After (finally) winning a shoot-out on Tuesday night, the Blackhawks completed one of the toughest season-opening schedules in the NHL. Through Wednesday, four of the Blackhawks’ first 12 games have been against first place teams; the Hawks’ first six opponents have a combined 25-21-4 record.
However, this weekend presents a terrific trap sequence for a Hawks team that’s been playing well.
On Friday night, the Hawks will play in Carolina against a Canes team that has, putting it nicely, struggled this year. Carolina is 3-3-3, and their talented young captain, Eric Staal, is tied with Vancouver’s Kevin Bieksa for the worst plus-minus (minus-nine) in the NHL. Staal has three goals and one assist on the power play in Carolina’s first nine games; he has only one point, an assist, on his stat sheet to date.
Carolina has lost three in a row, and have scored only 24 goals in nine games. The Canes have been a streaky team so far this year, though. They lost their first three games, then won three in a row, before dropping their last three. On Friday night, they will either break their trend by losing a fourth consecutive game, or they will slow down the Blackhawks roll.
The Hawks will then travel back to the United Center for a Saturday night game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Much has been said (mocked) regarding the Jackets’ one point in their first seven games, but they stepped up and handily defeated Detroit on Tuesday night. Tuesday also marked the first game that James Wisniewski played for Columbus during the regular season.
Finally, Monday night concludes a busy three-games-in-four-nights set against another struggling team, the Nashville Predators. On Halloween of all nights, a Nashville team that is scoring only two goals per game (16 in eight games) will be on the road, where they have won three games this year already; the Preds are, like the Avalanche, better on the road this year (0-2-1 at home through Wednesday night).
Last year, the Blackhawks admittedly struggled to emotionally get ready for regular season games against average, if not mediocre, opponents. And those were the games that ultimately put the Blackhawks on the brink of being left out of the postseson last year.
This weekend, we’ll get to know a lot about these Blackhawks. Will the same team that dominated the Jets and Coyotes show up, or will the team that struggled into a shoot-out loss against the Bruins appear again?