It’s not often the Blackhawks head into a game trailing their opponent in the standings, but tonight they’ll do exactly that.
The ‘Hawks — sitting second in the Western Conference — will host the NHL’s hottest team tonight as the Ducks fly into the United Center. Anaheim sits atop the league standings with 77 points (36-8-5), six clear of the ‘Hawks, and Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville knows this is arguably the biggest challenge his club has faced all season.
“It’s a great test for us,” he said, per the Chicago Tribune. “They’re on an amazing run. Game in and game out they’re a hard team to play against and they have a lot of guys contributing.”
As you’ve probably heard, the Ducks are tearing apart the league. They’ve won 18 of their last 19 games, tied with the 1967-68 Montreal Canadiens as the only teams in NHL history to win 18 of 19 in a season.
What’s more, Anaheim is coming off a 9-1 pasting of Vancouver in which it set a franchise record for goals in a game.
But while the Ducks are flying high, the ‘Hawks aren’t exactly soaring. Chicago has lost five of seven (but still collected eight of a possible 14 points) and has been lamenting its lack of finish. The team fired 48 shots on Semyon Varlamov in a 3-2 OT loss last game out, but could only manage to slide two past the Colorado ‘keeper. It marked the fourth time in the last five games the ‘Hawks finished with two goals or fewer, hardly what you’d expect from a team boasting the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa.
“If some of those go in, we’re maybe not talking about being in a rut because we won the last game too [against the Edmonton Oilers],” Duncan Keith said, per NHL.com. Over the last couple of games there might be games we’ve been more consistent in, but we had a lot of chances in the last game and they just didn’t go in.”