The NHL schedule is similar for every team with road trips, homestands and varying difficulty all being a part of the ebb and flow that goes into an 82-game season. For the Chicago Blackhawks, however, nobody within the organization could have imagined that going into what is arguably the most difficult portion of the schedule the perennial favorite for a Stanley Cup would be on a four-game losing streak.
The Blackhawks embarked on their six-game road trip before the Olympic Break in need of capturing momentum, and have failed to do so losing to both the Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames, the 12 and 13 seeds in the Western Conference respectively.
Tonight against the Vancouver Canucks, however, there should be a sense of resiliency that has not been needed at any point this season. The Blackhawks’ backs are now firmly cemented against the wall, and the team seemed lethargic at best last night in Calgary.
For better or worse, tonight’s matchup against Vancouver serves as a formidable measuring stick. The Canucks are not flashy in any sense and in a bit of a downturn themselves having gone 4-5-1 in their last ten contests. To go along with that, they are 3-6 in shootouts, meaning the Blackhawks should not be worried if the contest goes into overtime or beyond.
Vancouver is also without Henrik Sedin, who is unlikely to play once again, and lacks an offensive punch without him in the lineup. For the Blackhawks to be successful, the top line led by Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews needs to put together another solid performance offensively and defensively. Last night in Calgary, the Blackhawks were abused on odd-man rushes and will not win if they do the same again.
Corey Crawford will also need to be huge in net. Not much has been needed out of Crawford thus far, but as the Blackhawks have slumped offensively Crawford has yet to step up. After relieving Antti Raanta during what was supposed to be his rest day last night, Crawford is likely to be in net again tonight.
That will make it 90-plus minutes of ice time in a little over 24 hours for a goaltender who has regressed towards normalcy so far this season. Against an excellent Vancouver penalty kill and above average defense, expect the Blackhawks’ offense to only be able to do so much. Corey Crawford will have to keep the Blackhawks in this game.
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