The Blackhawks open November with another tilt against Calgary, their second matchup in nine days. The Flames won 3-2 in a shootout on Oct. 24, kicking off a three-game win streak before their run was halted by Washington in a 3-1 loss on Sunday. The Blackhawks are hoping to win their third consecutive tilt; Chicago defeated Los Angeles 3-0 on Sunday for their first clean sheet of the season.
Corey Crawford stopped 32 shots for his 20th career shutout, and the Blackhawks killed off two minor penalties in the game, limiting the Kings to just one shot on goal in each of their power-play opportunities. Crawford has been near-impenetrable at even strength, boasting a .976 save percentage at 5-on-5 (tied with Boston's Tuukka Rask at the top of the NHL), and his overall numbers should improve as the penalty killing continues to recover from a disastrous start.
The Blackhawks got another piece of good news on Monday: Head Coach Joel Quenneville said that rookie defenseman Gustav Forsling should be available to play after missing the previous two games, strengthening a blue line that has made steady improvements over the last few games.
"I thought that was our best defensive game," Quenneville said about Sunday's effort against the Kings. "I'm pleased with the pairings and the matchups on the back end, and Forsling was fine before he got hurt. It's nice having options."
One defenseman who has quietly stepped up for the Blackhawks is veteran Brian Campbell, who returned to Chicago on a one-year deal. He got off to a slow start, with just one assist in his first five games, and was nearly a healthy scratch on Oct. 21 at Columbus. Since that game, the 37-year-old has a goal and four helpers in four outings, including a three-assist night against Toronto last Saturday and the game-tying tally against Calgary. Campbell has spent much of that time paired up with Duncan Keith, and the pair have put up impressive possession numbers. The following chart shows the shot attempt percentages for each pairing who have spent at least 30 minutes of even-strength ice time together (via corsica.hockey):
|Pairing ||TOI ||CF% |
|Keith-Campbell ||58.72 ||58.77% |
|Keith-Hjalmarsson ||53.51 ||55.79% |
|Hjalmarsson-Seabrook ||42.76 ||51.25% |
|Kempny-Seabrook ||76.08 ||47.24% |
|Forsling-Campbell ||54.99 ||37.35% |
THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
Calgary's recent win streak featured top-notch performances from youngsters Sam Bennett and Dougie Hamilton. Bennett, who is in his second full NHL season, scored in three straight games before Sunday's loss to Washington and posted six points over a four-game streak. The 20-year-old is anchoring the Flames' second line alongside veterans Troy Brouwer and Kris Versteeg and has seen increased time on the power play this season.
Hamilton was acquired before the 2015-16 season to provide an offensive boost to Calgary's blue line, and the former first-round pick accomplished that with a career-best 43 points. He also has hit his stride in recent games, putting up two goals and three assists in three games before being held off the scoresheet on Sunday. Hamilton has 28 SOG this season, sharing fourth among NHL defensemen, so the Flames will count on him to get shots through from the blue line, especially on the power play, which is still struggling at 10.8 percent.
THE (P)ARTY KEEPS GOING
One of the Blackhawks' most dangerous weapons through the first two weeks into the season has been Artem Anisimov, who is two games away from his 500th NHL appearance and approaching the milestone on a scoring tear. He extended his career-long point streak to seven games with an insurance goal on Sunday against the Kings, and now has 11 points through nine tilts, sharing third in the league. Anisimov's goal total seems surprising considering he's only taken 16 SOG this season, but most of his tallies have been rebound opportunities and dangerous chances close to the netminder. His average shot distance this season has been just a tick over 20 feet (via corsica.hockey), which is the closest of his career thus far.
Video: Lear's Look: Anisimov's hot start
CHI: Andrew Desjardins (lower body), Trevor van Riemsdyk (upper body)
Panik -- Toews -- Kane
Panarin -- Anisimov -- Hossa
Motte -- Kruger -- Schmaltz
Hinostroza -- Rasmussen -- Tootoo
Keith -- Campbell
Hjalmarsson -- Seabrook
Forsling -- Rozsival