Blackhawks-Maple Leafs Preview
The Chicago Blackhawks are down their top two goalies, but that
doesn’t seem to be having any negative effect on their ability to
The Blackhawks take the league’s hottest offensive attack, and a
three-game winning streak, on the road Saturday night to meet the
struggling Toronto Maple Leafs.
If Chicago stays hot, coach Joel Quenneville could tie former
Toronto coach Pat Quinn for fourth all-time with 684 victories.
Since Quenneville lost No. 1 goaltender Corey Crawford to a
lower-body injury Sunday, the Chicago offense has turned it up a
notch to pick up the slack. The team has scored 19 goals in the
past three games, including a 7-2 win over Philadelphia on
Wednesday. It was the most the Blackhawks scored on home ice since
a 2011 playoff win over Vancouver.
“Our talk in the room is more about playing the right way, being
good defensively, being hard on pucks, checking well,” defenseman
Duncan Keith said. “We know our offense is going to take care of
itself if we play that way.”
The Blackhawks (23-6-5) were already without backup goalie
Nikolai Khabibulin, who hasn’t played since Nov. 16 because of a
lower-body injury. Khabibulin remains sidelined, and Crawford is
likely to miss another two weeks.
Rookie Antti Raanta has taken over in net, stopping 93.3 percent
of shots since Crawford was hurt. He made 28 saves against
Philadelphia and improved to 5-0-1 this season with a 2.12
The recent offensive outburst is just the latest reminder of how
dangerous the Blackhawks can be. They’re averaging an NHL-high 3.68
goals per game, and six players have scored at least 10.
“It’s a credit to our team game,” said Patrick Sharp, who has
four goals and four assists over the past three games. “We know
we’ve got guys in here that can put up big numbers and score goals.
But when we’re playing well in all three zones, that’s when our
offense usually clicks.”
Patrick Kane has been clicking all season and has 14 points
during a seven-game point streak. He had a 12-game run last
Toronto (16-14-3) could be in for a long night against the
aggressive Blackhawks. The Maple Leafs have given up a league-worst
4.10 goals per game since Nov. 25, going 2-6-2, and have
surrendered 14 on the current three-game losing streak.
“We’re obviously going through a tough stretch here, every team
goes through these stretches, and it’s how you react to the
adversity through the tough times that shows the character of your
team,” captain Dion Phaneuf said.
Phaneuf will return Saturday after missing the past two games
because of a suspension following a hit from behind on Boston’s
Kevan Miller on Sunday.
“Well there’s no time to sit around and pout about how the last
10 games have gone – we have to get ready for (Chicago),” he said.
“We don’t have time to sit here and look at the past, we have to
take care of the present and get back to playing the way we have to
play to win hockey games.”
These teams do not play often, but nearly a decade has passed
since the Leafs last beat the Blackhawks. Chicago’s 3-1 home win
Oct. 19 was its eighth consecutive victory in the series since a
3-1 loss Feb. 12, 2003.