Your hockey team has a game up in Western Canada the other day ...
See all the fun we can have with GIFs now?
Anyway, the Blackhawks kick off a three-game road trip on Tuesday night against the Calgary Flames.
While this game doesn't mean a whole lot for Chicago, it's an essential one for Calgary, which remains two points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the second wild card spot in the West. Both teams have played 77 games with Winnipeg clocking in at 89 points, Calgary at 87 and the Nashville Predators right behind them at 84 points – but with a game in hand.
It's taken a pretty substantial run of fiery (GET IT?!) play from the Flames over the last few weeks just to make it this close, too. Calgary's won its last four and six of eight, including a 5-4 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night. Calgary's fate is very much in its own hands, as it will face the aforementioned Winnipeg on Wednesday night and then the aforementioned Nashville next Monday. But getting a pair of easy points against a team like Chicago is the kind of thing that teams expecting to be in the playoffs just have to get done.
The Blackhawks were here in late January for a thorough 5-1 ass-kicking and there's not much different about Calgary now, save for the acquisition of forward Nick Ritchie and defenseman Troy Stecher from the Ducks before the trade deadline. Tyler Toffoli leads the team with 71 points (33 G, 38 A) in 77 games and has six points (4 G, 2 A) in the last four. Elias Lindholm is behind him with 63 (21 G, 42 A) in 75 and Nazem Kadri follows with 54 (23 G, 31 A) in 77. After an absurd 115 points in Florida last season, Jonathan Huberdeau has just 52 (15 G, 37 A) in 74 this season with Calgary which has to feel like a letdown after that massive summer trade. Although, he does have another eight years to figure it out and $84 million in salary as comfort if he does not.
The interesting thing about Calgary is that it's one of the best puck possession teams in the league. Per Natural Stat Trick, they control both quantity – 57.2 percent shot attempt share at 5-on-5, second in the league – and quantity – 55.5 expected goal share at 5-on-5, third in the league. But with a shot percentage of just 8.01 percent at 5-on-5 and the worst PDO in the league at .979, one possible explanation is that the Flames simply don't have the finishing touch necessary to convert all that possession into goals. Toffoli's is having the best season of his career but he's not quite the elite offensive talent most playoff teams boast at the top of the lineup, and his team-leading 33 goals seem low for a side with postseason aspirations.
Also, Milan Lucic is still here and will probably do something annoying because he's nothing if not consistent.
As for the Hawks, they've once again re-claimed their solo spot in the NHL's dungeon and could "clinch" that position by losing the final six games of the season. Even as dreadful as the roster is, though, it's important to remember that this team is 3-14-1 since Feb. 27 which is a level of bad that may not be sustainable. Back in January, after a 2-20-1 stretch, Chicago promptly won five of six. Correlation is not causation here, but it also shouldn't be ignored.
Let's go Hawks(?)
Tale of the Tape (statistics from this season)
Blackhawks — Statistic — Flames
43.22% (31st) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 57.2% (2nd)
41.8% (31st) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 55.5% (3rd)
2.42 (32nd) — Goals per game — 3.18 (18th)
3.62 (25th) — Goals against per game — 3.08 (14th)
52.5% (6th) — Faceoffs — 50.5% (16th)
16.4% (29th) — Power play — 20.6% (19th)
76.4% (20th) — Penalty kill — 81.9% (8th)
How to watch
When: 8 p.m. CT
Where: Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary
TV: NBC Sports Chicago
Radio: WGN 720