Five things to watch: Blackhawks vs. Sharks

Five things to watch: Blackhawks vs. Sharks
January 5, 2014, 2:30 pm
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Ah, it’s a beautiful day here in Chicago — if you’re a polar bear or a penguin.

But all kidding, snowdrifts and wind chills aside, as cold as the Chicago weather has been, the Blackhawks have been pretty hot. They’ve collected at least a point in nine consecutive games (6-0-3) and are coming off a better outing vs. the New Jersey Devils than they had against the New York Islanders.

Now it’s the San Jose Sharks, who enter tonight’s game not incredibly happy with their 4-3 loss against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday. Coach Todd McLellan wasn’t sure who would start in goal tonight for the Sharks (Antti Niemi started yesterday but got pulled for Alex Stalock). For the Blackhawks, it’ll be Corey Crawford.

So while you hit the supermarket to fight your neighbor for that last can of soup on the shelves before the frozen tundra-pocalypse hits, check out our Five Things to watch in tonight’s Sharks-Blackhawks game.

1. Jump the Shark. Oh, we’ve been waiting to use this one (folks who are my age, explain to the kids what that means). In this particular case, however, we’re talking about getting an early lead on the Sharks because they’re pretty damn good at getting an early advantage themselves. The Sharks have scored 49 first-period goals this season; the Blackhawks have tallied 45. San Jose got down early yesterday and didn’t come back, albeit not for trying. The Blackhawks will want to try and do the same today.

[MORE: Corey Crawford back in net for Blackhawks vs. Sharks]

2. Prepare for a track meet. If there’s a team that’s got speed like the Blackhawks do, it’s the Sharks. At least McLellan said the Sharks are trying to match that type of speed — “To win now, you have to be fast. This team here proves that nightly. We’re trying to get there, we have some players who have bought into it, but it’s still a work in progress.” When the Blackhawks are at their fleet-of-skate best, they’re tough to beat. They’ll need that pace tonight against a Sharks squad willing to match them in that department.

3. Beware of Joe Pavelski. This is a no brainer in so many ways, given the abilities of the Sharks center who will again be on Team USA in the upcoming Olympics. But right now Pavelski is sizzling, with nine goals and 13 points overall in his last 12 games. He’s currently riding a seven-game point streak.

4. Be ready, Mr. Crawford. The Blackhawks take their share of shots per game (33.0), but the Sharks take more, averaging a league-high 35.9 per contest. Crawford was tested often Thursday against the Islanders, his first game off his groin injury. The Sharks will likely keep him on his toes, too.

5. Who’s our pick to click? Patrick Sharp has been on a tremendous role, and he has to be a choice for Team Canada by now. But we’re guessing he plays tonight like he’s still on the bubble.