Blackhawks Buzz: February 5 at Anaheim Ducks
The Blackhawks can finish their California swing on a high note against the Anaheim Ducks after taking three of four points from the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings. Chicago’s 5-3 win on Monday was perhaps the most resilient outing of their road trip so far, weathering a terrible night at the dot (34.9 percent) and a physical Kings forecheck that posted 61 shot attempts (34 on goal, 9 blocked, 18 missed). The Blackhawks have the league’s best record against the Pacific Division this season—13-0-6—and are the only club without a regulation loss in those matchups. After facing Anaheim on Wednesday and Phoenix on Friday, Chicago will be done with their Pacific docket for the season.
The Ducks’ record at Honda Center was an incredible 20-0-2 before Jan. 21, when their streak was snapped by a 4-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. Since then, they’ve dropped three of five games at home, including two straight losses coming into their tilt with the Blackhawks. Part of the problem has been Anaheim’s penalty kill, which has faltered slightly, allowing four goals in their last four games, but inconsistent scoring and goaltending has also hurt. They’ll try to regain their home form without a couple of bodies, as second-line center Nick Bonino and bruising defenseman Mark Fistric are currently on injured reserve.
Patrick Kane’s three-point night in L.A. was his best offensive outing since Dec. 28, the last mark in his career-long 14-game point streak. Kane opened Monday’s scoring with a power-play goal just 1:02 into the game, then set up Bryan Bickell on an odd-man rush for the Blackhawks’ second tally of the period; his tap-in midway through the third period put an exclamation mark on the 5-3 win. Kane’s 27 goals are just one shy of the team lead, and he paces the team with 10 power-play strikes and six game-winners.
Despite his team’s slight dip in form, Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf hasn’t slowed his Hart-worthy pace, collecting 20 points (7G, 13A) in his last 16 games. Anaheim’s leading scorer netted his 27th goal of the season in a 4-2 loss to Columbus on Monday and currently shares second in the league with 64 points in 54 games this season.
Goaltender Corey Crawford has won just two of his last six games, but his record belies his steadiness in Chicago’s net, as his save percentage has been .900 or better in five of those outings. Crawford has appeared in all four contests during the current road trip, going 2-0-2 with a .941 save percentage over that span. A strong game between the pipes against Anaheim—and perhaps Phoenix on Friday—would help the Blackhawks finish strong before the Olympic break.
The Ducks are the best even-strength team in the league, boasting a 1.44 goal ratio in 5-on-5 play. The Blackhawks aren’t far behind, though (1.36), and that’s about what you’d expect from the two best teams in the NHL. Whether it’s the Toews-Hossa-Sharp top line or the Kruger-Smith-Bollig checking line that faces the powerhouse duo of Getzlaf and Corey Perry, they’ll have their work cut out for them, and goals won’t come easily for either team. And if it’s any more motivation—taking two points away from Honda Center will help close the gap at the top of the standings.