The Chicago Blackhawks enter this week’s action after picking up three points in their two games over the past weekend. After dropping an overtime matchup with the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, they bounced back Sunday with a quick OT win over the Anaheim Ducks thanks to a classic Jonathan Toews to Patrick Kane game-winner just as extra time began.
The Hawks remain on the West Coast and will take on the San Jose Sharks tonight before heading back home to host the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday. A quick trip to Pittsburgh to face the Penguins opens the weekend, followed by a home game on Sunday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Still looking for a rhythm this season, the Blackhawks have an opportunity to pad their point total during the next few games with some struggling opponents, poised in the middle of the pack and shorthanded due to injury.
Tuesday, Nov. 5 @ Sharks
Like the Blackhawks, the Sharks are also off to a rough start to their season, having gone just 4-10-1 through their first 15 games and dropping their last five games. Last season, the San Jose offense was one of the best in the league, but this season is one of the worst. They are averaging just 1.73 goals-per-game (GPG) in the 11 losses, compared to 4.25 GPG in their four wins. In their last five games, they have tallied just an average of 1.6 GPG.
San Jose is coming off a 5-2 home loss to the Canucks. Marc-Edouard Vlasic tallied his second goal of the season while Evander Kane notched his eighth goal of the year. In net, Aaron Dell allowed 5 goals in 28 shot attempts dropping his season mark to 2-3, with a 3.83 goals against average (GAA). Martin Jones shares time between the pipes with Dell, but isn’t putting up much better of a showing with a 2-8 record, and a 3.52 GAA.
The Sharks are currently ranked 27th in the league in scoring, with just 2.40 GPG and sit 28th in the league in goals allowed with a 3.73 GPG. With the Sharks struggling as they are, the Blackhawks will have an opportunity to cap their road trip on a high note with a chance to put together a decent string of points.
PREDICTION: Blackhawks 4, Sharks 0
Thursday, Nov. 7 vs. Canucks
The return home won’t be an easy one for the Blackhawks as they welcome the Canucks to United Center ice. Vancouver is playing solid hockey, entering the week in second place in the Pacific Division with a 9-3-2 record, having posted wins in 9 of 12 outings since opening the season with consecutive losses.
Entering the week, the Canucks hold a 3.64 GPG average, ranking third in the NHL in scoring. They are tied for fourth in defense with 2.35 goals allowed and third in penalty killing with an 88.2 percentage. They are also ninth on the power play with a 23.3 percent conversion rate.
Keeping center Elias Pettersson in check will be a tall task for the Hawks. Pettersson moved up to the sixth spot in the league in scoring with his 20th point of the season after tallying nine points in four games during play this past week, including consecutive outings with three or more points.
To add to that, the Blackhawks will have to deal with the Canucks’ face-off success, currently ranking second-best in the league at 54.6 percent. The Hawks will struggle to keep things close with Vancouver, who in a league of tight games and rampant overtime are tied for the lead in the NHL for best goal differential with a plus-19 mark.
PREDICTION: Canucks 3, Blackhawks 1
Saturday, Nov. 9 @ Penguins
The Penguins are currently sitting on 17 points, good for a fourth-place slot in the Metropolitan Division. After a tough 2-1 home loss to Edmonton on Saturday, the Pens took to the ice against the Boston Bruins for a Monday night contest and left Beantown with a 6-4 loss.
Sidney Crosby once again leads the Penguins offensively, and continues to look in top-form this season. He already boasts 17 points, with 5 goals and 12 assists through the first 15 games of the regular season and continues to be an impact player.
The Pens will likely be without the services of Kris Letang. Pittsburgh’s top defenseman left the Boston game in the third period because of an undisclosed injury, leaving the ice during his final shift with just over 13 minutes remaining in regulation. Letang is one of the NHL’s leaders in ice time, averaging an even 25 minutes a game this season and his status right now is questionable.
Having already placed forward Patric Hornqvist on injured reserve Saturday, the loss of Letang leaves the Pens vulnerable to the Blackhawks streaky offense. If the pistons are firing for the Hawks’ young guns, there’s a chance they could snag a Saturday evening road win in Pittsburgh.
PREDICTION: Blackhawks 3, Penguins 2
Sunday, Nov 10 vs. Maple Leafs
Saturday’s 11-round shootout victory over the Philadelphia Flyers snapped a two-game skid by the Maple Leafs, keeping them in the hunt in the Atlantic Division standings just seven points behind the Boston Bruins.
Offensively, Toronto has played well, averaging 3.47 goals per game, ranking seventh in the league. Their four goals in the victory over the Flyers game by way of Auston Matthews two-goal showing, including a tally on the power-play.
Ranking third in the league with 11 goals, Matthews will need to be the focus of the Blackhawks defense and is key to keeping the Leafs offense in check. Mitch Marner is also a threat, posting 13 assists and 17 points for Toronto, and is on a hot streak with one goal and four assists in their last five games.
PREDICTION: Maple Leafs 3, Blackhawks 1
Scott brings several years of local hockey coverage with the Kankakee Daily Journal to the Hockey Writers, along with coverage of NCAA Hockey, Softball, Basketball, and Soccer with HEROSports. He is also a regular contributor to FloSoftball and Coach & Athletic Director Magazine.