Chicago Blackhawks' Date with the Sharks a Battle for No. 1 in NHL

James Maahs@Jmaz90Contributor IIIFebruary 5, 2013

<<enter caption here>> at HP Pavilion at San Jose on February 10, 2012 in San Jose, California.
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks are set to take on the San Jose Sharks Tuesday night at the HP Pavilion.

This is a matchup of the top two teams in the NHL—both with supreme offensive power, great defense and stellar goaltending. 

It is likely to be one of the more intriguing games of the young season, since when the Blackhawks duel with the Sharks Tuesday night it could be a preview of this year's Western Conference Finals.

The Blackhawks stand at 16 points and no regulation losses in nine games played, the Sharks stand at 15 points with one regulation loss in nine games played.

Bragging rights for who's No. 1 this early in the NHL season hinge upon the outcome of this game.

The Sharks and Blackhawks have had polar opposite schedules up until this point. While the Blackhawks have played seven games on the road—most in the NHL—and have gone 5-0-2, the Sharks have played six games at home, going 5-0-1.

Advantage would clearly be for the Sharks in Tuesday's game because they're at home, right? Or will the Blackhawks' road prowess break through once again and win another road game?

With Corey Crawford expected to start in goal for the Blackhawks and ex-Blackhawk Antti Niemi for the Sharks, it's likely that very few goals will be put on the board.

Expect playoff hockey from both teams, which means less offense and more aggressive play along the boards—which could be a disadvantage for the Blackhawks.

Ultimately, it may be the Blackhawks' strength on the penalty kill that helps them edge past in this game. San Jose is tied atop the league with the Tampa Bay Lightning in power-play goals scored at 13.

This game already seems destined for overtime; quite possibly even a shootout where neither team holds a big advantage.

Expect to see these teams face off against one another in the playoffs; probably even in the Western Conference Finals.


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