Entering Sunday’s contest with the Detroit Red Wings, the Chicago Blackhawks had won five of their last seven games and needing to rebound from a back-and-forth, 7-5 loss Thursday night at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks. After a slow start, the Blackhawks responded, however, Robin Lehner’s status was up in the air.
It looked as if their ugly defensive play during the second half of that loss was going to carry over to the United Center ice when the Hawks found themselves in an early 2-0 hole after the first period. But the home team managed to post four unanswered goals over the next two frames against Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard to come away with a 4-2 home win.
The Blackhawks entered the matchup with the Canucks riding a three-game win streak, capped by a 5-3 win Tuesday night over the Calgary Flames.
Here’s how it all happened…
Reviewing the Past Week
Blackhawks 5, Flames 3 – Tuesday, Dec. 31
The Blackhawks closed 2019 at Scotiabank Saddledome and left with a 5-3 win over the Flames, marking their first victory over Calgary since November of 2016.
Dylan Strome, Alex DeBrincat, Olli Maatta and Patrick Kane scored for the Blackhawks, while Lehner saved 41 of the 44 shots he saw to tally his sixth-straight win. Kane notched four points in the game, adding an assist to his two-goal showing to lead the Hawks to their fourth-straight road win, and sixth win in eight games.
Canucks 7, Blackhawks 5 – Thursday, Jan. 2
Kane scored a pair of goals and Dominik Kubalik had three assists, but it wasn’t enough for the Blackhawks to shake off an ugly defensive performance in a 7-5 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, snapping the Hawks four-game road winning streak.
After falling behind early in the opening period, Connor Murphy tied it up with a goal at the 14-minute mark. The Canucks jumped back in front at the 2:48 mark of the second period, but the Blackhawks tallied three goals in a 4:02 span to take a 4-2 lead with goals from David Kampf, Adam Boqvist and Jonathan Toews. The Canucks rallied with three unanswered goals to take a 5-4 lead when Kubalik tied it up at 5-5 at 13:44 in the third period. Two minutes later, Adam Guadette’s wrister got past Lehner for the game-winner at 15:49 and Bo Horvat added an empty netter with nine seconds left to seal the win for the Canucks.
In net, Lehner made 30 saves on 36 shots and took his first loss in seven games, sustaining a right leg injury during the third period while remaining in net. He sat out of Monday’s practice and it appears his injury isn’t serious. Head coach Jeremy Colliton told the Chicago Tribune’s Jimmy Greenfield that Lehner is “Day to day and we’ll see when he gets on the ice. Hopefully soon.”
Blackhawks 4, Red Wings 2, Sunday, Jan. 5
After the Blackhawks fell behind 2-0 in the first period, four unanswered goals from Boqvist, Strome, Kubalik and Dylan Sikura sealed the home win for the Blackhawks on Sunday night. Sikura’s was the first NHL tally of his young career.
In net, Corey Crawford made 19 saves on 21 shots to lead the Hawks to their sixth win in eight games, moving their home record to 10-9-3 on the season.
And here is what’s next….
Blackhawks Upcoming Week
Tuesday, Jan. 7 vs. Flames
The Flames are now 22-17-5 on the season after a 5-4 win over the Minnesota Wild on Sunday night, and are tied with the Edmonton Oilers for fourth place in the Pacific Division with 49 points. The Flames feature a spread around offense led by Matthew Tkachuk’s 36 points while Elias Lindholm leading the team with 16 goals. Johnny Gaudreau leads the team in assists with 24.
The Blackhawks offense will need to kick up its game to get past Flames netminder Cam Talbot. Talbot currently has a 2.75 goals against average and a .913 save percentage.
Both Tkachuk and defenseman Mark Giordano have both been selected to play in this year’s All-Star Game.
PREDICTION: Blackhawks 3, Flames 1
Thursday, Jan. 9 vs. Predators
After a shootout loss to the Anaheim Ducks over the weekend, the Predators enter the week with a 19-15-6 record on the season and are currently sixth in the Central Division with 45 points.
Defender Roman Josi, currently the only player on the Nashville roster to be selected for the NHL All-Star game, leads the Preds offense in scoring with 14 goals and 30 assists to total 44 points on the stat-sheet. Pekka Rinne remains the Predators stalwart in net, currently with a 2.98 goals against average and an .896 save percentage.
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Nashville posted back-to-back shutout wins over the Blackhawks early in the season, but the Hawks stepped up their offensive attack in their third matchup to top the Preds 7-2 and will look to even the season series on home ice on Thursday.
PREDICTION: Predators 4, Blackhawks 1
Saturday, Jan. 11 vs. Ducks
The Ducks are struggling after dropping games to the Philadelphia Flyers, Vegas Golden Knights and Arizona Coyotes earlier in the week. They managed to get in the win column with a 5-4 win over the Predators on Sunday, but the string of losses dropped the Ducks’ record to 17-20-5.
Jakob Silfverberg leads the Ducks’ offensive charge with 15 goals and 28 points, while Ryan Getzlaf leads the club with 18 assists. In net, John Gibson and Ryan Miller share duties. Gibson boasts a 2.95 goals against average and Miller has allowed 3.21 goals per game.
The Ducks have the third-fewest goals scored in the NHL and only have a middle-of-the-pack defense leaving them in sixth place in the Pacific Division, just one point away out of last place. If the Blackhawks can shake their habit of playing down to lesser opponents, this should be a weekend win for the home team.
PREDICTION: Blackhawks 2, Ducks 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.