A warm (and loud) United Center welcome home surely awaits the undefeated Chicago Blackhawks tonight, when the puck drops on one of the best division rivalries in the league.
Chicago has been off to a record-breaking start, matching their 1971-1972 franchise record of 5-0-0 last night in Columbus. Nothing would make setting a new record sweeter than a ‘W’ over Detroit, and nothing could spoil it more than to lose the winning streak to the Red Wings either…
This is the first of four CHI/DET match-ups this season. Chicago took Detroit in four of last season’s six meetings, the two remaining were lost in OT.
|April 7, 2012||CHI @ DET||CHI, 3 – 2|
|March 4, 2012||CHI @ DET||CHI, 2 – 1|
|February 21, 2012||DET @ CHI||CHI, 2 – 1|
|January 14, 2012||CHI @ DET||DET, 3 – 2|
|January 8, 2012||DET @ CHI||DET, 3 – 2|
|December 30, 2011||DET @ CHI||CHI, 3 – 2|
The Blackhawks, now 5-0-0, have shown they can dominate offensive play, thanks mostly in part to high-scoring forwards Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane. Hossa came into the first two games of the season on fire with 2 goals per game, and an OT goal in DAL that is still great to replay. Kane, rising to the occasion, has 2 goals and 7 assists on the season, seating him fourth in the league with 9 points. Not to be overlooked are the strong efforts of team captain Jonathan Toews with 3 goals this season including the game-winner in Columbus.
Goaltender Corey Crawford has held his own between the pipes, bringing home four victories for the Hawks, and placing him atop the leader boards for the NHL. Crawford says he feels good and feels focused in the net, which is showing in his .923 SV%.
The Red Wings, 2-2-0 thus far, are right off a 3-5 home victory over the Minnesota Wild last night, taking two PPGs to end their 0-15 power play drought.
Detroit began their season with a crushing 6-0 loss to STL and have been rallying ever since to make up for it. Last nights game alone matched all points the team had mustered previously. Team chemistry is starting to grow, especially on the defensive line where injuries have removed Carlo Colaiacovo, Ian White and Jonathan Ericsson. Coach Mike Babcock has brought in rookie Brendan Smith, recently signed Kent Huskins and AHL call-up Brian Lashoff to fill the gaps and try to relieve pressure off of goalie Jimmy Howard.
Howard has a .891 SV% and has let in 13 goals in the past four games.
Chicago is the undefeated no. 1 team in the league right now, everyone wants a piece of that, no one more so than the heated rival Red Wings. Fueled by their win last night, the Red Wings are going to come into this game hot and on their toes looking for that first goal. The Blackhawks have barely made it out of their last two games, an OT win in Dallas and the one goal lead over Columbus (arguably one of the worst teams in the division if not league), simply because they have been playing to the level of their opponents.
In a tight and rigorous schedule like the one the Hawks are facing, it’s understandable to want to take it a little slower and find the ‘W’ where you can without killing yourself, especially when game turnover can be so varying in physical demand.
Tonight the Blackhawks need to be off their flat skates, keep up the defensive work, and take every opportunity to the back of the net. This is the last home game before a 6-game road trip for Chicago. It’s going to be loud in the MadHouse tonight.
Injury Report: Detroit’s defense is already thinned by injury, both Carlo Colaiacovo and Jonathan Ericsson are out with shoulder injuries, as well Ian White with a lacerated leg. Forwards listed on IR include Jan Mursak and Mikael Samuelsson. Chicago’s Daniel Carcillo (lower body) is not expected back on the ice until late February.
(This post appeared previously on thecheckingline.com)