After losing 3-2 on Friday to a rebuilding Columbus Blue Jackets squad, the youngest team in the NHL this season, the Blackhawks return to the United Center to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs-the second-youngest team in the league. Chicago's goals came from rookie Tyler Motte, netting his first NHL goal off a rebound opportunity, and Richard Panik, who now shares the league lead with five tallies.
Toronto began the season with a 1-1-2 record, most recently dropping a 3-2 result on Thursday in Minnesota. They've taken 33.8 shots per game, fourth in the league entering Friday's games, a trend that has endured from last season, when Head Coach Mike Babcock arrived after a long tenure in Detroit and installed a structured, uptempo game that produced 30.7 shots per game (6th in the NHL). That the Leafs finished in a lottery spot was largely due to a season-long rash of injuries and a league-low PDO, which measures team shooting percentages and save percentages at even strength. With better luck on the injury front and improved team shooting, there's no reason Toronto shouldn't be one of the more exciting offensive teams in the league in 2016-17 and beyond.
Scoring hasn't been an issue for either team this year, with the Leafs averaging 3.5 goals per game and the Blackhawks netting 3.6, but both teams have given up goals in bunches. Chicago recovered after allowing a 4-0 lead slip to Philadelphia on Tuesday, but Toronto did the same in Winnipeg a day later and eventually lost in overtime. Some of that can be attributed to early-season kinks that will be smoothed out naturally; lack of experience could also play a part, as young players learn how to help their teams preserve a lead in the NHL. Overall, Toronto has six rookies on their roster, while the Blackhawks have five. That means up to 27.5 percent of the players in Saturday's tilt are eligible for the Calder Trophy.