There’s no rest for the Chicago Blackhawks following Friday night’s win, as the team heads north of the border to face the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night.
Winnipeg will be the far more rested side for this one, having not played since a 4-3 win over the St. Louis Blues on Jan. 30.
Any discussion around this season’s Jets team starts with goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, who could be in line for the second Vezina Trophy of his career with a 24-15-1 record, 2.45 goals-against average and .923 save percentage. The Hockey Reference website has a stat called “goals saved above average,” which attempts to quantify just how good a goalie is playing. It’s a stat that cumulates throughout the season and Hellebuyck is already up at 21.7 through 45 games, not far from the career-high of 23.8 he had back in 67 games in 2017-18. Hellebuyck was at 22.4 in his Vezina-winning season of 2019-20 so, yeah — he’s been excellent again this season.
And he’s in the Winnipeg net for this one:
Connor Hellebuyck doing his normal routine for when he’s starting in goal. D Dylan DeMelo is on the ice, but he remains in a non-contact jersey.— Ken Wiebe (@WiebesWorld) February 11, 2023
The Jets offense is closer to league average but that’s been good enough with ‘ol Bucky in net. There’s decent talent at forward here, with Kyle Connor leading the team at 59 points (24 G, 35 A) while Pierre-Luc Dubois isn’t far behind with a point-per-game pace of 52 (22 G, 30 A) in 52 games. Josh Morrissey has a team-high 43 assists from the blue line while skating a team-high 23:39 per night. Mark Scheifele has the team lead at 31 goals and 36-year-old Blake Wheeler still has a respectable 37 points (12 G, 25 A) in 43 games after being stripped of the team captaincy back in September. Oh, and Sam Gagner is also here — although he’s been in and out of the lineup — so the potential remains for an 8-point game from him because why not?
It all adds up to a 32-19-1 record for Winnipeg, good for 65 points, second place in the Central Division and third in the Western Conference. The aforementioned break came at a good time for the Jets, who’d won just three of eight in the back half of January before the nearly two-week break. They’ve owned the Blackhawks this season, winning 4-0 on Nov. 5, 7-2 on Nov. 27 and 3-1 on Dec. 9 for an aggregate score of 14-3 — no word on which Blue Bombers QB had those two touchdown passes, though.
As for the Blackhawks, this schedule does them no favors, with the Blackhawks facing one of the better teams in the West and having to do so on little rest after Friday’s win. Petr Mrazek is expected to be in net after Jaxson Stauber maintained his unbeaten NHL record on Friday night. No other lineup changes are expected, although that won’t be confirmed until coach Luke Richardson meets with the media in later on Saturday. Jonathan Toews remains out with that non-COVID illness, so a hometown game for him is not in the cards this time.
This is a tall task for the Hawks, but that’s not such a big deal this season, is it?
Tale of the Tape
Blackhawks — Statistic — Jets
42.84% (32nd) — Corsi For — 50.45% (19th)
40.83% (31st) — Expected goals for — 43.28% (21st)
2.48 (31st) — Goals per game — 3.19 (14th)
3.60 (26th) — Goals against per game — 2.63 (3rd)
55.8% (1st) — Faceoffs — 48.4% (24th)
18.9% (25th) — Power play — 22.3% (16th)
76.0% (24th) — Penalty kill — 83.3% (3rd)
Projected lineups (subject to change)
T. Johnson — Dickinson — Kane
Kurashev — Domi — Raddysh
Athanasiou — Lafferty — Blackwell
Katchouk — Entwistle — R. Johnson
McCabe — S. Jones
J. Johnson — Murphy
C. Jones — Mitchell
Connor — Dubois — Perfetti
Ehlers — Scheifele — Wheeler
Barron — Lowry — Kuhlman
Maenalanen — Stenlund — Appleton
Morrissey — Pionk
Dillon — Samberg
Stanley — Schmidt
How to watch
When: 9 p.m. CT
Where: Canada Life Centre, Winnipeg
TV: NBC Sports Chicago Plus
Live stream: NBC Sports app, ESPN+