The Chicago Blackhawks are 1-8-1 in their last 10 games and have recently lost horrible games against the Flames and Predators. The Blackhawks are in need of some good news as they aim to end their season on somewhat of a high note, even though they will only finish seventh in the Central Division this season.
In search of that possible high note, the Blackhawks are in the desert to face the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night.
The Coyotes are either dead last or in the bottom five in every statistical category and also have several injuries to the limited talent they do have on the roster — with Clayton Keller and Jakob Chychrun both likely done for the season. However, the Coyotes are still 2-1-0 against the Blackhawks this season, with the Blackhawks’ only win coming back in November.
That was a 2-1 win at home, the third straight victory for the Blackhawks in the Derek King era (remember when he was winning? Good times).
The Blackhawks have not been great against the Coyotes, with a sub-50% expected goal share in their three games against Arizona at 5-on-5 (48.78%) and nearly getting outshot at 5-on-5 as well, with a 50.38% mark in the three games, getting outshot in two of those.
When the Blackhawks can’t even beat this Coyotes team, one clearly designed not to win that is moving to a stadium with a capacity of 5,000 without a guarantee of an actual NHL-sized stadium in Arizona in the future, with the roster as currently assembled ... something has gone horribly, terribly wrong.
Despite his injury, Keller still leads the team with 63 points and 28 goals in 67 games this season. Nick Schmaltz is right behind Keller with 23 goals and 52 points in 57 games. Those two are the closest the Coyotes come to a point-per-game player. Phil Kessel, whose lone contribution is offense, has just seven goals this season — far from his 37-goal peak. He’s still third in points (46) for the Coyotes, however.
As for the Blackhawks, they recently sent Lukas Reichel back to the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs while MacKenzie Entwistle was injured and left the game Monday against the Flames. Fortunately, the Blackhawks still have options available in Kirby Dach and Philipp Kurashev — both of whom were healthy scratched against the Flames.
The Blackhawks will need to play an actually good game against a team that it should only be possible to play good games against. The Coyotes are dead last in Corsi and expected goal share this season at 5-on-5, and yet the Blackhawks are much closer in shot attempt generation than they’d probably wish and behind in expected goals.
The Coyotes are also the worst team in the league in high-danger share (42.34%) while the Blackhawks are ... better (46.08%, 25th). Yet the Blackhawks have given up 30 high-danger chances against the Coyotes and generated just 23 (43.4%) in three games against the Coyotes.
The Coyotes are also 30th in save percentage at 5-on-5 (.904) and 27th across all strengths (.894). But, against the Blackhawks, the Coyotes’ goalies have delivered a .931 and a .936 when beating Chicago (and a .889 when losing).
If the Blackhawks want to get off on the right foot in their last six games of the season — a stretch where they could conceivably pick up a few wins heading into the summer — they need to perform better against arguably the worst team in the league.
It just shouldn’t be a surprise if they don’t.
Blackhawks — Statistic — Coyotes
46.01% (30th) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 43.93% (32nd)
44.87% (31st) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 42.5% (32nd)
2.62 (27th) — Goals per game — 2.43 (32nd)
3.57 (26th) — Goals against per game — 3.79 (30th)
49.2% (19th) — Faceoffs — 47.5% (27th)
20.3% (18th) — Power play — 13.8% (30th)
75.5% (24th) — Penalty kill — 73.2% (5th)
Projected lineups (subject to change)
DeBrincat — Strome — Kane
Kubalik — Toews — T. Johnson
Raddysh — Dach — Lafferty
Katchouk — R. Johnson — Kurashev
Vlasic — S. Jones
McCabe — Regula
C. Jones — de Haan
Maccelli — Hayton — Schmaltz
Ladd — Beagle — Kessel
Galchenyuk — McBain — Eriksson
Ritchie — Smith — Boyd
Gostisbehere — Stralman
Kolyachonok — Mayo
Capobianco — Moser
How to watch
When: 9 p.m. CT
Where: Gila River Arena, Glendale
TV: NBC Sports Chicago