PITTSBURGH – At the start of this month, the Chicago Blackhawks got the best of the Pittsburgh Penguins in a snowy, blustery Stadium Series game at Soldier Field.
Now as March draws to a close the two meet again in more climate-controlled conditions at CONSOL Energy Center. The Blackhawks clinched a playoff berth on Saturday night without even playing, thanks to the Minnesota Wild’s victory over the Phoenix Coyotes. But their late regular-season goal remains: they want to be playing their best hockey entering the postseason, something they haven’t done lately.
[LIVE STREAM: Watch Blackhawks-Penguins on Sunday night here]
Still, they have a chance to right the ship, starting with the Penguins. Will the Blackhawks tap into that Stadium Series game for inspiration? Will Teuvo Teravainen win a face-off vs. Sidney Crosby? While we ponder these questions and more, let’s take a look at the Five Things to watch for in tonight’s Penguins-Blackhawks game.
1. Do what worked for you in the Stadium Series game.
As the snow fell on that March 1 evening, the question was asked: how the heck will the Blackhawks play their game in this? Well, they did, and they did so by playing simple. Now back indoors, it’s something the Blackhawks want to apply again this evening. “Things went our way that night but we played the right way,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We wanted to make sure we played a simple game and we want to make that our (objective) for today.”
2. Crosby vs. Jonathan Toews, part deux.
The last head-to-head between these two didn’t really materialize. Crosby was quiet while Toews had a tremendous night, scoring two goals and adding an assist. But that was a month ago, and with these two playing each other for just the second time in their NHL careers, all eyes with be on them tonight.
3. Get the first goal.
Oh, has this been a problem for the Blackhawks lately or what? It’s been a common theme in recent Blackhawks games: they get behind, they get on their heels and they get completely out of their style of hockey. The Blackhawks need to reverse that trend because Pittsburgh has had their training-early woes, too; the Pens are 13-19-4 when their opponent scores first.
4. Play your way, Mr. Teravainen.
We wrote on this separately but it bears repeating: Teravainen has to do what’s made him successful, not cede to his teammates in every potential goal-scoring situation. Hey, it’s understandable: he’s 19 years old, he’s new, he doesn’t want to ruffle feathers. But it’s late in the regular season and the Blackhawks need points. Him relaxing and just playing could lead to good things.
5. Our pick to click is: Brandon Saad.
Yes, it’s the easy pick to make here. He’s playing his first NHL regular-season game in his hometown. He certainly doesn’t have to prove anything to the Pittsburgh crowd, but we’re guessing he throws in a few points anyway.