WINNIPEG, Manitoba — The Chicago Blackhawks are back in Winnipeg, better known as Jonathan Toews’ hometown (just in case you’ve been living in a cave and haven’t read that a few times).
But we digress.
The Blackhawks haven’t liked their performances in two of their last three games. They have been happy, however, with their two games against the Jets this season. So can they make it three in a row against the former Atlanta Thrashers? We left our crystal ball in the checked baggage, so we couldn’t tell you. But what we can give you is Five Things to watch in tonight’s Jets-Blackhawks game.
1. The Hossa effect. Yes, we all know Marian Hossa is a goal-scorer/simulated-arrow-shooter-after-scoring-goals aficionado. But where Hossa will really help the Blackhawks tonight is on the other side of the puck. Hossa is one of the best forwards in the NHL when he comes to protecting the puck, stealing it and generally making life difficult on the opposition. But no matter what he’s doing out there, he’s an obvious asset.
2. Where have the starts gone? When the Blackhawks have a strong first period, end results have usually been good. When they haven’t, they’ve been not so good. Again, we point to the games in Nashville and Colorado, where early deficits doomed the Blackhawks. So they want to get back to their normal starting ways tonight. “It’s not that we’re not skating. They’re just capitalizing on mistakes,” Brandon Bollig said of the opposition. “We have to minimize ours and capitalize on some of theirs.” By the way, the Jets have been outscored, 24-17, in first periods this season.
3. Will Corey Crawford rebound? We opined yesterday that perhaps Antti Raanta should get this start against the Jets, for no other reason than to give Crawford a well-deserved rest. Yes, he got a “break” when he was pulled vs. Colorado after allowing three goals in about 14 minutes. But Crawford’s back tonight. He can only take so much responsibility for that game in Colorado, but Crawford nevertheless has to put get back to the solid outings he had earlier this season.
4. Who shall click this evening? Since he’s been pretty consistent with the offense since he was recalled, we’re going with Brandon Pirri. Plus we like that second line of him, Kris Versteeg and Patrick Kane — if the Blackhawks keep it together tonight.
5. Don’t take the Jets lightly. The Blackhawks outscored the Jets 9-2 in their two previous victories. That’s why they’re called previous victories. The Blackhawks can’t assume Game 3 is going to go like Games 1 and 2. They may have fallen victim to that a bit against Nashville, which was nursing a four-game losing streak entering its game against Chicago on Saturday. You saw how that went.