The Chicago Blackhawks look to bounce back from a crushing late-stage loss to the LA Kings Monday night as the Calgary Flames visit the Windy City. It is the first time these two teams have met since Ray Emery’s sensational display of goaltending back in February’s game in Calgary, a game that included what Head Coach Joel Quenneville has referenced as “the worst period all season” for the Hawks.
Still, it brings chilling memories all-too familiar for Hawks fans at the moment. That game in Calgary reflected precisely what has lead to Chicago’s two straight losses to Anaheim and Los Angeles: a third period collapse. For two straight games, the Madhouse Gang has given up a third period lead and allowed the opponents to come from behind. If not for the spectacular play of Ray Emery back in Calgary (42 saves, 24 in the third period alone), the Hawks likely would not have had their history-making streak that grabbed the attention of the hockey world by the neck.
If Chicago wants to take 2 points and stay atop the league on Tuesday night in Chicago, giveaways must be practically non-existent. The Blackhawks are not typically a physical team; they have made a name for themselves as having offensive firepower and great speed. But the lack of physicality is becoming a serious issue this season. Chicago is being out-muscled in its own zone and giving up far too many pucks that were in no danger of being turned over in the first place. Often the opponent gets a shot on net and, too often, these giveaways result directly in a goal.
Calgary is an opponent that will make Chicago pay for those turnovers – 6 players, including Alex Tanguay and Curtis Glencross have registered more than 20 points through 30 games this season. Each averaging about 20 minutes of ice time per game, they can be lethal to goalies as they tend to fire shots at every available opportunity – part of what gave Chicago fans such a scare during that third period in Calgary a few weeks ago. Emery will be in net for tonight’s matchup in hopes that he can play at the same level as that last game.
Emery is staying focused on his play and not the pressure put on him to perform, though. He told the Chicago Sun-Times, “I want to win games, and we won that one [in Calgary] in dramatic fashion at the end,” he said. “It’s a new game [Tuesday] and you’ve just got to prepare for a team that’s coming in pretty well. I look at every game kind of the same.”
As the Hawks regroup and try to focus on a full 60 minutes, they’ll get to see a potential trade deadline star play: Jarome Iginla. The 35 year-old Captain will be up for unrestricted free-agency after this season and has given the Calgary front office the okay to go ahead and shop around for some options: one of those options being the Chicago Blackhawks. Stan Bowman will be paying close attention to the veteran winger Tuesday night in the Madhouse so he can make a proper decision (and offer?) by April 3rd’s trade deadline.
If the Hawks want to take tonight’s two points, they will have to improve on the defensive zone turnovers – they have just been killer for them. Chicago will also need to pay special attention to neutral zone passing: they are not clean, they are not crisp, and they result in a dump-and-chase scenario many times. They will have to control the puck much better than they have been of late if they want to skate away with some points tonight.