Blackhawks

Breaking down all seven Blackhawks opponents going into season-long homestand

Breaking down all seven Blackhawks opponents going into season-long homestand

After kicking off the season in Prague, the Blackhawks are back in Chicago and preparing for a seven-game homestand, which is their longest of the season. And it serves as a really good opportunity to start off the first month on a positive note.

All training camp long the Blackhawks have talked about getting off to a strong start because digging a hole is difficult to crawl out of in the Central Division. They saw it last year when they went through two eight-game losing streaks before the calendar reached mid-December.

"I think it gives us some motivation knowing we have seven home games coming up here," Patrick Kane said. "Take advantage of the start to the season and try to get hot."

Let's take a look at all seven opponents on the slate and how each of them has fared through the first week of the 2019-20 campaign:

Thursday, Oct. 10 vs. San Jose

The Sharks are 0-4-0 to start the season, have a league-worst -12 goal differential and are averaging 4.50 goals against per game. This is not how they envisioned the start of October going. 

Goaltending will be a question mark all season long for the Sharks. They have an .871 save percentage at 5-on-5 through four games, which ranks second-worst, according to Natural Stat Trick. The 4.3 shooting percentage is the one that's likely to correct itself first.

Patrick Marleau signed a one-year contract with the Sharks on Tuesday, but it's unclear whether he'll draw into the lineup for Thursday's game.

Saturday, Oct. 12 vs. Winnipeg

The Jets' blue line is absolutely decimated. Ben Chiarot and Tyler Myers walked as unrestricted free agents. Jacob Trouba was traded for Neal Pionk. Dustin Byfuglien remains out as he contemplates retirement. Josh Morrissey has missed the last two games with an upper-body injury. And Dmitry Kulikov was granted a leave of absence as he tends to a personal matter.

Former Blackhawks defenseman Carl Dahlstrom, who was claimed off waivers before the season started, finished second among all skaters with 24:19 of ice time in the Jets' 4-1 win over Pittsburgh on Wednesday. That's where things are at in Winnipeg.

Monday, Oct. 14 vs. Edmonton

The Oilers were projected to miss the playoffs by many experts, but they've gotten off to a roaring 3-0-0 start. While they're recording the third-fewest shots on goal per game (26.7), they rank No. 2 in goals per game (4.67). Their team shooting percentage in all situations is 17.5, which is unsustainable over the course of an 82-game season, but all that matters right now is the fact that it's translated into earning six out of a possible six points to open the season.

James Neal leads the NHL with six goals, four of which came in Wednesday's game against the New York Islanders. He had seven goals total in 63 games last season with Calgary. 

Friday, Oct. 18 vs. Columbus

The Blue Jackets had the roughest offseason out of any team. They lost two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky, two-time 80-point scorer Artemi Panarin, All-Star Matt Duchene and another two-time 20-goal scorer in Ryan Dzingel. And got nothing in return.

John Tortorella-coached teams will always be difficult to play against, but they don't have nearly the amount of firepower they had last season. They're 1-2-0 with a -7 goal differential, which ranks last in the Eastern Conference.

Sunday, Oct. 20 vs. Washington

The Capitals have played four games so far and they have yet to lose a game in regulation. They're 2-0-2 and are giving up an average of only 25.5 shots against per game. They're also the league's best puck possession team, controlling 59.8 percent of the even-strength shot attempts.

But their goal differential is oddly 0, so they're not necessarily blowing teams out of the water. Still, this will be a difficult challenge for the Blackhawks and Evgeny Kuznetsov is back after a three-game suspension to start the season, which doesn't make things any easier.

Tuesday, Oct. 22 vs. Vegas

Arguably the top team in the Western Conference, the Golden Knights are a well-oiled machine and this might be the biggest test out of the entire homestand. They can score, they can defend, they're deep and they are tied for a league-best +6 goal differential.

The Golden Knights are 2-1-0 and rank in the Top 10 in goals per game (4.00), fewest goals against (2.00), power play percentage (30.0) and penalty kill (92.3). They've picked up right where they left off last season.

Thursday, Oct. 24 vs. Philadelphia

To wrap up the homestand, the Blackhawks have a chance to get a little bit of revenge on the Flyers, who took over in the second period and handed Chicago a 4-3 loss in the season opener overseas.

In the first meeting, the Flyers led in shot attempts (67-49), shots on goal (39-31), even-strength scoring chances (33-16) and even-strength high-danger chances (13-5). The Blackhawks are looking to flip-flop those numbers in the second meeting, and most importantly, the result too.

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Are the Blackhawks a playoff team?

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USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Are the Blackhawks a playoff team?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Adam Burish and Charlie Roumeliotis break down the loss to the Hurricanes, possible changes to the power play, and how Charlie may be partially responsible for Erik Gustafsson's goal scoring streak.

01:30 Looking at the loss to the Hurricanes

05:00 On coming to Kane's defense after hard hit late in the game

06:30 Lehner's assessment of the team

08:30 Are the Blackhawks a playoff team?

11:00 Should there be changes to the Blackhawks power play

13:30 Gustafsson and other defensemen generating offense

19:00 Is great goaltending masking some of the team's offensive problems

22:00 Adam's favorite moments from his honeymoon's travels

24:30 Charlie's gambling adventures in Las Vegas

Listen here or in the embedded player below. 

 

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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Four takeaways: Blackhawks make late push but fall to Hurricanes

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USA Today

Four takeaways: Blackhawks make late push but fall to Hurricanes

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes at the United Center on Tuesday:

1. Winning streak comes to a halt

The Blackhawks had picked up at least a point in eight of their past nine games and had the second-most points out of any team in November going into Tuesday's matchup. But they laid an egg against the Hurricanes, at least for the first 40 minutes.

The Hurricanes dominated the Blackhawks in every offensive category through two periods, including shot attempts (48-33), shots on goal (27-12), even-strength scoring chances (24-13) and even-strength high-danger chances (9-3), according to Natural Stat Trick. They also scored the first three goals of the game.

The Blackhawks made a big push in the third period by outshooting the Hurricanes 20-6 and scoring two goals in a span of 1:10, but they couldn't get that third one.

"Two bad periods, one good one," Lehner said. "We've been playing pretty good. Just gotta go win the next one. Don't lose two in a row. We're fine. We're fine. Everyone's just got to be a little bit better. I let in a bad goal and bad timing on the second one. Got a little bit unlucky. We've just got to try to get that push and we had a push. Unfortunately we couldn't tie it up."

2. A slow start

After scoring the first two goals in five of the past six games, the Blackhawks got off to a slow start and dug themselves too big of a hole to overcome. They registered only four shots on goal in the first period and allowed the Hurricanes to score three straight to open the game, with the second goal coming 53 seconds into the middle frame.

The first goal of the game came on a 2-on-0 in which Lehner had no chance of stopping. It could've been a much more lopsided first period on the scoresheet, with the Hurricanes generating 13 scoring chances to the Blackhawks' three.

"Obviously, disappointed in the first two periods, the result of the game of course, but we didn't have a good start and I thought we got worse in the second so that was disappointing," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I liked that we didn't quit, that was a positive, and I liked that we showed some fight in the third and we got going and put a scare into them.

"But it's frustrating because we showed that was a winnable game if we played, if we turned on a little bit earlier. We've had a good stretch and that was a setback and now we've got to respond on Thursday."

3. Too little, too late

Since the calendar flipped to November, no team had scored more goals than the Blackhawks (36) going into Tuesday. They had 21 goals in their previous four contests for an average of 5.25 goals per game.

It didn't look like the Blackhawks had much hope until the third period when they peppered the Hurricanes with 32 shot attempts, 19 scoring chances and 13 high-danger chances. Erik Gustafsson and Connor Murphy scored within a span of 1:10 to pull the Blackhawks within one, but it was too little, too late for the offense.

"We were just hungry," Murphy said of the third period. "We were embarrassed at home to give up the chances that we did and to get outplayed for a lot of it just as far as the races and seemed like a lot of those battles. We knew at home we wanted this year to be a prideful team and we have guys that want to push to make sure that we can come back. We know the power that we have, we can score three goals and we almost did."

4. Rough night for DeBrincat-Strome-Kane line

The Blackhawks' second line of Alex DeBrincat, Patrick Kane and Dylan Strome has been lights out since being reunited on Nov. 2 against Anaheim. But it had a tough night together vs. Carolina. 

When the three of them were on the ice at even strength, the Blackhawks had three shot attempts for and 14 against, two shots on goal for and nine against, three scoring chances for and six against and one high-danger chance for and two against in 8:45 of ice time. 

They were separated in the third period with Kirby Dach taking Strome's place on the second line, and the line changes sparked the entire team. Kane recorded two primary assists in the third period to extend his season-long point streak to 10 games, marking his sixth career NHL point streak of at least 10 games. Only Denis Savard has more (13) in a Blackhawks sweater.

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