Things are starting to get interesting for Chicago Blackhawks fans. While there appears to be signs of life, and with a shift in approach for their offensive scheme, head coach Jeremy Colliton may have made the move needed to finally get the ball rolling.
“We made a conscious effort to be a bit looser when the puck turned over, so we could create more out of D zone in transition and I think it’s helped,” Colliton said following Sunday’s 5-4 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“There’s been a lot more plays available for us. Probably closer to how it looked last year, as far as our ability to make plays out of D-zone and through the neutral zone, and probably fits our top guys — and you can see, they’re coming to life. It’s good to see. Doesn’t mean that the defensive side won’t be a continued emphasis, because you’ve got to keep the puck out of your net to win, and when you get up like we did, would’ve loved to control the game.”
It’s seemed to have worked (so far anyway), as the Blackhawks have scored 12 goals in their last three games and are 2-0-1 over the span. But to keep things moving, they will need to step up facing a pair of tough road opponents. They open their week on Wednesday against the Vegas Golden Knights, followed by a Saturday evening matchup against the Nashville Predators. The week caps off with a Sunday evening when they host the struggling Buffalo Sabres at the United Center.
Wednesday, Nov. 13 @ Golden Knights
The Golden Knights came off a win over the Blue Jackets at Columbus and a near-miss over the Toronto Maple Leafs early last week, only to follow that with a pair dismal road showings against the Washington Capitals and Detroit Red Wings.
With the hiccup, the Golden Knights remain at 21 points through 19 games and now are fifth in the Pacific Division.
The Golden Knights have a pair of impressive scoring lines that the Blackhawks defense will need to handle. Their top line of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith and second grouping of Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny and Mark Stone contain two of the top defensive forwards in the league in Karlsson and Stone.
With a goal during Sunday’s loss to the Red Wings, Pacioretty now has four goals in his past five games. The Golden Knights haven’t been able to capitalize on his surge, as they are now 1-3-2 when he scores a goal this season. During Pacioretty’s scoring stretch his linemates have been stifled, with Stastny silent and Stone pointless in the last four consecutive games.
PREDICTION: Blackhawks 3, Golden Knights 2
Saturday, Nov. 16 @ Predators
The Predators will look to Saturday’s matchup with the Blackhawks to recover from a 5-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday.
Entering Saturday’s contest, the Preds are scoring at a 3.8 goals per game clip on the season, and had converted 20.6% of their power play opportunities. Defensively, they’ve killed off 75.0% of their opponents man-advantage opportunities and have allowed 3.17 goals per game.
Watch for the Blackhawks defense to try and keep Predators winger Filip Forsberg in check. Despite missing six games due to an undisclosed injury, the Preds alternate captain has nine goals on the season and with 64 games left he has a legitimate shot at tallying 40.
Without a multi-goal game yet this season, Forsberg needs to be watched closely by the Hawks defenders. He has averaged four multi-goal games per year for the past four seasons and tallied six in 2018-19, so he’s due.
PREDICTION: Predators 4, Blackhawks 2
Sunday, Nov. 17 vs. Sabres
The Sabres got off to a hot start and sparked some excitement. After their first 10 games, they were 8-1-1 and perched on top of the NHL, a point in front of the Capitals.
Through 17 games, they have a record of 9-6-2, and with 20 points have fallen to 10th place in the Eastern Conference. The 1-5-1 skid has been a result of scoring just 12 goals through those seven games.
New head coach Ralph Krueger will need to do something to get production back. Since that great start, the top line of Johan Larsson, Kyle Okposo and Zemgus Girgensons have combined for no goals and one assist while the line of Casey Mittelstadt, Jimmy Vesey and Conor Sheary has failed to produce at all during the stretch.
The Sabres’ struggles present another opportunity for the Blackhawks to take their new approach out for a spin, and hopefully cap a week with some positive results.