clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Just Watch the Fireworks: Blackhawks-Coyotes Preview

Chicago returns home and will face a team not in Stanley Cup contention for a change.

Arizona Coyotes v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Two teams near the bottom of the NHL standings meet on Sunday night at the United Center when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Arizona Coyotes.

Not the strongest sales pitch for this game, eh?

Anyway, it doesn’t require the deepest statistical dive to understand why the Coyotes have the league’s lowest point total at 47. They’re 32nd in goals scored per game (2.53), 28th in goals allowed per game (28th), 30th on the power play (13.6) and 30th on the penalty kill (30th). In terms of possession statistics, Arizona is worst in the league for 5-on-5 quantity and quality, owning the lowest shares of shot attempts (43.74%) and expected goals (42.57%) in the NHL. To summarize: Arizona is bad at 5-on-5 play, bad at special teams play, doesn’t score many goals but does give up a lot of them. So, yeah, it ain’t the 1980s Edmonton Oilers visiting the United Center this evening. The Coyotes do have three first-round picks and four second-round picks in the 2022 draft, though. So there’s that.

The on-ice situation got a little worse in the last week as well, with leading scorer Clayton Keller (28 G, 35 A) out for the season after fracturing his femur in an ugly collision with the boards on Wednesday night. Lawson Crouse, who was fifth on the team with 34 points (20 G, 14A) in 65 games, may also be finished this season after breaking a bone in his right hand last week. With those two gone, the top three scorers who’ll be on the ice for Arizona are old friend Nick Schmaltz (20 G, 27 A), veteran Phil Kessel (7 G, 35 A) and blue-liner Shayne Gostisbehere (10 G, 31 A). But don’t worry, folks: Jay Beagle is here to assault players who dare score goals against the Coyotes while a jackass broadcaster cheers him on.

The bad news for Blackhawks fans is that Arizona is only 11 points behind Chicago in the standings, a gap that feels like it should be significantly larger given the Dire Straits of the desert dwellers. Regardless, it’s a significantly lower level of competition awaiting Chicago on Sunday night after facing two legitimate Stanley Cup contenders on back-to-back nights in the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning. Not surprisingly, Chicago dropped both games, moving its current losing streak to four games and a grisly record of 9-17-5 since a brief four-game winning streak in mid-January.

As far as a lineup goes, it looks like Alex Vlasic heads back to the press box while Riley Stillman returns to the lineup, for reasons that would seem contradictory to this whole “rebuild” thing the Blackhawks are trying right now.

Thursday’s game was the 1,000th of Jonathan Toews’ career. Since that was on the road, a more formal acknowledgement of that accomplishment is slated for Sunday’s game. It’s been a murky season for the captain and with his future feeling so uncertain, those who’ve grown fond of watching No. 19 in red skate around the United Center would be wise to soak up whatever moments Toews produces for the rest of this season — because anything beyond that can’t be promised.

Feels weird just to type that sentence, but it does seem to be reality of the situation, doesn’t it?

Blackhawks — Statistic —Coyotes

46.02% (30th) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 43.74% (32nd)

45.10% (30th) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 42.57% (32nd)

2.64 (26th) — Goals per game — 2.53 (32nd)

3.51 (26th) — Goals against per game — 3.57 (28th)

48.6% (21st) — Faceoffs — 48.0% (24th)

21.1% (17th) — Power play — 13.6% (30th)

75.8% (24th) — Penalty kill — 73.7% (30th)

Projected lineups (subject to change)

Blackhawks

DeBrincat — Strome — Kane

Kubalik — Toews — Lafferty

Raddysh — Dach — T. Johnson

Katchouk — R. Johnson — Entwistle

C. Jones — S. Jones

de Haan — McCabe

Stillman — Gustafsson

Lankinen

Delia

Coyotes

Ritchie — Hayton — Schmaltz

Jenik — Boyd — Kessel

Eriksson — Beagle — Fasching

Maccelli — Galchenyuk — Carcone

Gostisbehere — Mayo

Dineen — Stralman

Capobianco — Kolyachonok

Vejmelka/Korenar

How to watch

When: 6 p.m. CT

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Webstream: ESPN+