Fresh off a win on Friday in the Chicago Blackhawks’ first home game of the 2022-23 regular season, the Blackhawks are now 2-2-0. For a team that is purportedly rebuilding, it’s a nice sign that they’re continuing to beat up on teams they should beat up on. They’ll take that record into a Sunday matinee in Chicago with the Seattle Kraken.
For a team trying to get Connor Bedard at the end of the year, however, it’s not great. The Coyotes are 1-4-0, the Sharks 1-6-0 and the Canucks are 0-4-2. The Blackhawks being middle of the pack in the Central Division is probably the worst-case scenario for this team in the long term.
Luckily, the Blackhawks will host the Seattle Kraken on Sunday, a team that looks to have improved over their inaugural season and are currently 2-2-2. The Kraken are currently third in the Pacific and could boost their lead over teams like Edmonton and Los Angeles with another win Sunday.
The Kraken have been led by Jaden Schwartz and new arrival Andre Burakovsky, both of whom have five points. Former Central Division opponents, Schwartz was a free-agent signing in the summer while Burakovsky headed over after winning the Cup with the Avalanche last season.
Rookie Matty Beniers, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, off to a strong start with four points in six games. The Kraken also gave 2022’s No. 4 overall pick, Shane Wright, a look to start the season and Wright’s responded with an assist in four games.
Seattle is driving possession so far this season, with a 55.25 percent shot share at 5-on-5, seventh-best in the NHL, and a 55.46 percent expected goal share, also seventh-best. Compare this to last season when the Kraken had a 50.07 SF% (15th) and 48.36 xGF% (19th) and the Kraken are having a much better 2022-23 under coach Dave Hakstol.
Seattle does need to get more out of their goaltending to remain competitive this season — Martin Jones has a .875 save percentage and Philipp Grubauer is at .860 to start the season — but you can’t expect much when you have to turn to Jones after he was bought out by the Sharks this past offseason.
This could be another test for the Blackhawks, as last year’s Kraken were a team that even this iteration of Chicago should beat, but maybe this year’s team is different. Chicago sees Patrick Kane remaining cold on the scoresheet despite two back-to-back wins. Kane still just has one assist four games into the season, while other players are elevating their draft stock.
After a 2-1 start to the season, Petr Mrazek will likely sit for this one due to an injured groin, meaning that Alex Stalock will probably start after relieving Mrazek during Friday’s game. The last time Stalock started, he allowed just one goal against Vegas.
I hope I’m not the only one thinking, after two straight wins, “Alright, we get it, y’all can still beat a few teams and Luke Richardson may be good at his job. Now can we get this sinking ship back on track to the bottom of the ocean?”
Let’s tank, Hawks.
Tale of the tape (statistics from last season)
Blackhawks — Statistic — Kraken
45.98% (30th) — Corsi For — 50.59% (13th)
45.48% (30th) — Expected goals for — 48.36 (19th)
2.60 (29th) — Goals per game — 2.6 (28th)
3.52 (26th) — Goals against per game — 3.46 (24th)
49.6% (16th) — Faceoffs — 47.7% (26th)
19.2% (21st) — Power play — 14.6% (29th)
76.2% (24th) — Penalty kill — 74.9% (31st)
Projected lineups (subject to change)
Anthanasiou — Domi — Kane
T. Johnson — Toews — Raddysh
Kurashev — Dickinson — Lafferty
Khaira — Blackwell — Entwistle
J. Johnson — S. Jones
Tinordi — Murphy
McCabe — C. Jones
Schwartz — Beniers — Eberle
Burakovsky — Wennberg — Bjorkstrand
McCann — Gourde — Kuhlman
Donato — Wright — Tanev
Dunn — Larsson
Oleksiak — Schultz
Soucy — Borgen
How to watch, listen
When: 1 p.m.
Where: United Center, Chicago
TV: NBC Sports Chicago
Radio: WGN 720 (in the Chicagoland area)
Live stream: Sling TV