The “slump” the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks are in is currently nothing, considering they are still among the favorites to come out of the Western Conference. However, despite a nice win thanks to some smart line changes against a weak Edmonton Oilers team, the Blackhawks embark on a difficult three game stretch, beginning with a matchup against the Colorado Avalanche.
Starting with the top lines, captain Jonathan Toews will have to continue his strong work in leading the team’s core forwards against the Avalanche’s top line led by Paul Stasny. The Avalanche use their top line similarly to the Blackhawks, and as a result are seventh in scoring and 12th in goals allowed per game.
The second line, however, poses the toughest challenge for the Blackhawks and newly promoted center Andrew Shaw. Thanks to Matt Duchene and Nathan Mackinnon, the Avalanche has an on paper advantage, but the Blackhawks will be at home and therefore, last change.
The teams have split the season series with the home team dominating each time, although both clubs are quite evenly matched. Semyon Varlamov will almost certainly be in net, and he is likely to be the difference maker. Varlamov ranks 16thm allowing 2.35 goals per game, and is seventh in the league with a .926 save percentage.
Consistent puck possession will likely determine the Blackhawks’ fate once again. Their recent lack of production is the result of inconsistent puck possession and poor passing, two things the Blackhawks need in order to succeed. If they can establish that early, their chances are strong, but if not, more line switching may be in order.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486