Game Day Preview #78, Chicago Blackhawks @ Los Angeles Kings
The Kings look to go for the season sweep over the Blackhawks.
HOW TO WATCH
Game Time: 7:30 PM Pacific
TV: Fox Sports West
Radio: iHeart Radio
The Opposition: Second City Hockey
The Chicago Blackhawks, much like the Kings’ most recent opponents in Vancouver and Edmonton, have not technically been eliminated from the playoffs yet. And while their hopes are slim — they’d essentially need to win — they’re playing like a team with a mission.
They’ve been giving away points right and left, though. They’re still dead last in the Central Division and have dropped points against crucial Western Conference rivals (losses to Arizona, Colorado, and Vancouver), not to mention their 6-3 loss to the Kings earlier this month. Despite having two 40-goal scorers (Patrick Kane has 41 and Alex Debrincat just hit 40) and nine players in the double digits for goals, the Blackhawks spent a significant portion of this season not being able to keep the puck out of their own net. Some of those issues have been alleviated by Corey Crawford returning from his second concussion, but their defense is still an unholy mess with no answers in sight.
They’re doing better at outscoring their problems lately, going 6-3-1 in their last 10 games, and Corey Crawford can always steal a win or two, but still. They’re desperate, which means they might try to take risks, which means the Kings can certainly find some errors to exploit. And while the Blackhawks have a decent power play — at 20.89%, it’s eleventh in the league — their penalty kill is historically bad. Two seasons don’t make for conclusive evidence, but last year, the Rockford IceHogs, then coached by Blackhawks now-head coach Jeremy Colliton, had the worst penalty kill in the league, at 77.4%. The Blackhwaks’ penalty kill is similarly incompetent this year; at 72.81%, it’s not just the worst in the NHL, it’s the worst in the past 30 years.
The Blackhawks entered tonight at 73.1% on the penalty kill. No team has been that bad since the 1988-89 Toronto Maple Leafs (72.7%).— John Dietz (@johndietzdh) March 29, 2019
o if the Kings want some extra time to work on the power play, there’s your answer.
This team is just playing to get to the end of the season. Carl Grundstrom continues to be somewhat of a wrecking ball who knows exactly where to stop at the front of the net. If every goal he scores is in the blue paint, we’ll still take it. Maybe the team will play spoiler tonight for the Blackhawks. Maybe Austin Wagner and Jonny Brodzinski will play more than 10 minutes. Maybe I’ll be the next coach of the Los Angeles Kings.
Jack Campbell starts, which, honestly, at this point of the season, you really wish this team could navigate playing him more down the stretch without it coming off as a slight against Jonathan Quick — and I doubt that Willie Desjardins has the trust of the team that would allow him to do that. Campbell was outstanding in his win over Calgary, and performed admirably in relief in Edmonton. Give him the bulk of the starts down the stretch to see what he’s made of.
It's actually MacDermid and LaDue in the third group. Phaneuf-Walker skated as extras.— Curtis Zupke (@curtiszupke) March 30, 2019
No Kovalchuk tonight, “but there’s a good chance we’ll see him here soon,” via WD. Looks like Phaneuf, Walker also extras. Campbell projected to start.— Jon Rosen (@lakingsinsider) March 30, 2019
Caggiula will return to the lineup tonight. He’s in for Perlini. Dahlstrom will also replace Koekkoek.— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) March 30, 2019
Looks like Corey Crawford will start again tonight.— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) March 30, 2019