Chicago Blackhawks (22-27-7, 51 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (29-17-9, 67 pts)
The Blackhawks are a different team on the road. At home, they play lots of tight, low scoring games. They have allowed only 71 goals at home on the season and only 16 on the penalty kill. On the road, they've allowed 94 goals, including 36 on the PK. They've also scored a bit more on the road. I'd say it's a function of other teams dictating the style of play when away from the friendly confines of the United Center.
The power play of the Hawks has been clicking at just 11.7% this season, though it's a little bit better lately. On the road, their success rate is higher (13.8%), but still nothing to get overly excited about.
Chicago has been playing better of late. They're playing the last game of a 7 game road trip tonight, and their record on the trip is 4-2. Not too bad.
The Pens ought to be able to handle the Hawks, but we've said that a few times earlier this season. I'll point you to Example #1 and Example #2. But this is a different team now, right? They've earned points in 13 straight, going 11-0-2, right? I think it's a team that has yet to prove that it can figure a way to avoid the prolonged losing streaks. Consider this: only twice all year has the team won, lost in regulation and followed that loss with a win (both times before Thanksgiving). They do seem to earn points by losing in OT, but my point is that they're still susceptible to the prolonged losing streak, and that's something they're going to have to avoid if they hope to make the playoffs. Yes, I said MAKE the playoffs - they're in 4th right now, but the #9 team (Toronto) is just 5 points back. A 4-5 game losing streak could really hurt their chances.
Blackhawks blog - check out the MVN site, The Blackhawk Experience. They say that Martin Havlat is one to watch out for, with 44 points in just 34 games. I agree - let's hope we don't have to add to the ranks of the Penguin Killers tonight.
I'm looking for a good win at home tonight. The Pens really need to focus on getting two points tonight, because they go to New Jersey for a showdown on Friday.
Let's Go Pens!