NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL continues on Thursday, as the Detroit Red Wings host the Chicago Blackhawks at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online by clicking here .
The Chicago Blackhawks will be looking to get revenge for the 4-0 loss they suffered against the Red Wings on Jan. 14.
January has been a tough month for the Blackhawks. They’ve come up with some big victories (5-2 in New York City, 8-2 in Ottawa, 2-1 against Winnipeg), but they’ve also endured several tough losses. The ‘Hawks started a six-game homestand on Jan. 10. That portion of the schedule was supposed to save their season. Instead, it’s buried them even further down the standings.
Last night’s tilt against the Maple Leafs was the final game of that homestand. The ‘Hawks played a solid game overall, but they still came out with a 3-2 loss in overtime on home ice. That means that they’re currently six points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the final Wild Card spot in the West. What’s most troubling, is that they’d have to leap over four teams to get into a postseason spot.
“Guys are competitors, guys are mad,” said blue liner Connor Murphy said, per the Chicago Sun-Times. [But] we talk about having fun and making sure that you remember-we’re the Blackhawks. It doesn’t get much better than this. And if we play with pride and play together, things are going to go our way.”
On a positive note, the power play finally broke out of its funk, as they managed to score two goals on the man-advantage against the Leafs.
Like Chicago, Detroit is also well out of a playoff spot at this point. Even though they have three games in hand on the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are nine points ahead of the Wings, it really doesn’t seem like they have a realistic shot of getting into the postseason.
To get ahead of the Pens, they’d have to jump both New York teams and Carolina. With roster Detroit has at their disposal, there’s a good chance that won’t happen. But the next few months should give them an opportunity to evaluate their players (both young and old) so that they can figure out who to keep and who to walk away from.
One small positive that has emerged over the last couple of games has been the play of goalie Petr Mrazek, who has struggled over the last couple of years. Mrazek is 2-0-1 in is last three outings and he’s given up just three goals during that stretch (they all came in the OT loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday).
“I think he’s in control. I think he’s managing the depth of his crease well,” head coach Jeff Blashill said of Mrazek, per MLive.com. “He needs to be out, but when he gets himself in trouble is when he gets over-aggressive and he’s out of the crease and making one save and has no chance for the second save. He seems to really be managing the depth of his crease well. Pucks are sticking to him better. He’s able to make not only first, but second saves, which in this league are required.”
Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.