Sidney Brown brings his weekly dispatches from the front lines of Blackhawks fandom every week during the hockey season.
Can the Olympic break get here fast enough? With the Chicago Blackhawks’ record of 1-0-2 on the first half of their current six-game road trip, I’ve noticed a negative trend that has plagued this team for the past few weeks, starting particularly slow in games at Calgary and Vancouver.
The Hawks escaped with a point gained in an overtime loss against Calgary, a hot scoring second period helped the team nail Vancouver by a 5-2 score and an expected tight contest at San Jose ended with a loss in a shootout.
Inconsistent starts are at the center of what has ailed the Hawks in these games, no times have they held a lead after the first period in this road trip. In the only time they scored in the first 20 minutes, against Calgary, they also gave up two goals to force a tie entering the first intermission. Outside of the big four-goal second period at Vancouver, the Hawks haven’t been able to win any other periods on this trip so far.
As the team treads water, though, there are a couple of bright spots that can be highlighted. First, the penalty kill unit has been on a hot streak, killing off their last 23 penalties over a span of eight games, most recently they blanked San Jose out of four power play opportunities. The Hawks are currently ranked 26th in the NHL in penalty kill percentage (79.6).
Secondly, the power play unit, which has been a team staple this season, has scored three PP goals in their last two games, including two against Vancouver during their big second period, helping lead Chicago to victory. This unit has been up and down overall recently but their No. 4 League ranking in power play percentage (22.7) shows that this team has the capability to score important goals at a rapid pace. Pay attention to third-line star Brandon Saad’s work within the PP and overall.
Since the start of this road trip, Saad has been on fire, tallying three goals along with two assists, including a two-goal performance versus Vancouver. For the season, Saad has 18 goals and 22 assists. With his diverse skill set, Saad and his line mates are needed to keep the ship afloat, bringing energy and toughness to the ice while key players get rest.
Rest seems to be of the utmost importance to the Hawks because they have had troubles keeping up with teams in extended games this season. One shocking stat to back this theory up is that the Hawks haven’t won a game in overtime since overcoming Boston in Game 1 of last season’s Stanley Cup Finals. Here’s some numbers regarding Chicago’s late-game struggles that will make you shake your head:
Overtime goals this season: 0
Record in OT this season: 0-6
Record in shootouts: 5-8
Thank goodness these stats will be wiped off the slate come playoff time and thank goodness there will be no shootouts to be had then.
Team Leaders: Goals — Patrick Sharp (28); Assists — Duncan Keith (45); Points — Patrick Kane (60); Goals Against Average — Antti Raanta (2.40); Penalty Minutes — Brandon Bollig (67).
The Week Ahead (2/3-Winter Olympic Break)
Tonight — at L.A. Kings, 9:30 PM; Wednesday — at Anaheim, 9 PM; Friday — at Phoenix, 8 PM.
(All times Central)
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