Sidney Brown brings his weekly dispatches from the front lines of Blackhawks fandom every week during the hockey season. Check out his opening post of this season here.
The Chicago Blackhawks hit an early speed bump with losses to their division rivals in Nashville and St. Louis in the past week, the lack of consistency on the offensive end coming home to roost and spoil things temporarily for the 5-2-1 Hawks.
Last Tuesday’s game against Philadelphia provided the kind of high-powered offensive execution that Chicago fans are used to seeing, with five goals coming in a 5-0 shutout win. Much has been made of the Hawks’ line combinations and what kind of production is to be expected of them.
So far their respective outputs have been predictable — against lesser opponents, the Hawks usually strive, but versus strong, defensive-minded and physical teams, the results are much different, including mere two-goal efforts against both Nashville and St. Louis.
Line Scoring Prior to Nashville (Thurs.)
Line 1 (Sharp, Toews, Hossa) – 4 goals, 9 assists
Line 2 (Versteeg, Shaw, Kane) – 5 goals, 3 assists
Line 3 (Bickell, Richards, Saad) – 2 goals, 7 assists
Line 4 (Carcillo, Kruger, Smith) – 1 goal, 2 assists
During last week’s stretch of games, after going 2 for 4 on the power play against the Flyers, the special teams took a nose dive, going only 2 for 10 with their man advantage. On the other side, the penalty kill unit has made tremendous strides, killing off all 10 penalties it saw.
For a unit that started off last season struggling but improved as the year went on, this unit should be applauded for what they’ve done up to this point. The schedule ahead will be a challenge with the next five games, four of which are against Canadian teams (Toronto, Winnipeg, Montreal, Ottawa) and three on the road.
Hawks in Second of Back to Backs
(Under coach Joel Quenneville)
The Hawks will have 15 sets of back to back games this season, including three in the month of November.
Forward Brad Richards, a well-regarded free agent signing from the New York Rangers in the off-season, has started off the season slow. Richards’ game has yet to adjust to the Western Conference from what he was used to with the Rangers’ Eastern foes the last three seasons.
Richards has had a decent amount of opportunities to put the puck in the back of the net, but it hasn’t happened yet. Three assists for a talent of his caliber while playing on the third line won’t cut it, but I’m willing to give him a little bit more time.
You can’t expect Richards to score 40 goals this season but he has to start being more aggressive at getting towards the net and creating scoring chances. I’m sending out a wake-up call to Mr. Richards, the season is in full swing, it wouldn’t be rude to show the Hawks just why they went after you this summer.
Forward Daniel Carcillo left Saturday’s game against St. Louis with a lower body injury and is expected to be off the ice for four weeks. Jeremy Morin was called up from Rockford to take his place on the roster on the fourth line.
To Patrick Kane for tallying his 500th career point with an assist on Jonathan Toews goal in a 2-1 victory over Ottawa on Sunday.
To Toews with his goal against Ottawa, tying ex-Hawk and current radio analyst Troy Murray for 19th place all time in franchise history with 197 career goals.
Player of the Week
Scott Darling — Collected 32 saves in Sunday in his NHL debut, a 2-1 victory over Ottawa, becoming only the sixth net-minder born in Illinois to play in the NHL and the third to debut with the Hawks.
Darling made an appearance on the NHL Network’s NHL Live Monday to talk about his special night.
Goals per game: 2.86 (15th in NHL)
Goals against: 1.8 (3rd in NHL)
Power Play percentage: 20.0 (15th in NHL)
Penalty Kill percentage: 92.0 (3rd in NHL)
Goals — Patrick Sharp (3); Assists — Sharp (5); Points — Sharp (8); Goals Against Average — Scott Darling (1.00); Penalty Minutes — Niklas Hjalmarsson (12).
The Week Ahead
Tonight — vs. Anaheim, 7:30 pm; Thursday — at Ottawa, 6:30 pm; Saturday — at Toronto, 6 PM; Sunday — vs. Winnipeg, 8 PM.
*All times Central
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