Follow me on Twitter @ToddCordell
Five things to watch when the Calgary Flames take on the Chicago Blackhawks:
1. Bleeding chances
The Flames have not been as prolific offensively of late. Over the last 10 games, they rank 20th in shot attempts/60 and 15th in chances/60 at 5v5. That's a far cry from where they sit on the season (8th in each category). Luckily, they are in the perfect spot to get back on track.
Tonight they'll take on a horrid Blackhawks team in the latter half of a back-to-back. Chicago ranks 31st in suppressing chances and high-danger chances over the last 10 games. They bleed quality looks and, with Corey Crawford out, they don't have anyone capable of consistently erasing mistakes. Don't be surprised if the Flames are able to put up a big number.
2. An exploitable matchup
Further to my last point, this is a good spot for Calgary's top line to bounce back following an abnormally quiet game in Philadelphia.
Being hard matched vs Jonathan Toews is not ideal. Being hard matched vs Carl Dahlstrom and Connor Murphy, however, is. They're primarily used as the shutdown pairing and the garnered results are about what you'd expect. In ~170 minutes together, they own a 44.9 Corsi For% and 41.16 Expected Goals For%. That pairing is, in a word, bad. If they see plenty of run against Johnny Gaudreau and co., it could get ugly for them.
3. Calgary's power play vs Chicago's penalty kill
This will be another fun matchup for the Flames. At least it should be. The Blackhawks are horrendous while down a man. They rank 27th in CA/60, 31st in xGA/60, and no team in the league has conceded more times. Chicago doesn't take many penalties (only three teams have drawn the gate fewer times). They just can't limit the damage when they do. Calgary's power play has not gotten results, or looked good, of late but this is as good of a spot as any for that to change.
4. Garnet Hathaway's struggles
The Flames parted with most of their anchors in the summer. One they've held onto, Garnet Hathaway, continues to cause problems. Over the last 15, the Flames have been out-attempted 107-74 (40.88 CF%), out-chanced 43-26 (37.68 SCF%), and out-scored 6-1 (14.29 GF%) with Hathaway on the ice at 5v5. Individually, he's piled up *checks notes* six shots on goal during that span. He is playing objectively bad hockey and yet he dresses every single night. I understand he's a hard worker but that hard work still leads to horrendous results. The sooner the Flames realize that, the better off they'll be.
5. A bright spot
Not much is going right in Chicago these days. Just ask the Bears (sorry, as an Eagles fan I had to). One positive is the play of Dylan Strome – at least offensively. He has eight points in his last six games and leads the team in chances and high-danger chances at 5v5 during that stretch. He's running hot, and the percentages have played a role in that, but Chicago's rebuild will go much better if the 21-year-old is able to develop into a consistent contributor for them. He's certainly getting that chance alongside Patrick Kane. Right now, he's taking advantage of it.
Here are the projected lineups:
Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Elias Lindholm
Matthew Tkachuk - Mikael Backlund - Sam Bennett
Michael Frolik - Mark Jankowski - James Neal
Garnet Hathaway - Derek Ryan - Austin Czarnik
Mark Giordano - T.J. Brodie
Noah Hanifin - Travis Hamonic
Oliver Kylington - Rasmus Andersson
David Rittich/Mike Smith
Chicago (via dailyfaceoff.com)
Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Dominik Kahun
Artem Anisimov - Dylan Strome - Patrick Kane
Alex DeBrincat - David Kampf - Brendan Perlini
Chris Kunitz - Marcus Kruger - Drake Caggiula
Duncan Keith - Erik Gustafsson
Brandon Davidson - Brent Seabrook
Carl Dahlstrom - Connor Murphy
Puck drop is just after 8:30 eastern and can be seen on SNW and NBCSCH.
Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com and Corsica.Hockey
Hotstove: midseason Norris Trophy picks
Hotstove: midseason Hart Trophy picks
Smith's struggles continue in loss to Bruins
Predicting the Pacific Division standings