NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
If the Blackhawks and Red Wings continue on their current paths, their playoff droughts will continue.
The Red Wings (10-29-3) merely hope to avoid making dubious history. The Blackhawks, though? With 42 points in as many games played, the 18-18-6 Blackhawks aim to keep slim hopes alive.
Blackhawks begin homestand vs. Red Wings coming off a solid trip
Chicago entered 2020 winning five of their last seven games. Even considering a 7-5 loss to the Canucks that involved a squandered lead, the Blackhawks felt good taking two wins from a three-game road trip. That stretch looks better when you consider the obstacles Chicago faced.
“There’s a lot of positives to take,” Defenseman Connor Murphy said, via the Blackhawks’ website. “I think just the way guys came together and played in three different time zones, a lot of travel and seemed to string periods together and show that we can be a team to put a big winning streak together. I think we really wanted to do that tonight, but we know in order to be that team that we think we can be, we have to string it together at some point and we have a good opportunity going home to do that.”
The Blackhawks face an opportunity to grind their way up the standings a bit with a four-game homestand. With that in mind, they can’t take dour Detroit lightly.
Blackhawks have plenty of room for improvement
Broadly speaking, Chicago maintains recent patterns. The Blackhawks can generate offense, but give up even more going the other way. They might need to outscore their problems to even greater degree with Robin Lehner banged up, as Lehner bailed Chicago out on plenty of nights.
As Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said, “the focus will continue to be on defending.”
Improving on defense is an understandable goal, but gains may only be marginal. The Blackhawks might actually want to focus on their power play. Despite boasting Patrick Kane (on another 100+ point pace) and Alex DeBrincat, the Blackhawks have only converted on 15.7 percent of their power-play opportunities, a bottom-10 rate.
Maybe the Blackhawks can wake up their man advantage against a struggling team like the Red Wings?
One way or another, Chicago needs to take games like these if they want to keep the door open for a playoff push.
Chris Cuthbert will handle play-by-play duties alongside Pierre McGuire at United Center in Chicago, Ill.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.