The San Jose Sharks invade the United Center for the third and final contest with their Western Conference rival Chicago Blackhawks in the 2013 NHL season at 5:30 p.m. PST on Friday, February 22. In the preview linked above to Chicago's website where they show a statistical comparison, their dominance can be seen in five of the seven categories.
One of the areas the Sharks lead in is power play, but 18.9 percent is scarcely an edge over 18.6. Moreover, they have just two goals in their last 42 chances.
San Jose also holds the edge in the circle, winning 53.6 percent of draws to their opponent's 50.4. But there are other ways to gain or lose the puck: Chicago more than makes up for 56 fewer possessions in the circle with 75 more takeaways and 19 fewer giveaways.
That is why Chicago will be looking to set an NHL record for consecutive games without a regulation loss to start the season. But this game will be the toughest challenge Chicago has faced. A look at how the teams reached their goals for and against statistic provides a strategy for bringing the home team outside of the shootout.
The Sharks are not as fast as they used to be, but are becoming more physical. They became a better shot-blocking team last season and are starting to hit this season. Their small, light-hitting foes are 74 hits short of them even though they played one additional game.
They will not be as fast after two periods of being knocked around. All the Sharks need is for Antti Niemi to continue playing like he has to keep them in it and they should be able to pull off a third-period win.
Moreover, the long odds against breaking a record often increase the pressure. San Jose has taken some of their own pressure away by breaking their seven-game losing streak (0-4-3). It is also hard to believe a team will sweep three games in two and a half weeks against a quality opponent. Add those to the five reasons given for the upset last week, and this one has the most potential of ending the streak yet.
The home team has the edge in the three overstated phases of offense, defense and special teams. The good news for San Jose is this is not football. Hockey is more appropriately divided into forwards, blue line and goalie play. The bad news for San Jose is Chicago still holds an edge in at least two of those units...