After a couple of days off, the Chicago Blackhawks will look to continue their winning ways when they head up to the Great White North to tangle with the Toronto Maple Leafs in an Original Six showdown.
Coming into the game, the Hawks have arguably the best offense in the NHL, and they’ve been excelling in every area of their scoring attack in their past few games. After struggling for a bit after the Circus Trip, Chicago has righted the ship in a big way, scoring 19 times in their past three games, all victories. They have also scored six times on the power play in those games, and have thrilled their fans with their precise passing and aggressive shot selection.
That aggressiveness is going to be even more pronounced against a team like the Maple Leafs. So far this season, the Leafs are giving up 36.6 shots per game, which is the most in the NHL.
That’s a really high number, but according to Jeff Veillette of Leafs Nation, it could very well be historically bad. The Leafs are on pace to give up 3047 shots this season, and if they were to hit that number, they would have given up the most shots on goal in a single season since records began being kept in the 1980’s.
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks are currently averaging 33.4 shots per contest, which ranks them second in the NHL behind only the San Jose Sharks. The Hawks are also scoring more than a goal per game more than their opponents so far this season, and are the only team that has exceeded that threshold.
Despite the obvious advantage in firepower that the Blackhawks are going to have in this game, they are going to have to be careful not to just settle for one-and-done opportunities as they have in other games this season. Their tilt last week against the Dallas Stars was a good example, as the Hawks lost a 4-3 heartbreaker despite outshooting Dallas by over 30 shots at 50-18.
The reason for that failure to score despite the volume of shots put on goal is simple. Too often against the Stars, the Hawks would simply settle for a shot from either the point or from the edges of the ice, and wouldn’t have anybody near the goal crease to either screen the goaltender or potentially collect rebounds. In their past few games, they have returned to their traditional style of offense, with long stretch passes and patient zone entries as they wait for traffic to materialize in front of the net.
Those changes have yielded positive results obviously for Chicago, and it’s a trend that they are going to need to continue against James Reimer and company on Saturday night. If they can get guys like Andrew Shaw to the front of the net with regularity, then the soft spots in the Toronto defense should allow for plenty of great opportunities, and the Leafs fans at Air Canada Centre could be in for some tough times.