The Chicago Blackhawks finally managed to snap their losing streak on Wednesday, and they’ll hope to keep building momentum as they take on the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center.
It’s been an interesting stretch of late for the Blackhawks, as they’ve lost five of their last seven games. Offensive issues have been the main point of concern, with the team scoring two or fewer goals in four of those five losses, but their defense has also struggled at times, giving up 30 or more shots in five of their last seven contests.
To address those concerns, the Blackhawks have continued to shuffle up their lines and defensive pairings, and they’ll be coming out with some interesting looks on Saturday night. Alex DeBrincat will once again be on the top line with Jonathan Toews, as Joel Quenneville looks to get his rookie winger some scoring looks.
Brandon Saad will be on the second line with Patrick Kane and Nick Schmaltz, and he adds some defensive prowess and goal scoring ability to a speedy line. That unique combination of traits could pose a matchup issue for the Wild, and the Blackhawks will likely try to exploit that often in the game.
On defense, Cody Franson will go from a healthy scratch to a first pairing guy, as he’ll play with Duncan Keith. His possession numbers have been excellent, as he had the best Corsi and Fenwick on the team in their win against Philadelphia, and he’s playing fundamentally sound defense in his chances this season.
Connor Murphy and Michal Kempny will patrol the third pairing for the Blackhawks, with Jordan Oesterle and Gustav Forsling out of the mix for the game.
Here are the full lineups:
DeBrincat – Toews – Panik
Saad – Schmaltz – Kane
Sharp – Anisimov – Hayden
Bouma – Wingels – Hartman
Keith – Franson
Rutta – Seabrook
Kempny – Murphy
The Key: Powerless Power Play Has to Go
The Blackhawks are 2-for-25 on the power play in their last six games, and that number simply isn’t good enough for a team with the caliber of firepower that Chicago possesses.
Too often, the Blackhawks have lined up with contested shots from the blue line or bad passes through the slot, and they’re being picked apart by penalty killing units because of their predictability and their lack of fundamentally sound play.
Those things need to change if they’re going to succeed against the Wild, a team that is ranked in the middle of the pack in terms of penalty killing units in the NHL. They are currently 16th in the league, and if the Blackhawks can win some face-offs and get their puck cycling game going properly, then they should be able to capitalize.