The longest road trip of the 2017-18 season is over for the Chicago Blackhawks. After scraping out five points in six games, the team returns to Chicago on Friday night to face the cream of the crop in the Western Conference.
The Vegas Golden Knights have been the story in the NHL this season, and they come to the United Center holding the No. 1 spot in the playoffs despite a 2-1 loss Thursday in St Louis. Vegas (27-10-2) has won 13 of its last 15 games, with one of those two losses coming in a shootout.
It’s difficult to grasp the fact that Chicago (19-14-6) is in last place in the Central Division, but only three points away from a spot in the wild card. Regardless of the circumstances, the Hawks are playing in the toughest division in the league with a bunch of games in hand. During this stretch of games against teams like Vegas, Minnesota and Winnipeg, Chicago needs to earn as many points as possible to start closing the gap between themselves and a postseason bid.
A major hurdle they have had to overcome lately is the injury to their star goaltender Corey Crawford. Through 28 games, Crawford holds the fourth best save percentage in the NHL (.929) despite seeing more than 840 shots during that same span. As Anton Forsberg has struggled to find his form in the backup role, Jeff Glass has stepped in as the saving grace for the Hawks.
With a 2-0-1 record and 109 saves through three games (.917 save percentage), Glass has been the go-to option for coach Joel Quenneville as Chicago awaits Crawford’s return from injured reserve. It’s clear that his fourth consecutive start shows Quenneville favors him over Anton Forsberg right now.
We should also mention that Jonathan Toews has scored two goals along with two assists in his last two games. Toews is now tied for the second highest point total on the team this season with Alex DeBrincat and Nick Schmaltz at 26 points. Understand that there is no expectation for Toews to score a goal every game, nor is there an expectation for him to notch a point in every game. But as our editor in chief/bossman/all-around good guy (at times) Satchel Price tweeted:
The problem with tackling “how to fix the Blackhawks” is that the answer will always be about the best players (Toews, Seabrook, Saad, etc). Changing the third line won’t fix that.— Satchel Price (@SatchelPrice) January 3, 2018
Whether or not this team makes the playoffs will sit squarely on the shoulders of Crawford, Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith. One of these four players are injured, which means Blackhawk fans will be looking to the other three to carry the load as the NHL season reaches it’s halfway point. Let’s see if they can charge the team forward to a big win tonight.
|F1||Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Vinnie Hinostroza|
|F2||Ryan Hartman - Nick Schmaltz - Patrick Kane|
|F3||Patrick Sharp - David Kampf - Alex DeBrincat|
|F4||Lance Bouma - Tommy Wingels - John Hayden|
|D1||Duncan Keith - Jordan Oesterle|
|D2||Connor Murphy - Brent Seabrook|
|D3||Gustav Forsling - Cody Franson|
|F1||Jonathan Marchessault - William Karlsson - Reilly Smith|
|F2||David Perron - Erik Haula - James Neal|
|F3||Brendan Leipsic - Cody Eakin - Alex Tuch|
|F4||Tomas Nosek - Oscar Lindberg - Will Carrier|
|D1||Brayden McNabb - Nate Schmidt|
|D2||Shea Theodore - Deryk Engelland|
|D3||Jon Merrill - Colin Miller|
How to watch Golden Knights at Blackhawks
Start time: 7:30 p.m. CT
Location: United Center, Chicago IL
TV: NBC Sports Chicago
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live