The Chicago Blackhawks look to put an end to their recent struggles Tuesday night with a road contest against the Montreal Canadiens. It's not exactly a favorable matchup -- the 'Hawks haven't won at the Bell Centre since Dec. 3, 2001 -- but who knows? Maybe that will serve as some extra motivation for a team that's built to win in the playoffs.
The Canadiens remain one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, and only the Anaheim Ducks have recorded more points so far this season. They're coming off a pair of losses, and don't have the goal differential to match their impressive record, but should still be a tough play in front of their home crowd.
For the Blackhawks, the issues have been discussed a great deal here and on social media, but it's a difficult conversation to frame so early in the season. Every legitimate concern can be diminished by the small sample size, and every strong opinion sounds like an overreaction.
Still, we're getting rather deep into the season to still be discussing chemistry issues and bad luck, so it'd be nice to see some results soon. We're still singing the happy tune around here, but the team badly needs to bridge the gap between strong possession numbers and capitalizing on opportunities. Flying into the zone and firing off shots with little chance of forcing rebounds or scrums near the net isn't exactly a habit to encourage.
With that said, even if the team falls below .500 tonight, we probably shouldn't get too bothered by a road loss in Montreal. Unfortunately, the schedule doesn't ease up much from there -- Chicago's next four games are Washington, San Jose, Tampa Bay and at Detroit. I'd like to believe the team can win at least two or three of these.
Opponent Breakdown: Montreal Canadiens
The Canadiens are currently tied for first place in the Eastern Conference with a 8-3-1 record, even after dropping their past two games. A 6-2 defeat at the hands of the Calgary Flames on Sunday -- at home, no less -- was particularly bad, and put the team's goal differential into the red.
In other words, Montreal is a very, very good team, but maybe not quite "tied for best record in the conference" good. The Canadiens have been fortunate to go 3-0 in shootouts so far, and over their past four games, they've been outscored, 13-6, against the likes of Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary.
Montreal also isn't exactly a strong possession team, currently ranking 22nd in the NHL in both overall Corsi and Fenwick. When the Canadiens have won this season, it's often been the result of Carey Price playing out of his mind, rather than some team-wide dominance.
So there are definitely some positives to find in this matchup for the Blackhawks, even if it's not against one of the league's cellar dwellers.
The Blackhawks are still without Daniel Carcillo, who remains sidelined with a lower-body injury.
The Canadiens don't have any significant injuries, but forward Jiri Sekac will be a healthy scratch tonight.
|'HAWKS VS. HABS LINEUPS
|ALSO SEE: EYES ON THE PRIZE, SBN'S HABS BLOG|
When: 6:30 p.m. CT
Where: Bell Centre