The Chicago Blackhawks have returned to Chicago to host the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night at the United Center in the first of a quick, two-game homestand.
The Hurricanes have hit a rough patch at the moment, having won just once in their last four games. They’re struggled to score during this stretch as well, with one or fewer goals scored in three of the four outings. Their latest was a 4-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, a disappointing defeat considering how well the Hurricanes played in the game: they wildly owned both the shot attempt share (73.13 percent) and expected goals share (65.02 percent) at 5-on-5, but the Avalanche made them pay for relatively minor mistakes and edged Carolina on special teams to pick up the win.
Carolina is currently being led by a newer face in Martin Necas, who has 19 points (7 G, 12 A) in 15 games and seems to be on his way to a breakout season. The other top scoring forwards for the Hurricanes are more familiar names: Andrei Svechnikov and Sebastian Aho both have 17 points on the season. Brent Burns (10 points) and Brady Skjei (7 points) have also been great offensive blue-line additions.
However, the drop-off after the five mentioned above is pretty steep. Forwards Jordan Martinook and Teuvo Teräväinen — the latter of which will not play in this one after being placed on injured reserve on Friday — have just seven points apiece and no other defender has more than three points. The lack of secondary scoring has the Hurricanes ranked 19th in the league at 3.0 goals per game, a far cry from their top-10 scoring last season. Despite this, Carolina’s still third in the Metropolitan Division standings.
In net, the Blackhawks will likely face an old friend, as Antti Raanta has been the Hurricanes’ primary starter so far this season, and that’ll continue with Frederik Andersen going on injured reserve on Friday. After opening the season 3-0-1, Raanta has dropped his last two game despite stopping 58 of 63 shots. If he gets better goal support from the team in front, it’ll be a real test to the Blackhawks tenacity.
The Blackhawks have been playing the underdog role well this season, picking up another win in their most recent game: a 3-2 victory against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday. The Blackhawks are 4-3-3 in their last 10 games, and still solidly in the playoff picture based on their current points percentage. It’s not really surprising anymore that the Blackhawks continue to find ways to win, even if it’s not necessarily what’s best for the organization long-term.
Unlikely Carolina, Chicago is winning primarily because of their secondary players. Yes, the top players — Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Max Domi — are leading in production, but there isn’t a huge difference between their points and the next few players. Patrick Kane and Max Domi both picked up two assists in the win against Anaheim, bringing their point totals to 12 and 10 points, respectively, in 14 games, while Toews has eight points in his last 10 games to bring his points total to 10. After that trio, though, there are six players with averaging 0.5 points-per-game or better, which is impressive considering they barely had that many last season with a higher quality roster.
On defense, the Blackhawks are still learning to deal with the absence of Seth Jones, both offensively and defensively. Filip Roos scored once and Jarred Tinordi scored twice against Anaheim, but it’s uncommon to get goal support from the defenders. The team also hasn’t gotten back to where they were at the start of the season in terms of shot-quality suppression, allowing nearly three expected goals against at 5-on-5 in seven of their last 10 games. Against a possession-heavy team like Carolina, that could be a problem.
One area the Blackhawks haven’t had to worry about much this season is goaltending, as they’re top-five in goals saved above expected according to Sportlogiq. This is mostly due to Alex Stalock and Arvid Söderblom having a combined .927 save-percentage. Despite having worse stats so far, Petr Mrazek is coming off a 33-of-35 save victory against the Los Angeles Kings last Thursday, his first game since coming back from a groin injury. With Stalock still in concussion protocol and Söderblom having played against Anaheim, Mrazek appears to be the starter against Carolina, looking to build off his last great performance in net. Other lineup news from the morning skate suggests that Jason Dickinson will miss his second straight game with a non-COVID illness, as he was outside of the forward lines during that part of the practice.
Tale of the tape (statistics from this season)
Blackhawks — Statistic — Hurricanes
41.03% (32nd) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 62.64% (1st)
40.46% (30th) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 60.27% (2nd)
2.71 (26th) — Goals per game — 3.00 (19th)
3.00 (14th) — Goals against per game — 2.87 (12th)
58.3% (1st) — Faceoffs — 55.3% (3rd)
23.8% (12th) — Power play — 17.0% (26th)
74.6% (26th) — Penalty kill — 76.4% (20th)
Projected lineups (subject to change)
Kurashev — Domi — P. Kane
Athanasiou — Toews — Raddysh
Entwistle — Dickinson — Lafferty
Katchouk — R. Johnson — Khaira
J. Johnson — C. Jones
Tinordi — Murphy
McCabe — Roos
Svechnikov — Aho — Noesen
Jarvis — Kotkaniemi — Necas
Martinook — Staal — Fast
Stastny — Drury — Stepan
Slavin — Burns
Skjei — Pesce
de Haan — Chatfield
How to watch
When: 7:30 p.m. CT
Where: United Center, Chicago
TV: NBC Sports Chicago
Radio: WGN 720
Live stream: Sling TV