Coming off the heels of a 4-0 loss to the Panthers, the Blackhawks have another opportunity to leave the Sunshine State with points as they face the Lightning on Friday evening in Tampa Bay.
Jonathan Toews’ 1,000th game celebration on Thursday evening went about as well as any early 2000s Hawks result predating his arrival. And for Chicago, their path remains an uphill one, seeing the defending Stanley Cup Champions on the second night of a back-to-back.
The Lightning, just as their club name suggests, are quick, strong and fast. Their roster is loaded with top end talent and, save for defenseman Ryan McDonagh, they are healthy and ready to roll heading into the playoffs. Team captain Steven Stamkos leads the Bolts with 73 points (30 G, 43 A) and is one of Tampa’s 11 skaters to surpass the 30-point mark on the season. This Tampa Bay team undoubtedly shares the wealth and can find the back of the net at will. And while they currently own an impressive record of 42-18-6, their 90 points is only good enough for third place in the Atlantic Division. It’s unlikely they will be taking their foot off the gas anytime soon.
On the flip side, the Blackhawks do not have all that much to play for. The Hawks are 10 games under .500 and in seventh place in the Central. With that being said, if the Blackhawks can find a way to do the right things and steal a win on the road, this game could be more entertaining and surely, a shot in the arm for the pride of those wearing the Chicago sweater.
No matter which way you look at it, Tampa’s numbers are better than the Hawks in virtually every category. During his short stint in the Windy City, Marc-Andre Fleury was often able to make up for his team’s poor puck possession and shot suppression. Without question, expected starter Kevin Lankinen will have to be huge in net and step into that role if the Blackhawks want to take home points as a souvenir from their Florida trip. Conversely, Tampa’s netminder, Andrei Vasilevskiy is a tough riddle to solve. Not only will the Blackhawks forecheck have to be much better, but they have to find ways to produce quality shots and take advantage of any and every power-play opportunity.
It’s a tough matchup for the Hawks. I’m not counting on an April Fool’s Day miracle or for former Blackhawks forward Brandon Hagel to play double-agent on Friday night. The Blackhawks have to show up to play and be advantageous of any high-quality scoring chances they can get.
If they can’t find ways to score, this one could get ugly in a hurry.
Blackhawks — Statistic — Lightning
46.21% (29th) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 50.98% (12th)
45.46% (28th) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 53.28% (7th)
2.65 (26th) — Goals per game —3.29 (10th)
3.49 (26th) — Goals against per game — 2.74 (8th)
48.5% (21st) — Faceoffs — 50.2% (15th)
21% (17th) — Power play — 21.7% (15th)
75.5% (24th) — Penalty kill — 81.5% (9th)
Projected lineups (subject to change)
DeBrincat — Strome — Kane
Kubalik — Toews — Raddysh
Kurashev — Borgstrom — T. Johnson
Katchouk — R. Johnson — Lafferty
Gustafsson — S. Jones
McCabe — C. Jones
Stillman — de Haan
Stamkos — Point — Kucherov
Palat — Cirelli — Killorn
Hagel — Paul — Colton
Maroon — Bellemare — Perry
Hedman — Rutta
Sergachev — Cernak
Bogosian — Foote
How to watch
When: 6 p.m. CT
Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa Bay
TV: NBC Sports Chicago