Monday, December 19, 2011

Game #34 - vs Chicago Blackhawks

2011-12 Game 34

Chicago Blackhawks (21-8-4, 46 points) at Pittsburgh Penguins (18-11-4, 40 points)

That's a nice patch.  Hossa is still one of the best in the NHL when he can stay healthy.

Why does it matter?

This is the first trip to Consol by the Blackhawks.  They're also red hot right now, with a 9-1-1 record in their past 11 games and a 5 game winning streak.  The Pens are the underdogs, and rightfully so.  It will be a big challenge.

What has been happening lately?
  • Pens - An offensive explosion against Buffalo may have righted the ship.
  • Blackhawks - No one is hotter than the Blackhawks right now.  In addition to the streaks mentioned above, they also own an eight game point streak.
Questions to be answered
  • Can the Pens solve Ray Emery?  That's right - good old Throat Slash himself is the hot goalie right now for the Hawks.  The best chance may be that he may not start - the Hawks have another game on Wednesday night.  It doesn't get much easier if he sits - Corey Crawford is solid, if inconsistent.
  • Can the Pens slow down the power play for the Hawks?  They're 9-28 over their past 9 games.
  • Who will return from the Land of the Walking Wounded?  I'm hoping we have a chance to see Staal and Michalek.
Keys to the game
  • Stay out of the box.  Before they had seven chances against Calgary, they only had 21 chances over 8 games.
  • Set the tone.  Get involved physically early on, and get to the front of the net on offense.  Scrapping and clawing would be a good way to win this game.
  • Load up and match up against the top producers.  The Hawks have excellent production out of the top of their lineup in Hossa, Toews, Sharp and Kane.

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