Chicago Blackhawks at San Jose Sharks Game Preview
In the same way that one loss does not create a slump, one win does not necessarily exempt a team from one. Although the Chicago Blackhawks certainly looked impressive in their victory against the Vancouver Canucks, the team at one point trailed 2-0 and has still lost four of their last five.
There is, of course, a sense of optimism despite the Blackhawks’ sluggish play as of late. The team is still a serious contender for the NHL’s Western Conference Central Division, and has already rebounded well earlier this year when out west on a road trip. After losing to the Colorado Avalanche to open the annual circus trip, the Blackhawks fired off six consecutive victories.
During that stretch, however, the Blackhawks did not face the San Jose Sharks, as they are set to do so tomorrow night. Despite a bevy of injuries to a variety of players including Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl, the Sharks are 6-4 in their last 10 contests and still find themselves fourth in the Western Conference.
The Sharks also hold the second best home record in the NHL, having only lost three times in regulation so far. A large part of this can be attributed to goaltender Antti Niemi, who ranks 12th in goals allowed per game and eighth in overall saves.
San Jose is built very much like the Blackhawks, but will have a hard time establishing tempo thanks to missing physicality in the form of Adam Burish and Raffi Torres. For the Blackhawks to take advantage of this, they will have to display the same early intensity that gained them hard wins earlier in January.
Once again, for the Blackhawks, it starts from the top down. Marian Hossa has a point in eight of his last 10 games, and has a knack for taking over big games early. Energy is contagious, and the second line could certainly use some from Patrick Kane, who has two goals in his last five games, but has not been firing the puck at the net as much as fans are accustomed to.
San Jose is going to come out wanting to establish its own puck possession, limiting the Blackhawks and using the last change to create difficult matchups. If Chicago is going to find any form of success, it will likely have to come early, and it will likely have to come from the top six forwards.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486