Blackhawks Look for Fourth Straight Win Against Blue Jackets
After winning three games in a row led by strong goaltending by netminder Corey Crawford, the Chicago Blackhawks look to capture their fourth straight victory when they travel to Columbus and attempt to maintain their dominance over a lowly Blue Jackets team.
This will be the Chicago Blackhawks' sixth meeting with the Blue Jackets this season, with Chicago capturing the first five games and outscoring Columbus 26-9.
Viktor Stalberg has been an absolute menace against the Blue Jackets, scoring 8 goals and one assist for 9 points and is a plus-10 over the five games. Jonathan Toews, Dave Bolland, Marian Hossa and Brent Seabrook all have at least five points a piece in the five games, as Chicago has clearly had little trouble mustering offense against a Columbus team which has struggled to find consistent scoring all year.
After struggling mightily for a few weeks and temporarily handing the starting job over to Ray Emery, Corey Crawford has been sharp of late, only allowing three goals on 58 shots, including stopping all three St. Louis shootout attempts in the Hawks' win on March 13th.
Once again, in a dominating win over the Washington Capitals on Sunday night, the Blackhawks received substantial offensive support from Bryan Bickell and rookie Andrew Shaw, who both registered three points. Patrick Kane also scored, who remains hot with six goals and ten points in his last ten games.
The Hawks have nine games remaining and will most likely need to win at least four of those games to guarantee a playoff spot. They could potentially still make the playoffs without winning that many games, but it's certainly not wise to take that kind of approach heading into the post season.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have not shown much improvement over the course of the season and the trade talks which came to the forefront surrounding the team's franchise player, Rick Nash, has not helped. With the Blue Jackets struggling as it is to score goals, Nash himself has struggled of late and their slide into the basement of the NHL has not slowed down whatsoever.
The Blue Jackets are coming off a 2-1 shootout win over Calgary on Sunday, but are still just 5-5 in their last ten games, have less than mediocre special teams and are still 11 points behind the next worst team in the NHL.
Rick Nash has only amassed 47 points on the season thus far and is the leading scorer for his club. The Blackhawks currently have four players with at least 57 points each on the year. That's how much the Blue Jackets offense has struggled this season.
One of the only bright spots for the Blue Jackets at the moment is the play of goaltender Steve Mason. He's 4-1 in his last five starts and has at least a .93 percent save percentage in four of the last five games. Though it has been a struggle for Columbus all year, putting a string of consecutive wins together could do a lot to build confidence for a club, despite heading into an early off-season.
One of the keys to tonight's game for the Blackhawks is to get their struggling power play in sync and productive again. The Blackhawks are still missing Jonathan Toews and Steve Montador to injury, but have been fortunate to have other players step up, particularly Patrick Kane and the addition of Johnny Oduya to the blue line has helped solidify the back-end.
The Hawks have more than enough firepower and skill to maintain an effective power play and it will be up to Kane, Hossa, Seabrook and Duncan Keith to drag their special teams play out of the mud.
And don't be surprised if they get a little extra help from Viktor Stalberg tonight.