The Chicago Blackhawks will make their contribution to Hockey Day in America on Sunday afternoon as they welcome the Boston Bruins to the United Center.
The Blackhawks have been playing quite a bit at home recently, but things haven’t necessarily been going smoothly for the team. They are currently 2-1-3 on their homestand with two games left to go, and they’ve suffered in multiple areas. Their scoring has been down in recent games, scoring only four goals in their last three games, and their power play is experiencing some ineffectiveness as well, having failed to score in their last nine attempts.
Despite their struggles, they are nothing compared to what the Bruins have been going through. Ever since the calendar flipped to February, the Bruins have been a different team, losing seven of their last eight games and losing a ton of ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Their power play has been atrocious, scoring only twice in their last 19 attempts, and they have allowed at least one power play goal in each of their last three games.
Despite the collective struggles of both teams, this game represents a big opportunity for both to gain ground in their respective races. The Blackhawks need to get on a bit of a roll if they’re going to have any shot at catching the Nashville Predators atop the Central, but catching the St. Louis Blues (who beat the Bruins by a 5-1 margin on Friday night) is definitely an achievable goal if they can string some wins together.
As for Boston, they are only one point ahead of the Florida Panthers for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, and they are four points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers. Getting an out-of-conference win against Chicago could provide a jump start to the struggling team.
If the Blackhawks are going to win, they are going to need some big performances out of multiple guys. Kris Versteeg has been on fire for the Hawks lately, scoring three goals in the team’s past four games, and he’ll need another big afternoon on Sunday to help spark the second line. Linemate Patrick Kane has been held without a point in the last three games (the first time this season he’s gone three games without a point), so he’ll need to step up as well.
Finally, the Blackhawks are going to need more production out of Patrick Sharp. Skating on the fourth line isn’t helping him out, but even still, opportunities on the power play still exist for the veteran winger, and he needs to take advantage of them in order for the Hawks to win.