The Chicago Blackhawks are back in action tomorrow night as they play host to the Anaheim Ducks. The Blackhawks are the defending Stanley Cup champions and have one of the league's best offensive attacks. Despite starting 2014 with a record of 2-1-4, the Blackhawks still have the second best record in the NHL. Who's in first you might ask? It's the red hot Anaheim Ducks. A team that looks unstoppable at the moment.
The Ducks have won eight games in a row and 18 of their last 19. They have recorded at least one point in 22 straight games and sit atop the NHL with 77 points. The Blackhawks are second behind the Ducks with 71 points and Friday's game will be a great chance for the Blackhawks to gain some ground.
Even though the Ducks look unstoppable and the Blackhawks have been struggling lately, there is one thing that could be a huge advantage for the Blackhawks. This game will be played in Chicago. The Ducks are 20-0-2 at home this season, but only 16-8-3 on the road. The Blackhawks hold a 16-3-7 home record and haven't lost a home game in regulation since December 3. The crowd at the United Center is one of the best, if not the best, in the NHL. They will need to be loud and fired up for this game and provide the home team with the advantage.
Leading the charge for the Ducks has been the duo of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Getzlaf is fourth in the league with 55 points, while Perry is right behind him in fifth with 53 points. The two of them have been essential to the team's success this season. Jonas Hiller has also been unbelievable in net for the Ducks, posting a 23-4-4 record this season. Hiller has won 14 straight games and hasn't lost in regulation since November 26. The fact that the Ducks are getting it done on offense, as well as on the defensive end and in net, makes them a tough matchup for any team on any night.
Not to be outdone, the Blackhawks have a talented bunch of their own. Patrick Kane is tied for second in the league with 56 points, while Patrick Sharp (49) and Jonathan Toews (47) are both in the top 11. Duncan Keith leads all defensemen with 44 points and is third in the NHL with 41 assists. They have seven players with 30 or more points this season and find numerous ways to beat their opponents.
By looking at those numbers, one might attribute the Blackhawks recent struggles to their defense and goaltending, but that is certainly not the case. Although Corey Crawford has been winless in his last eight games and in his last five since returning from injury, he has been far from the problem. Crawford is averaging 31.8 saves over his last five contests and has kept his team in the game each and every night by making a plethora of key saves. Unfortunately for Crawford, he hasn't been the beneficiary of a high-scoring offense like teammate Antti Raanta has.
Raanta has been solid this for the Blackhawks and did a great job filling in for Crawford when he was injured. Raanta has a 12-1-3 record this season and hasn't lost in regulation since December 14. In his last six games, the Blackhawks have scored 28 goals, while only allowing 14. They have doubled their opponents in goals when Raanta is in net, a huge reason for his success. In Crawford's last five games, the Blackhawks have been outscored 14-9. It's hard to win games when your team isn't putting the puck in the net.
It is unknown whether the Blackhawks will go with Crawford or Raanta in net against the Ducks, but whoever it is, they will need some offensive support to pick up the win.
Friday's game starts at 7 pm. CT and will be played at the United Center in Chicago. It should be an exciting game between two of the best teams in the league. Let's hope the Blackhawks put forth a full-60 minute effort and come out with the win. The Ducks are coming off a 9-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night and will try to carry that performance over to Chicago.
Based on the two teams you would expect this to be a high-scoring game, but don't be surprised if it's a 2-1 final.
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