With only four games remaining on their schedule, the Blackhawks will finish up their final trip out west this season on Saturday evening in California against the San Jose Sharks.
Thursday night’s disastrous 4-1 loss to the Kings was just another punch to the gut in what seems like the longest end to a Hawks’ season in recent memory. If the Blackhawks want to grab two points in San Jose, they’ll have to do exactly the opposite of all things done during Thursday’s yard sale of a game.
The guilty parties in their most recent defeat included just about everyone wearing a Blackhawks sweater, save for Kevin Lankinen, who was given the night off after playing the first game of a back-to-back the night before. Lankinen, who’s had a rough stretch as of late, earned a victory over the Sharks back on April 14th after making 33 saves on 37 shots and stopping all 3 shootout attempts against.
His opposition will likely be San Jose backup, Kaapo Kahkonen, after starter James Reimer played on Thursday night against the St. Louis Blues. Kahkonen has only played eight games for San Jose this season and owns a .915 save-percentage and 3.08 goals against average. Depending on which versions of these teams show up in Saturday’s match-up, those numbers could be just enough for him to steal a victory.
Although the Sharks’ cast of stars remains mostly healthy, defenseman Erik Karlsson hasn’t played since that game last week in Chicago with an undisclosed injury and could remain out for Saturday’s game as well. The Blackhawks will have to take any advantage they can find to straighten up their possession numbers and keep the puck out of their own end. This could mean looking for advantageous matchups and attacking the Sharks’ weaker side during zone exits and entries.
Overall, the Blackhawks just need to find ways to put the puck in the net. Aside from the line of Patrick Kane, Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat — who by all accounts have been the best feature the Hawks have to offer — someone needs to step up and make plays. If they don’t, this could be another long night for the Blackhawks and Chicago sports fans, who, between the Bulls, Sox and Cubs, had a rather miserable Friday.
The Hawks jumped the Sharks way back before Thanksgiving. Maybe they can at very least flatter us just a few more times this season?
Blackhawks — Statistic — Sharks
46.19% (30th) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 45.21% (31st)
44.97% (30th) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 47.18% (23rd)
2.61 (27th) — Goals per game — 2.56 (30th)
3.51 (26th) — Goals against per game — 3.15 (20th)
48.8% (19th) — Faceoffs — 50.2% (16th)
21.1% (17th) — Power play — 18.8% (23rd)
74.9% (27th) — Penalty kill — 86% (2nd)
Projected lineups (subject to change)
Kubalik — Toews — T. Johnson
DeBrincat — Strome — Kane
Kurashev — Lafferty — Raddysh
Borgstrom — R. Johnson — Katchouk
Vlasic — S. Jones
McCabe — Regula
de Haan — Stillman
Meier — Hertl — Barabanov
Bonino — Couture — Nieto
Balcers — Bordeleau — Gregor
Reedy — Chmelevski — Weatherby
Ferraro — Burns
Megna — Meloche
Vlasic — Merkley
How to watch
When: 7 p.m. CT
Where: SAP Center, San Jose
TV: NBC Sports Chicago