Welcome to the What to Watch segment! Your key NHL game to post on the radar for your weekend hockey viewing.
For this weekend’s pick I will have to go with the Chicago Blackhawks at the Detroit Red Wings Saturday. Two Original-Six clubs that are battling it out for the Central Division lead in the 2011-12 campaign.
Keys to victory for the Blackhawks:
–High Octane: The Hawks have been very dangerous this season in their opponent’s zone. Very deep and very talented – Chicago are gifted offensively! They rank 4th in the entire NHL with 3.2 goals-per-game. If they can bring that trend to Joe Louis Arena Saturday they should be OK.
–All Hands on Deck: The Hawks as mentioned above are a very deep team. Whether it’s Jonathan Toews (43 pts), Patrick Kane (38 pts) or Marian Hossa (46 pts) – pick your poison. The Wings will have their hands full trying to keep these guys off the scoreboard. If any of the Chicago stars have a big game, Detroit will be in trouble.
–Long Road to Travel: For all the positives for Chicago thus far, their road record is not that flattering (10-8-1). Anytime you’re above .500 on the road you should be happy – unless you’re an elite club. The Hawks are many pundits’ favourites to win the Stanley Cup – so if that prophecy is to come true, they will need to get on a good roll on the road, and start gaining that confidence away from home.
Keys to victory for the Red Wings:
–Good times at the Joe: The Wings have been nothing short of amazing at the Joe Louis Arena this season (16-2-1), with 13-straight wins. Their dominance at home has made them an elite team for a decade, and the Hawks will have to be at their best to try and steal two points this Saturday.
–Jimmy on the Spot: Detroit has to look at their success so far this season and give big credit to goalie Jimmy Howard. Howard got his 100th career win Thursday against Phoenix, and was named to the NHL All-Star team for the Ottawa festivities. His numbers (24-10-1, 2.05 GAA, .924 Save % with 4 shutouts) make him the Wings MVP in my opinion. He likes playing at home, so if he’s on form, the Wings win this one.
–Power-Points: Detroit has been pretty good on ‘special-teams’ this season. Their power-play is ticking over at 19.1%, a figure that ranks them 7th overall in the NHL. With the likes of Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Nicklas Lidstrom dangerous a man up – the Hawks will not want to give the Wings too many chances on the PP. If Detroit does get chances with a man-advantage, it could be a long game for Chicago.
Enjoy this tilt Saturday! It should be an interesting match-up, and it’s always special when Original-Six teams collide. Post any comments or observations you have about the ‘What to Watch‘ game in the ‘Mailbag‘ section, and I will gladly respond! Have a great NHL weekend.
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