Scott Schultz The Hockey Writers
Blackhawks Showing Signs of Life
This past weekend was an exciting one for the faithful followers of the Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks took to the ice on the road in Colorado against the Avalanche for a Saturday night showdown with the Avs, who had beaten them three times already in the past month, and left with some revenge.
RELATED: Blackhawks’ Weekly: Revenge on the Avs & Two Solid Central Wins
Coming off a solid showing during a 4-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday, the Blackhawks’ trip to Denver featured a four-goal, come-from-behind third period to finally get a win over the Avalanche, 5-3.
After Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to the Avalanche, Blackhawks defensive leader Duncan Keith called for more fire and energy from his team, and they responded.
“We gotta get a little more emotion,” Keith said following Wednesday’s game. “It’s not gonna just turn around, it’s not gonna just happen. We need to make it happen. We need to get a little pissed off.
“We can go over the Xs and Os and everything and all the stuff. But I think everybody, myself included, has to play with a little more energy, a little more grit, being a little mean out there, I don’t know.”
The Week Ahead……
The Blackhawks open the week tonight hosting the struggling New Jersey Devils, then head back to home ice on Friday night against the New York Islanders. The close out this week’s play on Sunday, traveling to Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets.
Monday, Dec. 23 vs. Devils
With only 27 points and an 11-19-5 record, the Devils are having a difficult season and are currently last in the Metropolitan Division. Having just dealt Taylor Hall to the Arizona Coyotes, the Devils are now looking to a new group to lead the way. Kyle Palmieri, tops the team in both goals and assists with 14 and 22, respectively.
They’ve struggled in goal, with starting netminder Mackenzie Blackwood posting a 2.88 goals against average (GAA), while backup tender Gilles Senn allows an average of 3.42 goals per game. The Blackhawks should be able to continue to build on the momentum they’ve built over their last four games and come away with a win.
PREDICTION: Blackhawks 3, Devils 1
Friday, Dec. 27 vs. Islanders
Coming off a shootout loss to the Anaheim Ducks, the Islanders have allowed 16 goals in their last three games. But the Islanders have still managed to win three of their last five by providing enough offense to counter their opponents’ tallies.
RELATED: 5 Devils Who Must Pick Up the Pace Without Hall
One of the best teams in hockey, the Islanders are now 23-8-3 on the season and are second in the Metropolitan Division only to the Washington Capitals.
Mathew Barzal leads the Islanders in all three offensive categories, with 30 points, 15 goals and 15 assists. In net, Thomas Greiss leads with a 2.39 GAA and a .924 save percentage (SV%). While the Blackhawks might be able to get some shots in the net, they will have their hands full keeping the Islanders high-scoring offense in check.
PREDICTION: Islanders 5, Blackhawks 2
Sunday, Dec. 29 @ Blue Jackets
After destroying the Devils in the last game, 5-1, the Blue Jackets’ streak was setup after wins over the Detroit Red Wings, Capitals and the Los Angeles Kings.
With a 16-14-6 record on the season, the Blue Jackets sit in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division just ahead of the lowly Devils. The Blue Jackets are playing some of their best hockey of the season, defending their own zone very well, outscoring their opponents 16-6 during their current winning streak.
The Blue Jackets’ offense benefits from a balanced attack, with Gustav Nyquist leading the team in points with 26, while Pierre-Luc Dubois leads with 12 goals and Seth Jones has added 18 assists. The Blackhawks will catch a break, as their defense won’t have to deal with the streaking Oliver Bjorkstrand. In the midst of a four-game point streak, Bjorkstrand has been on a tear of late tallying five goals and two assists during the run, but suffered an injury during the win over the Devils and will be out four to six weeks.
RELATED: Bjorkstrand Nets a Pair as Blue Jackets Beat Devils 5-1
With the defense always a question mark, the Blackhawks’ offense will need to step up their game, keeping the puck in the offensive zone and away from the Blue Jackets offensive surge to stay in the game.
PREDICTION: Blue Jackets 3, Blackhawks 2
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