Sidney Brown brings his weekly dispatches from the front lines of Blackhawks fandom every week during the hockey season.
With a quarter of the season behind them, the Chicago Blackhawks record stands at 14-3-4, good for first place in the Central Division and first place overall in the Western Conference.
In three games in four days this past week, the Hawks prevailed in two, each home wins over the Phoenix Coyotes and the San Jose Sharks in a big win Sunday night, a blowout loss in Nashville was sandwiched by the successful efforts. The Hawks continued their offensive hot streak in last week’s games, scoring 12 goals over that stretch, but they also gave up 12 goals during that span.
A lack of defense can be contributed to inconsistency in killing off penalties, players being out of position and turning the puck over and taking dumb penalties. Key stats detailing the struggles include the Hawks being ranked 23rd in the NHL in goals against average (2.9) and their 29th ranking in Penalty Kill Percentage (72.9).
None of that is encouraging but it still remains hard to outplay Chicago with its offense being among the best in the League, its 3.5 goals per game average being best in the NHL. In their two wins last week, the Hawks scored five goals each and they have received balanced contributions from their star players. The Hawks’ power play has caught fire again, sitting at eighth in the NHL with a scoring percentage of 21.4. Also, the Hawks have six players with five goals or more for the season, which is tied for first in the NHL. This list of players with five or more goals: Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad and Bryan Bickell.
Hitting the Road
The Hawks’ longest road trip of the year is here — seven game in 12 days across much of the Western U.S. and Canada.
With a road record of 5-2-1 to date, the Hawks will face several challenges in keeping that record above .500. This trip will take Chicago through three time zones and their stops will include winning teams in Colorado, Dallas, Phoenix and the hated Vancouver Canucks.
A couple sub .500 teams are in there too but it is tough to win a road game especially when you’re expected to get the kind of effort defending champs often receive. The Hawks have played well on the road in recent years and I expect this trip to be no exception. If the team returns home with a 4-3 record they can consider that a success.
To Kris Versteeg for being traded back to Chicago Thursday from the Florida Panthers and scoring his first goal Sunday night versus San Jose.
The Blackhawks organization welcomed Versteeg, a vital member of the 2010 Stanley Cup Champions, back with class by putting together a video tribute to Versteeg during Sunday’s game. In his rookie year in 2008-09, Versteeg scored 22 goals and 31 assists, which placed him as a finalist for the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year. In the 2010 playoffs, Versteeg was a major player, putting up six goals along with eight assists to help the Hawks win the Cup.
Versteeg is a versatile player that can play on any top scoring line and can also play on the penalty kill unit, which was particularly effective in 2010. Versteeg should help the current group on the PK, which has been a problem all season long.
Backup goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin left Saturday’s game versus the Nashville Predators with an lower body injury and was placed on the injured reserve list. Antti Raanta has been called up from Rockford to take his place for the foreseeable future.
Did You Know?
Chris Chelios was the first Blackhawks defenseman to lead the team in scoring for a season, which he did with 72 points in the 1995-96 season. Congratulations again to Chelios for being inducted into the Hockey Hall Of Fame last Monday.
(Info courtesy of CSN Chicago)
Team Leaders: Goals — Patrick Kane (11); Assists — Duncan Keith (14); Points — Kane (21); Goals Against Average — Corey Crawford (2.42); Penalty Minutes — Brandon Bollig (35).
The Week Ahead (11/12-11/17)
Tuesday @ Colorado Avalanche — 8 PM
Thursday @ Winnipeg Jets — 7 PM
Saturday @ Vancouver Canucks — 9 PM
(All times Central)
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