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Expecting Different Results: Kraken Host The Blackhawks

An early start time on MLK Day as Chicago visits Seattle

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Seattle Kraken Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

What: Chicago Blackhawks at Seattle Kraken

Where: Climate Pledge Arena

When: Monday, January 17, 2022; 2:00pm PST

Wait, who are we playing? Landlubber’s Guide to the Chicago Blackhawks

Coverage

Local TV: ROOT Sports NW

Streaming: ESPN+

Local Radio: 950 AM KJR

SiriusXM: Channel 221

Last Time Out

Back in November the Blackhawks were reeling from a catastrophic start to the season, and Derek King had taken the reins as Head Coach a week prior. Chicago had responded well to the leadership change, coming into the night on a 3-game winning streak. Seattle held the Blackhawks to just 2 goals on 14 shots through 40 minutes, pumping 19 shots of their own on Chicago’s Marc-Andre Fleury. But despite a frenetic comeback attempt (and an additional 14 shots taken) in the third period, the Kraken’s efforts fell short: final score 4-2 Chicago.

But without question the most memorable moment of that night was the Gordie Howe Hat-Trick turned in by none other than super-welterweight Alex DeBrincat. He notched an assist in the first period, a goal in the second, then wheeled on Yanni Gourde less than three minutes into the third period.

Love the shit-eating grin on Gourde...

Stats, Streaks, & Droughts

Chicago is 4-3-3 in their last 10 games, but they are currently on a 4-game win streak coming into tonight. On Saturday the Blackhawks shut out Anaheim 3-0 on the back of a 37-save effort from the aforementioned Fleury. Chicago is sitting in 7th in the Central Division, but are slowly gaining on Dallas and Winnipeg.

Leading the Blackhawks in scoring are DeBrincat and veteran sniper Patrick Kane, who at a recent press conference was lamenting his “difficult” season putting pucks in the net. He has an active 7-game point streak, mind you — with 2 goals and 7 assists over that span. The Kraken could use all of that kind of “difficulty” they can get, if that’s what he’s talking about. DeBrincat has 23 goals on the season to go along with 9 assists.

And remember, Chicago started the season with worse goaltending than we were suffering through here in Seattle. Marc-Andre Fleury lost 7 out of his first 8 games, playing some of the worst hockey of his professional career; but something clicked after Thanksgiving. Since December 1, Fleury is 8-2-2 with a .916 save percentage. The shutout against the Ducks was his third this season.

Whatever Chicago’s goalie coach slipped into Fleury’s morning bowl of Lucky Charms, we’d like some for our goaltenders if you would be so kind.

Seattle, as you well know, has not experienced any bounce-back in their goaltending performance. The Kraken have lost 9 in a row, and their home record of 6-12-2 trails only the “we’re-tanking-on-purpose” Arizona Coyotes for the worst home win percentage in the league. During that stretch Seattle has allowed 37 goals against, more than 4 GA per outing.

If a team is allowing 4 goals every single game, they’re never going to win; it’s as simple as that. Yet it’s a stiff rudder and full steam ahead with the definition-of-insanity approach from Kraken management and coaching, so you should expect to see Philipp Grubauer and his .880 save percentage man the pipes against the Blackhawks. More on that later.

Players To Watch

Chicago has a squadron of underperforming talent that could break out at any minute. We’ll start with team captain Jonathan Toews, who took several weeks to notch his first goal of the season, but is trying to make up for lost time with four points in his last five games:

Speedy forechecker Brandon Hagel has made the most of his top-six minutes — a promotion from the fourth line the last 2 seasons — with 18 points in 32 games:

Dominik Kubalik, who was looking like the second coming of Artemi Panarin with 30 goals in his rookie season, has just 14 points in 38 games. The fact that I had to dig back nearly two years to find a video highlight tells you what kind of season the Czech sniper is having:

And Blackhawks’ 2020 first-round pick Lukas Reichel, still several months shy of his 20th birthday, was called up from Rockford to fill the void left by a COVID outbreak. He was demoted on Sunday, but that may just be a cap-management maneuver, so his status for tonight is unclear. Reichel played in Germany prior to this season, but has adapted quickly to the North American game, notching 20 points in 20 games with the IceHogs. He was robbed of his first NHL goal in just his second game with the big club:

With the Kraken doing their best to neutralize Kane and DeBrincat, expect one or more of these forwards to pick up the slack tonight.

Injuries, Illnesses, Additions, & Scratches

The Blackhawks’ four-game win streak belies the fact that several impact players, including Seth Jones and Kirby Dach, are in COVID protocol and out of the lineup. With Chicago’s roster already a shadow of its former self, expect to hear unfamiliar names like Sam Lafferty, Mackenzie Entwistle, Josiah Slavin, and Jakub Galvas during the call tonight.

For Seattle, once again there is drama between the pipes, as Chris Driedger was added to the team’s COVID protocol list on Sunday. Due to weather canceling all but a handful of flights out of Charlotte, the only option was to call up Antoine Bibeau from the ECHL Allen (TX) Americans. Bibeau will have the backup role tonight with Grubauer getting the start.

Otherwise, Brandon Tanev and Jaden Schwartz remain out of the lineup with injuries; the remaining roster is healthy and available. Youngster Morgan Geekie has seen just sporadic action over the last month as he’s dealt with a lingering upper body injury, and he is likely the odd-man out tonight, joining defensemen Will Borgen and Haydn Fleury.

Odds & Ends

  • This is the second of three meetings with the Blackhawks this season, though we’ll have to wait quite a while for the final match. Due to the not-going-to-the-Olympics-after-all break, we won’t see Chicago again until Seattle visits the Windy City on April 7th.
  • Seattle debuted their new integrated multi-media pre-game show to much fanfare and overwhelmingly positive reviews. Kraken HQ has released this small-screen version, but of course it’s going to be pretty kick-ass in person:
  • With Chris Driedger unavailable and Antoine Bibeau still en route from Texas, Kraken goaltending coach Andrew Allen suited up in Driedger’s gear and took the ice for practice with the team on Sunday. I do not envy the bruises and soreness he will have likely been experiencing this morning.