Chicago Blackhawks preview: JT (C) vs. JT (C)?

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October 11, 2013 by Joe Baugnet

As most people know, the cost of Blackhawks tickets is ridiculous. In order to make it out to the Madhouse to watch them play, most people really have to target a date and create a budget for those tickets. Thanks to a few months of saving for the game, I will be traveling to the U.C. tonight to watch the Hawks take on the Islanders.

New York Islanders

John Tavares of the New York Islanders (Photo: Wikipedia)

I chose the Islanders to be the game of the year for me, because I’ve never seen them play before. Apart from the last game of the season against Montreal (I don’t even want to know how much those tickets are going to cost), the Islanders seemed like the most interesting team to watch.

Tavares vs. Toews is going to be a battle worth watching, and will be interesting to see which captain will take their team to the top. The Islanders have also started the season off strong, winning both of their games. Although they are only 2-0-1, Michael Grabner already has six points and Frans Nielsen has five. Evgeni Nabokov is also playing lights-out with a .935 save percentage, facing 92 shots this season.

As I am writing this, Kris Kuc announced that Nikolai Khabibulin is getting the start tonight. Total buzzkill for me, but it will be interesting to see how he plays between the pipes. Last season Khabs only played 12 games with the Edmonton Oilers and posted a .923 save percentage with a 2.54 goals-against average. I’m still not sure if this is going to be another Marty Turco deal, but will be crossing my fingers hoping that the sieve is blocked.

The Blackhawks come into tonight’s game at a frustrating 1-1-1. Although the team has played “well”, using the term in the least generous way possible, they have a few holes that they could work on patching tonight.

The first task is the most obvious: take the lead and hold on to it. This isn’t a new struggle for the Hawks, and fans know that. The team seems to love taking the game right up to the final seconds, or wrapping it up with their overly predictable shoot-out lineup. For the love of God, please put Saad in the top three if this ends up going into OT. But of course, it would be preferable to win this game in regulation.

The second “task” the Hawks need to work on are their special teams. Although the powerplay seems to be tightening up, the penalty kill is dead last in the league at an abysmal 44%. The Hawks are in last by a solid 20% margin (Calgary is second to last with a 60% conversion rate). The PK got lit up by the Washington Capitals at the start of the season, and it will need to tighten up as the season progresses. Losing Frolik was a bummer, but the past is the past. Pairing Rosival and Hjalmarsson on D might be worth a shot, while having Nordstrom and Toews up top. It’s a gamble putting in Nordstrom, but at a 44% conversion rate, taking a risk might have valuable returns.

If the Blackhawks can fix these issues, there’s no doubt in my mind that they’ll skate away with a win against this newly improved Islanders squad.

Peace, love, and hot dogs

Joe Baugnet

Patrick Kane Bobblehead

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