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 lines in morning skate vs. Wild:— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) February 2, 2022
De Haan-Seth Jones
Still no Khaira. Caleb Jones seems like the odd man out on D tonight. pic.twitter.com/VVMM5yo8kl
Wyatt Kalynuk draws into the lineup tonight vs. MIN for Caleb Jones. Otherwise same look as last few games. Fleury in net. #Blackhawks— Carter Baum (@CarterBaum) February 2, 2022
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)
DeBrincat — Strome — Kane
Kurashev — Dach — Hagel
Kubalik — Borgstrom — Lafferty
Connolly — Carpenter — Entwistle
de Haan — S. Jones
McCabe — Murphy
Kalynuk — Gustafsson
Kaprizov — Hartman — Zuccarello
Fiala — Gaudreau — Boldy
Greenway — Eriksson Ek — Duhaime
Dewar — Rask — Rau
Goligoski — Spurgeon
Brodin — Dumba
Benn — Kulikov
How to watch
When: 8:30 p.m. CT
Where: United Center, Chicago