The NHL season is coming to an end, with all teams having their strengths and weakness on display for the world to see. At this point in the season, it has become clear that the Chicago Blackhawks struggle against their own division; namely the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche.
Colorado has been the hottest team in the NHL since the New Year, and has won five of their last six games. Their offense runs on getting high quality chances, scoring 3.02 goals per game despite ranking 21st in the NHL in shots.
Nonetheless, the Blackhawks will send out Antti Raanta, who has not played in what seems like forever, thanks to the Olympic break. Recall that Raanta’s last start, January 28th, ended with him getting pulled during the second period. Over Raanta’s last four starts he certainly regressed, exemplified by a .864 save percentage. Nonetheless, Raanta was in net for the Blackhawks’ lone win against the Avs this season, although he only had to face 18 shots.
Since returning from the Olympics, Blackhawks’ Captain Jonathan Toews has scored seven points, including six goals, in the last five games. With Marian Hossa still sidelined, Toews has become the force the team needed him to be, and has performed excellently in front of the net. The Blackhawks’ first line sets the tempo for the game, ideally through puck possession.
On the Avalanche end: both Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene have been excellent, and both could match up against the Toews line, especially considering the Blackhawks will have last change. That puts extra pressure on the Blackhawks’ fourth-line forwards, especially considering Colorado’s lack of depth due to injury.
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