The Chicago Blackhawks kick off a four-game road trip on Wednesday night when they fly to Texas to face the Dallas Stars.
Chicago and Dallas are at opposite sides of the standings, with Chicago dead-last in the Central with an 18-32-5 record and Dallas at the top of the Central with 30-15-12. However, the Stars are on a four-game losing streak, and the Blackhawks have played well (by the standards of a dead-last team) in the past week, with two strong wins and a loss.
To quote celebrated Texan Matthew McConaughey, the Stars are doing “alright, alright, alright.”
The Stars are in a good spot, sitting atop the Central Division despite losing their last four games. Their defense has been on lock this season, only allowing 2.54 goals per game — the second best rate in the league. Starting goaltender Jake Oettinger has secured the Dallas net well with a .926 save percentage and a 2.20 goals-against average.
The Stars’ offense has also been strong, averaging 3.21 goals per game — 13th in the league. It seems easy when you’ve got Jake Robertson (34 G, 37 A), Roope Hintz (23 G, 27 A) and Joe Pavelski (14 G, 36 A) on your forward lines, with that trio combining for 171 points this season. The Stars also have a couple of scoring defensemen on the blue line in Miro Heiskanen (7 G, 34 A) and Esa Lindell (6 G, 10 A).
And look out, Blackhawks: the Stars have just signed a two-day contract with a very talented rookie:
✍️ SIGNED! ✍️— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) February 21, 2023
We have signed Max Hinojosa to a two-day contract.
Welcome to #TexasHockey, Max! @MakeAWishNT | @DS_Foundation ✨ pic.twitter.com/Tf1JbzSqmc
The last time the the Stars faced the Hawks was on Nov. 23, 2022, with Dallas winning 6-4 after scoring five goals in the final 10 minutes of the game:
Going into Wednesday’s matchup, a key point for the Blackhawks will be shoring up their defense, given how the last game ended. They’ve allowed 3.59 goals per game this season, which is 26th in the league. And with the defensive pairings constantly shifting, it’s been a season-long struggle to in the defensive zone. It also doesn’t help that goaltender consistency has been a problem for Chicago, as Alex Stalock remains out with ocular issues while Petr Mrazek and Jaxson Stauber keep switching off when healthy. Mrazek played on Tuesday against the Vegas Golden Knights, so Stauber should start this one.
Another key part of this game could be on special teams. Chicago’s power play is 21st in the league at 76.4 percent, while Dallas sits fourth at 83.61 percent. That’s bad news for the Blackhawks power play, which is already abysmal with a 17.3 percent conversation rate that’s 26th in the league but has been especially bad of late:
Blackhawks PP now 1-for-33 since Jan. 17...— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) February 22, 2023
That tweet came in the first period of Tuesday’s game against Vegas. The power play did score the game-tying goal later, though:
That breaks the 1-for-34 PP drought at the ideal time— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) February 22, 2023
To be fair, the Hawks do still have five players out on injured reserve, including key players like Stalock and Jonathan Toews. But there are some positive notes for the Hawks, though, including a solid performance from newbie Cole Guttman, who scored in his second straight game against the Golden Knights:
Cole Guttman is the first Blackhawks forward to score 2 goals in his first 4 career games since 2015.— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) February 22, 2023
Two guys did it in 2015: Dennis Rasmussen and...Artemi Panarin. https://t.co/Yy3oECE2Q3
Cole Guttman scores in his 2nd straight game. #Blackhawks pic.twitter.com/wJSFZz22VX— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) February 22, 2023
Besides Guttman, Hawks top offensive performers continue to be Max Domi (15 G, 27 A), Patrick Kane (14 G 27 A) and Taylor Raddysh (14 G 10 A). Jake McCabe and Connor Murphy are holding the backlines together with a combined 5.8 defensive point share, per Hockey Reference.
Here’s to hoping that Wednesday has a better result than the last time these two teams played.
Let’s go Hawks.
Tale of the Tape
Blackhawks — Statistic — Stars
43.03% (32nd) — Corsi For — 50.77% (18th)
40.85% (31st) — Expected goals for — 51.20% (14th)
2.46 (31st) — Goals per game — 3.21 (14th)
3.59 (26th) — Goals against per game — 2.54 (2nd)
55.0% (1st) — Faceoffs — 55.0% (2nd)
17.3% (26th) — Power play — 22.9% (12th)
76.2% (22nd) — Penalty kill — 83.6% (4th)
How to watch
When: 8:30 p.m. CT
Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas
TV: TNT, NBC Sports Chicago