Chicago Blackhawks (43-21-6) at Dallas Stars (33-28-10)
|Date & Time||Saturday March 21, 2015, 8:00 PM (EDT)|
The Line: Dallas Stars +120 / Chicago Blackhawks -133 --- Over/Under: 5.5
|TV Channel||Stream NHL games all season on ESPN+ for only $4.99 a month. Sign up now!|
If the Chicago Blackhawks are going to make a serious run this post season they’re going to need their defense to keep playing the way it has been. Corey Crawford might not be one of the top goaltenders in the league, but if the defense continues it’s staunch play they have a chance to be dangerous. The loss of Patrick Kane continues to be felt, because this clearly is not the safe offensive club without him in the lineup, but the Blackhawks have continued to find a way. Chicago has won four games in a row and six of their last seven games overall. Wednesday night they found themselves at Madison Square Garden to take on a New York Rangers club that had won five straight of their own. These two clubs played a defensive struggle back at the United Center that saw the Rangers skate off with a 1-0 overtime win. This time around it was the Blackhawks returning the favor as Brad Richards scored the only goal late in the third period to lift Chicago to a 1-0 win. This game had a playoff hockey type of feel to it and both teams did a great job of clogging the neutral zone and really making it difficult for each other to generate quality offensive chances. This is the type of defensive effort that the Blackhawks have been showing lately and it’s the type of play that will make them successful in April, May, and June if they can continue it. Kane should be ready to come back sometime during that first round series and adding him to a lineup that is already playing this well could make the Blackhawks one of the favorites to get out of the Western Conference.
It’s a different situation for the Dallas Stars, but now that the pressure is off of them they’ve actually been playing some pretty good hockey. Dallas has won six of their last eight games and they’ve got a great opportunity to play spoiler down the stretch. With two games against Calgary, one against Vancouver, and one against San Jose, the Stars might be one of the biggest factors of who gets the final playoff berth. Thursday night the Stars hosted the struggling Pittsburgh Penguins, and they just added to their troubles. Dallas came out flying in the first period, but they just couldn’t get one by Marc-Andre Fleury. Their luck changed in the second period when Brett Ritchie scored his sixth goal of the season and Jamie Benn added his 24th just 1:23 later. Pittsburgh would answer back with a goal of their own later in the period, but it would be the only one that Kari Lehtonen would allow on the night. Lehtonen stopped 31 of the 32 shots he faced in the 2-1 Dallas win. Now the Stars will look to keep it going against one of the hottest teams in the National Hockey League. This isn’t a favorable match up for the Stars but if they can continue playing some strong team defense they should have a legitimate chance.
This is one of those games that could go either way, or it could be a blowout if the Stars don’t show up on defense. Dallas has looked much better lately and getting the Blackhawks on home ice should give them a great opportunity at the upset.