Saturday, January 7, 2017

Blackhawks At The Halfway Point Of Season

Half of the 2016-17 NHL hockey season is in the books and the Chicago Blackhawks find themselves on top of the Western Conference.  Not a bad place to be considering that 1/3 of the starting forwards on last year's playoff roster have moved on (Ladd, Shaw, Weise,Teravainen, Fleischman).

In their place, are new faces like Hartman, Hinostroza, Rasmussen, Motte, Schmaltz, and Tootoo.  Not the scoring phenoms that anyone would expect, but all have played their roles when tapped upon to provide the games that they play.

The tandem of Corey Crawford and Scott Darling have been lights out and can arguably be considered co-MVPs for the team this year from their play.  With a combined 24-12-5 record and a .925 SV%, it's hard to think otherwise

The fact that the Blackhawks are on top of the Western Conference is not that far fetched, but taking notice of the injuries to major contributors, and that they keep winning is an eye opener.  

Artem Anisimov and Marian Hossa account for 30% of their goal production.  Anisimov, 29,  is off to a career year, but more importantly, in the 1st of a 5-year contract with a very friendly $4.5mil cap hit.  Hossa, 38 in 5 days, 1/12, is on a surge with 16 goals in 35 games this year, whereas last year, he had 13 goals in 64 games.  

Jonathan Toews, 28, has won 58% of this faceoffs and has taken 30% of the entire team's faceoffs.  Without him, the team would be at 44% efficiency instead of nearly 49%.  May not sound like much, but the Blackhawks pride themselves on puck control.  You lose a faceoff in your own zone, it can end up in the back of your net real quick.

The Blackhawks defense added a familiar veteran in Brian Campbell, 37, signing a 1-year contract at a $2mil cap hit.  He isn't what he once was, but can chew up minutes, averaging nearly 19 minutes a game and provide a steady defense, and a quick outlet pass from his own zone.

They are not the youngest team in the league, but their experience outweighs many other teams.  They are 16-6-5 in one-goal games this year.  That experience and ability to play a tight game will be great for the younger players come playoff time.  The top line of Anisimov-Kane-Panarin is still one of the most potent in the league.

Their weaknesses?  Penalty killing has been horrible for the Hawks.  They rank at the bottom of the list for PK% (75% compared to league avg. of 81%).  They also are not clean on getting the puck out of their own zone, relying heavily on Crawford and Darling at times to bail them out.  Because of the young forwards they now have, back-checking has been a problem causing odd man breaks and missed assignments.

Looking forward to the second half of the season, one would expect the Hawks to continue playing in close games and finding ways to win, while trying to stay healthy come playoff time.  February-March seem to be the "dog days of winter" for the Hawks as they tend to slip a bit between that time period historically.  They may not finish on top of the Conference, but i don't think anyone would care to take home the President's Trophy when Lord Stanley's Cup is the Holy Grail sought out by all.



  1. I think your comments are right on, and without a doubt they need to learn how to get the puck out of their own zone way more efficiently if they are going to play for Lord Stanley this season. I always wonder why they struggle so to clear the zone on defense, seems like a simple solution would be to shoot the puck up over the opponents defensive players of course keeping the puck in the rink when doing so.

  2. Yeah, but it is also like when you teach kids soccer. You keep it to the outside. Ring it around the boards. Don't let a bouncing puck get loose in the slot where the opposition can bury it