Pluses, minuses for Blackhawks-Kraken

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NHL Network and ESPN analyst Kevin Weekes will offer his pluses and minuses for big games each week throughout the season.

The Chicago Blackhawks seek their fourth straight win when they begin a four-game road trip against the Seattle Kraken at Climate Pledge Arena on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; BSW, NBCSWA, ESPN+, NHL LIVE).

Chicago (4-9-2) has won three consecutive one-goal games and has scored more than three goals once this season; Seattle (4-10-1), which continues a six-game homestand, has lost four straight.

Here’s my breakdown of the game.

 
Blackhawks

Pluses: Overall, they are playing much better under Derek King, who took over when Jeremy Colliton was fired Nov. 6. They look to have raised their energy and compete level. Alex DeBrincat leads Chicago with eight goals in 15 games; let’s not forget, the forward has scored at least 28 goals in three of his first four full NHL seasons. And we know how good forward Patrick Kane has been and continues to be; the forward leads the Blackhawks in scoring with 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in 11 games. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury appears to have found his groove; he has allowed three goals on 67 shots in his past two games, each a win. Special teams have been serviceable too; the Blackhawks’ penalty kill is tied for third in the NHL (87.5 percent) and their power play is tied for 12th (20.0 percent).

Minuses: Due in large part to its 1-9-2 start, Chicago ranks 30th in the NHL in goals per game (2.13) and 29th in goals against per game (3.40). Though the Blackhawks have won their past three games by scored of 2-1 in overtime, 3-2 in a shootout and 2-1, they look to have overachieved defensively of late and need others besides Kane and DeBrincat to step up offensively.

 
Kraken

Pluses: Despite their record, the Kraken have shown good energy, but have not been able to close out games. That will come with experience playing together. Forward Brandon Tanev has probably been their most consistent player, with eight points (six goals, two assists) in 15 games. Forward Jared McCann has done a great job as well, with nine points (five goals, four assists) in 10 games. Forward Jordan Eberle leads Seattle with eight goals in 15 games; the Kraken have 11 players who have scored at least two goals. 

Minuses: Seattle is being outscored in every period, including 22-15 in the third period and overtime. The Kraken have allowed 3.67 goals per game, second most in the NHL (Arizona Coyotes, 3.81), and have struggled playing in front of goalie Philipp Grubauer. Their power play ranks next-to-last (10.9 percent) ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins (10.0).

 
THREE THINGS TO WATCH

1. Can the Blackhawks keep the momentum going?

2. Who steps up offensively for the Kraken?

3. Who matches up against the Kane line?

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