Overview: At 7:30 Pacific on NHL Network tonight, the San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks will meet at SAP Center in San Jose. But despite both teams being serious Cup Contenders in the Western Conference, both teams are struggling to get wins right now. But both are for very different reasons. Why are the Blackhawks struggling? Before getting their 5-2 win over Vancouver a few nights ago, the Blackhawks had lost 4 straight games. And in those 4 games, the Blackhawks have given up 15 goals. The biggest issue for the Chicago Blackhawks is keeping the puck out of the net. Conveniently for them, the San Jose Sharks have scored 1 goal in their last 3 games, including two straight shutouts before the shutout streak was broken by Eriah Hayes’ first NHL goal in a 4-1 lost to Calgary. Something has to give with tonight’s game. So what’s it going to be?
San Jose Sharks X-Factor: The first line. The line of Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, and Brent Burns are the top scoring line for the San Jose Sharks. In their last three they have no points. No points. None. Not even a secondary assist. Nothing. That isn’t exactly a recipe for success. Joe Thornton is a league leader in assists, Joe Pavelski is a league leader in goals, and Brent Burns is a massive body who can get dirty in the corners. So you can see why they are the top line. But the team runs through them. If they can’t get it going, the Sharks are going to have a hard time putting the puck in the net, and if they have a hard time putting the puck in the net, they’ll have a hard time winning. Basic hockey knowledge.
Chicago Blackhawks X-Factor: Literally every single player on the team. I know most of you hockey fans like myself are probably hearing about how good the Blackhawks are. It’s like hearing about how good Peyton Manning is and how good the Miami Heat are. It just gets annoying. But at some point or another, we need to accept the fact that the Blackhawks just truly are that good. Looking at their roster, there isn’t a single player on the team that can not win this game for them. The obvious choices would be Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, or Patrick Sharp, but the game could easily be won by Brandon Saad or Marcus Kruger. Heck, even though it was last year, the Blackhawks find a way to make a useless enforcer score a clutch goal.
Prediction: Sharks win the game 4-2. I know I just said that the Blackhawks could have anyone help them win this game, but I do not believe Corey Crawford is an elite goaltender. The Blackhawks have struggled to keep the puck out of the net no matter whether they start Raanta or Crawford, and while the Sharks do struggle to score, they do not struggle to get shots. The Sharks also play much better at home than they do on the road. If they can pepper Crawford with shots early, and find the openings (GLOVE SIDE!!!!!) then the Sharks 3 game losing streak will be over.