It’s a rematch of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final at the United Center on Monday night, with the Chicago Blackhawks hosting the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Tampa enters Monday’s action atop the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference with 65 points, just one point behind the league-leading Vegas Golden Knights (seriously, the expansion team is No. 1). But the Lightning have hit a bit of a rough patch, dropping three straight games by a combined score of 14-4. None of the games have been particularly close, either, with only one of those three scores getting a boost from an opposing goal into an empty Tampa net. Andrei Vasilevskiy has had a particularly difficult three-game span in net, stopping just over .852% of the shots he’s seen. Not great, Bob. But a closer look at the numbers from Natural Stat Trick suggest he isn’t getting much help from his defense. In the last two games, Tampa was credited with just nine high-danger scoring changes while allowing 20. This slide has coincided with the loss of defenseman Victor Hedman to injury, and now the Lightning will be without forward Ondrej Palat until at least the All-Star Break. But lacking for firepower this team is not, with Nikita Kucherov continuing to torch every team he faces with a league-leading 61 points. He leads the NHL with 24 even strength goals, and Steven Stamkos’ ACME Cannon of a one-timer has produced a league-high 12 power play goals for the NHL’s third-ranked power play.
Meanwhile in Chicago, the last two Blackhawks’ performances can only sort of be called “hockey,” as a team in desperate need of points coughed up two winnable games to teams outside of the playoff picture. And Chicago remains there as well because of those efforts. Lineup changes have ensued: Anthony Duclair is up to the top line, Patrick Sharp skates on the second line for some reason, Artem Anisimov returns to the 3C spot between Alex DeBrincat and Ryan Hartman, and Tomas Jurco makes his season debut on a fourth line with David Kampf and Vinnie Hinostroza. On the back end, Gustav Forsling has been sent to Rockford and Jan Rutta will be banished to the press box after their awful night against the New York Islanders. That brings Connor Murphy and Michal Kempny out of suits and into the lineup, with Jeff Glass getting the nod in net.
Typically, the Hawks have shown up for games against the league’s top teams this season. Facing this same Lightning team in Tampa on Thanksgiving Eve, the Hawks turned in a strong performance that saw them force overtime before Tampa picked up the night’s third point with a GWG in the extra frame. With time slowly but surely running out, and no other teams in the Central Division capable of losing games anymore, Monday night would be a real good time for the Hawks to snap out of this latest funk.
|F1||Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Anthony Duclair|
|F2||Patrick Sharp - Nick Schmaltz - Patrick Kane|
|F3||Alex DeBrincat - Artem Anisimov - Ryan Hartman|
|F4||Tomas Jurco - David Kampf - Vinnie Hinostroza|
|D1||Duncan Keith - Jordan Oesterle|
|D2||Erik Gustaffson - Brent Seabrook|
|D3||Michal Kempny - Connor Murphy|
|F1||Gustav Nyquist - Henrik Zetterberg - Anthony Mantha|
|F2||Tyler Bertuzzi - Dylan Larkin - Andreas Athanasiou|
|F3||Tomas Tatar - Frans Nielsen - Luke Glendening|
|F4||Luke Witkowski - Dominic Turgeon - Martin Frk|
|D1||Dan DeKeyser - Mike Green|
|D2||Jonathan Ericsson - Nick Jensen|
|D3||Niklas Kronwall - Xavier Ouellet|
How to watch Lightning at Blackhawks
Start time: 7:30 p.m. CT
Location: United Center, Chicago
TV: NBC Sports Chicago