Blackhawks to finish their Florida road trip against Tampa Bay
The Blackhawks continue their Florida road trip on Thursday with a match-up against the Tampa Bay Lightning. It’ll be their second and last game against Steven Stamkos’ team.
The Ligntning (5-3-0) are currently enjoying a 7-game homestand that has been good for them, with 3 wins against 2 losses. The Blackhawks (6-1-2) are coming in with a 2-win streak, and will look to keep it going, for themselves and also for their mothers, who are accompanying players and staff during this road trip.
But the Blackhawks have suffered some difficulties, mainly in retaining a lead in the 3rd period. Tampa Bay took advantage of it during their first game against Chicago, scoring 2 goals in the 3rd period to send the game into overtime and win the extra point in the shootout.
The Lightning currently sit 4th in the Atlantic division, 6th in the East, while the Blackhawks are 2nd in the Central division and 4th in the West.
Hot or Not
Since moving Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell to the 2nd and 3rd lines respectively, where they were last season, the production and effectiveness of the team’s forwards has been increasing. It was plainly illustrated in the last game, with both Jonathan Toews and Bickell scoring goals.
Nikolai Khabibulin will start for the Blackhawks. It’ll be his second start of the season back with the Blackhawks; he was their starter goalie from 2005-06 to 2008-09 and was signed again this summer after 4 years with the Edmonton Oilers. His first start was a win against the New-York Islanders where he saved 17 of 19 shots, for a .895 sv%.
The penalty kill is still a work in progress for the Blackhawks. Last season, their penalty kill ranked 3rd in the league, and the PK% was at a stellar 87.2%, strong from the very beginning of the season thanks to penalty killers like Michael Frolik and Marcus Kruger. This season, the PK% is at 74.1%, 28th in the league with only Edmonton and Calgary trailing behind. However, they have been steadily improving their penalty killing, only allowing 2 goals for the last 12 penalties they’ve taken.
Ben Bishop has had a very strong start of the season for the Lightning. He’s started in 6 games and got the W for 5 of them, earning himself a very solid .936 sv%.
Steven Stamkos, the star forward of the Tampa Bay Lightning, had a 4-game points streak that was stopped short against the Boston Bruins on October 19th, a game that the Lightning lost 5-0. But he’s already scored a hat trick against the Florida Panthers on October 10th, and has 10 points to his name - 4 more than Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, who lead the Blackhawks in points.
Right behind Stamkos and leading the team in assists is his linemate and captain, Martin St Louis. The 2013-14 Art Ross winner is back to logging big minutes after missing one game with a lower-body injury. He hasn’t got a point in the past two games and will look to get on the scoreboard. With 922 career points, St Louis is one point behind Neal Broten on the NHL all-time’s points list.
Jonathan Toews, captain of the Blackhawks, told CSN’s Tracey Myers after the win against the Panthers: “We just have to find a way to be more frustrating to play against. We’re maybe trying to create too much and not playing smart and giving up goals late in games. We’ll learn from that.”
What to expect
The Lightning plays fast, and they shoot a lot, but the Blackhawks defense has no issues blocking shots. They are two fast teams, who rely on skill more than their physicality. The Blackhawks are going to push hard for a win in regulation.
Their first match-up was a tense, fast-paced affair, and this one shouldn’t be different.
Game time is 6:30 p.m. CT and can be seen live on CSN-CH and SUN.