The Chicago Blackhawks kick off a three-game road trip with a matchup against the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday afternoon at Canada Life Centre.
The Jets have a strong record (6-3-1) to start the season and are currently second in the Central Division based on points percentage (.650). Much of this success seems to be due Connor Hellebuyck’s elite performance in net so far. The American goalie has a .928 save-percentage and 6.68 goals saved above expected (both tied for sixth best in the league) while facing almost 31 shots on average per game (seventh most) in eight games. Hellebuyck will easily be the best netminder the Blackhawks have faced this season.
Hellebuyck has mostly been without goal support so far as the Jets have a bottom-10 goals per game rate so far (2.90). Their top players are all contributing well — Josh Morrissey, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Blake Wheeler, and Mark Scheifele all have seven points or better through 10 games — but the team as whole is inconsistent and oscillates sharply between low-scoring and high-scoring games. In their latest matchup, they managed to beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 on Thursday night, but only two of those goals came in regulation.
The Jets will still be without Nikolaj Ehlers, who hasn’t played since the second game of the season due to a a lower-body injury.
The Blackhawks ended their four-game losing streak with a 2-1 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Kings Thursday night, so they’re going to be looking to build on that momentum against the Jets. Goalie prospect Arvid Söderblom made 32 saves on 33 shots, and Jonathan Toews extended his point streak to seven games with his seventh goal of the season — the overtime winner. The Captain is shooting at an unsustainable rate, but it’s definitely fun to watch.
Despite the win, the game was another in which the Blackhawks trended negatively from a defensive standpoint. After starting the season with top-five prowess for suppressing quality chances against, the Blackhawks have allowed the eighth most high-danger chances against at 5-on-5 (13.27 per 60). Against LA, the Blackhawks allowed 13 high-danger chances against, and while the team did put a lot of effort into blocking shots, it’s not usually a recipe for success long-term. The good news is that the Blackhawks, in general, play a structured defensive and high-effort game, so there is a strong chance they can convert back to previous positive habits.
Patrick Kane still leads Chicago with 10 points (2 G, 8 A) in 11 games, but he’s on a four-game goalless streak. Max Domi, Sam Laffery, and Jason Dickinson each have seven points apiece and Caleb Jones has picked up a point in sixth of the last seven games. The Blackhawks will likely need the best from the entire roster to get past Hellebuyck.
Tale of the tape (statistics from last season)
Blackhawks — Statistic — Jets
46.64% (28th) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 49.447% (18th)
45.43% (28th) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 49.83% (17th)
2.60 (29th) — Goals per game — 3.05 (16th)
3.44 (25th) — Goals against per game — 3.09 (20th)
49.6% (16th) — Faceoffs — 50.7% (13th)
19.2% (21st) — Power play — 21.1% (17th)
76.2% (24th) — Penalty kill — 75.0% (29th)
Projected lineups (subject to change)
Athanasiou — Domi — Kane
Kurashev — Toews — Raddysh
Entwistle — Dickinson — Lafferty
Katchouk — R. Johnson — Khaira
J. Johnson — McCabe
Tinordi — Murphy
Roos — C. Jones
Connor — Scheifele — Appleton
Perfetti — Dubois — Wheeler
Maenalanen — Lowry — Gagner
Toninato — Gustafsson — Jonsson-Fjallby
Morrissey — Pionk
Dillon — Schmidt
Dylan Samberg — DeMelo
How to watch
When: 2 p.m. CT
Where: Canada Life Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba
TV: NBC Sports Chicago
Radio: WGN 720
Live stream: Sling TV