Blackhawks Aim to Clip Wings
One might say that things are "pretty even" between the Chicago Blackhawks and their division neighbors, the Detroit Red Wings.
They're so even, in fact, that the Blackhawks only hold a slight edge over the Motor City by two points in the standings and Detroit has one game in hand.
The two teams will meet for the third time this season in Detroit tomorrow at 11:30 AM CT, after splitting the first two games this season, both resulting in a final score of 3-2.
Neither team has played exceptionally well over the last ten games - the Hawks have performed at a mediocre 5-4-1, while the Red Wings haven't faired much better at 6-4. Both teams are trying to put space between themselves and each other, along with the other surging western conference teams as we enter the second half of the regular season.
The biggest story for the Chicago Blackhawks has been the impressive play of both rookies Jimmy Hayes and Andrew Shaw.
Hayes, a product of college hockey, has put up 3 goals and 4 points in just 7 games thus far for his club and is likely to continue to contribute as his confidence grows, especially in front of the opposition's net. One thing the Blackhawks could have used more of at the forward position was size, and Hayes certainly has it at 6'6" and 221 lbs.
Shaw, however, may not have the comparable size to Hayes, but he makes up for it with grit and tenacity. He's already put up 2 goals in his 5 games with Chicago so far and there are plenty of games left to be had. Not bad for a 5th round pick.
Chicago will still be without scoring winger Patrick Sharp, but will benefit from the return of Marcus Kruger after sitting out with a concussion. Kruger is visibly gaining confidence with each game, has 10 points in 34 games this season, and is still just 21 years old.
Though the Detroit Red Wings aren't scoring in buckets at the moment, they are finding ways to win by playing hard-working hockey. All of the goals scored against the Hawks in the last matchup against Detroit were a result of hard shots on net that generated rebounds that the Red Wings forwards took advantage of by getting to the "dirty areas" close to the Chicago net.
When you work for your production, your efforts will generally pay off in big ways. Pavel Datsyuk continues to produce and Johan Franzen and Henrik Zetterberg are still offensive forces. The Hawks will have their work cut out for them once again to try and shut down not only the finesse of the talented Red Wings' forwards, but their knack for forcing opposing teams to work their tails off.
Though Chicago currently sits on top of the central division, it's not all sunshine and rainbows amidst the team's gameplay, particularly on defense. There have been a number of instances over the last few games, some that have directly contributed to losses, where the Chicago defense is just leaving its goaltenders out to dry.
Both Corey Crawford and Ray Emery have been solid enough to give their team a chance to win on most nights, but on some nights, the defense has struggled, especially down low. Chicago was much better in their last game against Minnesota, but there were still flashes of the defense getting exposed in similar situations and such exploits cannot continue.
Keep An Eye Out For -
Viktor Stalberg: He has 4 goals in his last 2 games - a hat trick against Columbus and another tally against Minnesota.
Dave Bolland: He has 7 points in his last 5 games, including a 3 point night against Minnesota on Thursday.
Pavel Datsyuk: He was not surprisingly selected for the All-Star game and has 9 points in his last 10 games.
Johan Franzen: "The Mule" has 5 points in his last 5 games.
For the Hawks, Daniel Carcillo was just officially ruled out for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. For Detroit, Todd Bertuzzi and Patrick Eaves are out, but the former could be a game time decision tomorrow.
Tomorrow's game will be televised on NBC and TSN2 at 11:30 AM CT.