The Chicago Blackhawks left Montreal a frustrated group. So close to getting a second point, yet it once again eluded them.
The Blackhawks’ issues aren’t debilitating by any means. Every team has its slumps, no matter how good they are. But the Blackhawks are nonetheless unhappy with points they’ve left on the table since the calendar changed over to 2014.
But there’s little time to sulk, as the Edmonton Oilers come to town tonight. Antti Raanta will get the start in goal and Sheldon Brookbank will draw in as the Blackhawks’ sixth defenseman. We’re getting past all that talk of how the Oilers are a thorn in the Blackhawks’ side, mainly because the Oilers really haven’t been that these past two seasons. Still, with the Blackhawks struggling, the Oilers would love nothing than to take advantage of the situation.
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So while we look forward to another double-anthem introduction, let’s look at the Five Things to watch for in tonight’s Oilers-Blackhawks game.
1. They still start well, don’t they? Yes, we’re copying one of our things from yesterday but for good reasons. The Blackhawks are still looking for their first first-period goal of 2014. Ah, gone are the days when the Blackhawks had something like 12 shots and a 2-0 lead after the first 20 minutes. They’ve come out of the gate too lethargically lately, and that has to change immediately.
2. Be smarter defensively. The Blackhawks were giving the Montreal Canadiens way too many prime scoring opportunities on Saturday night. Corey Crawford was stellar in stopping many of them, but that’s just not typical Blackhawks hockey. They need to return to shutdown mode because if they don’t, the Oilers have the young talent that can take advantage of those mistakes.
3. Need energy from the energetic. When they’re playing their best, Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell give the Blackhawks a great jolt. Neither are playing well right now, however, especially Bickell. The two of them need to break out of their doldrums, get back to their styles of play and show that energy that earned each of them a new contract.
4. Stop with the lazy penalties. Infractions are going to happen but nothing drives a coach crazier than those lazy penalties; you know, the tripping, the holding and the hooking calls. The Blackhawks took a few of them while playing catch-up to the Canadiens on Saturday. If they get back to dictating the pace, they have a better chance of staying out of the box.
5. Our pick to click tonight is Patrick Kane. He was one of several Blackhawks who had a bad Saturday night (please see the last few moments of overtime). But Kane’s done well against the Oilers (10 goals and 22 assists in 25 career games), and we think he adds to it tonight.