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Ain’t It the Life: Blackhawks vs. Kraken Preview

The Blackhawks welcome the struggling expansion team to town, although the Blackhawks’ own struggles continue

Chicago Blackhawks v Seattle Kraken
Marcus Johansson of the Seattle Kraken attacks the net against Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks during overtime of a game between the Chicago Blackhawks and Seattle Kraken
Photo by Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty Images

On Thursday, the Chicago Blackhawks welcome the Seattle Kraken to town in a clash between two teams that likely came into the season with much higher expectations than results have shown.

In the best news of the day, Marian Hossa will sign a one-day contract with the Blackhawks and officially retire, which shows which jersey he’d be wearing if that was a thing in the Hockey Hall of Fame (it should be). That signing will take place in the United Center atrium and he should be in the crowd for the game, so maybe he’ll inspire a bit more offense.

Seattle, the latest expansion team after the success of the Golden Knights, was likely given too much credit after a horrible expansion draft that saw them acquire no draft picks and sign players who left a good amount of cap space available — which they then proceeded not to use.

The Kraken are in the second game of a back-to-back, having lost to the Blues on Wednesday, while the Blackhawks have been off since Sunday. The Kraken are also dead last in the Pacific Division and have one more point than the Coyotes with one game in hand for last place in the West. However, the Kraken are 5-5-0 in their last 10 games, with big wins over the Kings and Stars, so it’s not like the Kraken can’t compete at times.

The Kraken traded off several pieces at the trade deadline, including captain Mark Giordano, Marcus Johansson, Colin Blackwell, Mason Appleton, Jeremy Lauzon and Calle Jarnkrok. Those trades got Seattle the draft picks GM Ron Francis arguably should have pursued at the expansion draft.

The Kraken are led by Jared McCann and Yanni Gourde, each at 40 points in 61 games, with Gourde scoring 17 goals and McCann leading the team with 25. Jordan Eberle, who now has 17 goals on the season, was the lone Kraken to score Wednesday. Vince Dunn leads the Kraken blueline with seven goals and 22 assists for 29 points.

Seattle isn’t even that bad at 5-on-5 (though it’d be a stretch to call them good). The Kraken are 15th in 5-on-5 shot attempt share this season at 50.19%, 20th in expected goal share at 48.02% and 20th in high-danger share at 48.12%. Again, not bad enough for the bottom 10 but still not necessarily good.

The Kraken are good in some areas, though. Seattle’s defense has allowed the sixth-fewest expected goals per 60 at 5-on-5 this season (2.3) and the ninth-fewest high-danger chances per 60 (10.3). Seattle can control for quality, as well as quantity, as the team has allowed the fifth-fewest shots on goal per 60 (28.29) as well.

The problem is, the Kraken resemble the Blackhawks a little too much. Seattle’s offense has struggled about as much as Chicago’s has this season, although the Blackhawks have netted six more goals.

The Kraken have generated 2.13 xGF/60 at 5-on-5, fourth-worst in the NHL, with 27.9 SF/60 being sixth-worst and 9.56 HDCF/60 being third-worst. Across all strengths, the Kraken are also riding a 9.03 shot percentage and the league’s worst save percentage, .880. The Kraken are not getting puck luck at either end of the ice and have the league’s worst PDO.

It likely doesn’t help matters that away from 5-on-5, the Kraken are also awful, with bottom-five penalty kill and power-play units. The Kraken are bad at generating shots on the power play (sixth-worst in the NHL, 48.4 SF/60) and not great at preventing them on the penalty kill (19th best in the NHL, 57.47 SA/60).

However, the Kraken are eighth in shorthanded goals this season with eight, so there is some scoring there.

This is a game the Blackhawks can win, if the offense shows up, in good news. In bad news, the Blackhawks were just officially eliminated from the playoffs, so there isn’t exactly much left to play for.

Hey, at least Hossa’s back. Or was. It’s all bad news, isn’t it.

Blackhawks — Statistic —Coyotes

46.10% (30th) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 50.19% (15th)

45.11% (30th) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 48.02% (20th)

2.63 (27th) — Goals per game — 2.61 (29th)

3.50 (26th) — Goals against per game — 3.49 (25th)

48.7% (20th) — Faceoffs — 47.6% (27th)

21.3% (17th) — Power play — 14.7% (29th)

75.5% (25th) — Penalty kill — 74.3% (28th)

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

Kraken

Donato — Wennberg — Eberle

Rask — Gourde — Lind

McCann — Sheahan — Kuhlman

Sprong — Geekie — Donskoi

Dunn — Larsson

Oleksiak — Fleury

Soucy — Borgen

Grubauer/Driedger

How to watch

When: 7:30 p.m. CT

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Webstream: ESPN+