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Blackhawks @ Sharks Game Preview

January 28, 2010

Game Time: 9:30 PM CST
TV/Radio: NHL-N, CSN / WGN (720-AM)
Know Thy Enemy: Fear the Fin

Stat Pack:

Blackhawks Sharks
6-3-1 8-1-1
Record on the Road: 15-8-3 at Home: 18-4-6
PP% 21.3% 21.6%
PK 85.6% 87.8%

The Sharks are the NHL’s cautionary tale of a nigh-on unstoppable force that seems to always fall apart come April, but it’s the end of January and the Sharks are still a dangerous juggernaut of a team that’s plowed through for 78 points, good for best in the league.

That’s the big story heading into tonight, too: tonight is touted to be a battle for Best in the West. I’d buy it if that hadn’t been the story the last three times both teams faced each other this season, but both teams have been jockeying for league leader nearly all season. The one time the Blackhawks were actually in a position to unseat the Sharks, if such a thing were possible mid-season, they fired 47 shots on Nabokov and he stopped 45 of them to lead the Sharks to a 3-2 win.

Of course, the other two meetings so far this season included a 4-3 OT win and a 7-2 drubbing in favor of the Blackhawks, so the guys over at FTF seem to be a little antsy. The Hawks have shown they can skate with the Sharks, but I wouldn’t call the last tilt a Blackhawk-dominant game. We outshot the Sharks by 33, but keep in mind we haven’t yet won a game when the shot differential was 30 or above in our favor, which could be a function of a few things:

  1. Running into a hot goalie (Vokoun, Nabokov, Hiller);
  2. The opponents managing to cut the Hawks off from prime shooting lanes and forcing them to make shots from weak angles; and
  3. There could also be a bit of frustration and desperation involved, as the Hawks were playing catch-up in 2 of those 3 games.

In any case, tonight is the final regular season game between the two teams, and though its outcome should not be treated as some sort of “statement” of one team’s dominance over the other (I say this knowing the worst we’ll get out of it is an even split), it would be interesting all the same to see how the teams match up against each other. The Sharks are coming off a 5-game winning streak where they’ve outscored opponents 26-7 (ouch!) and have been resting since they last played Saturday.

The Hawks, meanwhile, are nearing the end of their 8-game road trip, with mixed results. They played fairly well against the Oilers, but these days there are few teams that don’t. One area that Sharks fans have worried about is their secondary scoring, or lack thereof, but Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook don’t seem to match up well with the top line of Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau, and Joe Thornton, so there may not be need for secondary scorers to step up just yet. Keith and Seabrook were on the ice for all three of the Sharks’ goals last time, one of them being a shorthanded tally by Joe Thornton. Actually, the only time neither Keith nor Seabrook were on the ice for a Sharks goal was when Marleau scored goal number 3 for the Sharks during the first game. It’s an interesting thought to consider heading into tonight, but remember the magic words “sample size” and know that they’re not necessarily indicative of anything, except perhaps just how strong a top line San Jose has.

Considering the semi-inconsistent play of the Hawks recently (W-L-W-L-W), it isn’t easy to predict what kind of team we’ll be cheering for tonight. Dan Boyle is probably out for the Sharks, fighting off some bout with the flu, but since the Canucks were able to limit Hawks’ chances despite missing 3 of their top blueliners, I’m not going to put much stock in Boyle’s absence tonight. The NHL preview says Kane “does not seem like his usual self” because he’s only scored 2 points in the last 4 games–both in Edmonton–but maybe that’s the game that begins to right the ship. Toews has 7 points in the last 6 games, and Keith has 13 in the last 12. Huet may be in goal tonight as well. And depending on your level of faith in cosmic omens and superstitious what-have-yous, San Francisco Giants infielder Pablo Sandoval is dropping the first puck tonight, he of Operation Panda fame.

I’m taking that as a good sign.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 28, 2010 1:07 PM

    Hopefully, whatever kicked into the Hawks last time they played in San Jose, kicks in again. Determination to beat the NHL points leader? Dedication to continue the winning streak? A final boost of energy towards the end of their Road Trip?

    I’m convinced that it was much more than just the debut of Hossa.

  2. January 28, 2010 1:35 PM

    So my unnecessary & useless comment is that maybe that night in Vancouver helped Kaner “straighten” out. What would’ve happened if he aimed higher? Hmm…

    Ok, I’ll go back to my corner mumbling to myself now.

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