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When Doves Cry: Blackhawks vs. Wild Preview

The Blackhawks keep on losing. Does that trend continue in the final game before the All-Star break?

Chicago Blackhawks v Minnesota Wild
Jake McCabe of the Chicago Blackhawks defends against Joel Eriksson Ek of the Minnesota Wild during NHL action
Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images

Soon, the only member of the Chicago Blackhawks playing during the All-Star break will be Alex DeBrincat. But, in fairness, it hasn’t seemed like a whole ton have been playing of late anyway. The Blackhawks are 4-4-2 in their last 10 games although they’ve lost their last two and six of the last seven.

Now, they’ll welcome the Minnesota Wild to town, who are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games and are — by points percentage — second in the Central trailing only the Colorado Avalanche. The last time the Blackhawks played against Minnesota was a 4-3 overtime loss for Chicago on Jan. 22. That was the second game of a back-to-back against Minnesota with the first game ending 5-1 in the Wild’s favor.

The Wild are riding a five-game winning streak, with their last loss coming in a shootout against the aforementioned Avalanche. That streak includes three victories since Minnesota and Chicago last played, with the Wild tallying a total of 15 goals in those three games, including an eight-goal performance against the Montreal Canadiens.

During that time frame, three of Minnesota’s players have scored five points, including star forward Kirill Kaprizov, rookie Matt Boldy and Kevin Fiala. Boldy now has nine points in nine NHL games, with Kaprizov at 52 points in 39 games this season and Fiala scoring 32 points in 40 games. Minnesota is led in goal scoring by former Blackhawk Ryan Hartman and Kaprizov, each with 18 goals.

Minnesota has received good goaltending from their tandem of Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen, with Kahkonen at a .925 save percentage this season in 16 games and Talbot at a .910 mark in 26 games, but that’s somewhat expected with Minnesota’s defense: a top-10 group in the league which has allowed just 2.29 expected goals against per 60 at 5-on-5.

Despite its recent success, Minnesota’s offense has been more of the problem for the team this season, ranked 16th with a rate of 2.47 expected goals per 60 minutes (xG/60) at 5-on-5 play. Even with the quality of chances not there for the Wild, though, they’ve still scored the second-most goals in the Western Conference this year with 156, courtesy of the second-highest team shooting percentage in the league at 11.5. At 5-on-5, Minnesota is the No. 1 team in the league with a shooting percentage at 10.22.

The Blackhawks have been nowhere near as lucky. Chicago is now 27th in team shooting percentage at 8.42 (6.86 at 5-on-5, which is 29th). The Blackhawks also don’t have the quality of opportunity with the third-worst offense in the league — ahead of just Buffalo and Arizona — generating 2.04 xG/60 at 5-on-5. The defense is better than it’s been in the last few seasons, with 2.4 xGA/60 at 5-on-5 — the No. 15 rate in the league.

The Blackhawks are going to hope to end the first half of the season on a high note against Minnesota, but keep expectations low. This is a team that just lost to a skidding Vancouver Canucks team, after all.

At least the coaching staff looks to not be sticking with the same lines as they put out against the Canucks:

Blackhawks — Statistic — Wild

46.68% (29th) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 50.8% (15th)

45.91% (25th) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 51.81% (12th)

2.42 (29th) — Goals per game — 3.8 (3rd)

3.33 (23rd) — Goals against per game — 2.93 (16th)

49.3% (19th) — Faceoffs — 48.6% (22nd)

19.2% (19th) — Power play — 18.8% (20th)

75.2% (27th) — Penalty kill — 80.2% (16th)

Projected lineups (subject to change)

Blackhawks

DeBrincat — Strome — Kane

Kurashev — Dach — Hagel

Kubalik — Borgstrom — Lafferty

Connolly — Carpenter — Entwistle

de Haan — S. Jones

McCabe — Murphy

Kalynuk — Gustafsson

Fleury

Delia

Wild

Kaprizov — Hartman — Zuccarello

Fiala — Gaudreau — Boldy

Greenway — Eriksson Ek — Duhaime

Dewar — Rask — Rau

Goligoski — Spurgeon

Brodin — Dumba

Benn — Kulikov

Kahkonen

Talbot

How to watch

When: 8:30 p.m. CT

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: TNT

Webstream: N/A