies.
Nimrit Singh is currently finishing up his fourth-year at Humber College in the Bachelor of Journalism program and covers the Chicago Blackhawks for The Hockey Writers.