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Come As You Are: Blackhawks vs. Kraken Preview

Can the Blackhawks make it four in a row?

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Seattle Kraken v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks are in the midst of an unexpected three-game win streak as they host the Seattle Kraken on Saturday night at the United Center.

After a terrible first season for the franchise in which the Kraken finished with just 60 points, the team from Seattle has rebounded exceptionally this season. Their 25-12-4 record is good for second in the Pacific Division behind only the Vegas Golden Knights. The Kraken also sit 10th overall in the league in terms of points percentage (.659). On top of the season-long success, the Kraken are currently riding their own hot streak, winning seven straight and outscoring their opponents 33-11 in that span.

In their latest win, Seattle curb-stomped arguably the best team in the league, the Boston Bruins, 3-0 on Thursday night. Not only did the Kraken win in a decisive manner, they handed the Bruins their first regulation home loss of this season, and it was the first time Boston had been shutout in over 40 games. Like with most games, the Kraken got scoring from players on different lines, having goals coming from Brandon Tanev, Eeli Tolvanen, and Jaden Schwartz.

Scoring by committee really is the calling card of Seattle as they don’t have any real superstars on the team. Andre Burakovsky (11 G, 24 A), Matty Beniers (16 G, 18 A), and Jordan Eberle (10 G, 24) are having great campaigns, but their roughly 0.80 points-per-game rate aren’t anywhere near the rates of the top scorers on some of the league’s top teams — most of those players are around a point-per-game pace. However, Seattle’s top-nine is filled with players producing at an average of 0.58 or better. Additionally, Tolvanen — who the Kraken picked up off waivers about a month ago — has been an excellent in his seven games with four goals and two assists.

Kraken also gets contributions from their blue line, specifically their top-two in Vince Dunn and Justin Schultz. Dunn is currently ranked 11th among NHL defensemen with 30 points (7 G, 23 A) in 31 games, only a few points behind players like Roman Josi and Dougie Hamilton. Schultz’s 27 points (3 G, 24 A) in 39 games is his best production since he had a 0.65 points-per-game rate in 2016-17 with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

One area of weakness for the Kraken is in net, as the team average a mediocre 3.02 goals against per game. Goaltender Martin Jones is coming off back-to-back shutouts — making 21 and 27 saves, respectively — and he has the fourth most wins among all league goalies with 20, but his save-percentage this season is a paltry .898. Philipp Grubauer has been even worse with just a .885 save-percentage. The duo is especially poor at stopping shots when on the penalty kill, where they have the second worst save percentage in the league (.801).

Considering the above, the Kraken tend to try and outscore their issues in net, and it’s been working exceptionally well as of late. The Blackhawks, who have their own struggles with goals against, will likely have to try to match the scoring if they want to have a chance to win. They did it earlier in the season when they beat the Kraken 5-4 on Oct. 23, but that feels like a lifetime ago for the Blackhawks.

Tale of the Tape (statistics from this season)

Blackhawks — Statistic — Kraken

42.39% (32nd) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 51.54% (12th)

41.12% (31st) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 50.62% (18th)

2.23 (32nd) — Goals per game — 3.66 (3rd)

3.60 (26th) — Goals against per game — 3.02 (16th)

56.6% (1st) — Faceoffs — 45.2% (31st)

19.2% (25th) — Power play — 21.5% (18th)

73.6% (25th) — Penalty kill — 69.8% (31st)

How to watch

When: 7:00 p.m. CT

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Radio: WGN 720

Live stream: Sling TV

(Quick note: The projected lineups will be part of another article that’ll run later in the day as part of a shift in how we handle previews here.)