Sidney Brown brings his weekly dispatches from the front lines of Blackhawks fandom every week during the hockey season.
Let the good times roll!
The Men in Red are hot and now have won six games in a row, including a 9-1 record in their last ten games and 11 out of their last 13 games, climbing into first place in the Central Division with a 18-8-1 overall record.
With their victories over division rivals St. Louis and Nashville last week, fans of the Chicago Blackhawks should take notice that this team plays its best against better competition while enacting their fast/high powered style. With their No. 6 ranking in goals per game (3.0) in the NHL as proof, the Hawks have cylinders clicking on all four lines and leading the way in this hot scoring streak is the NHL’s most productive line, the team’s 2nd line led by Patrick Kane along with mates Kris Versteeg and Brad Richards.
This line has been hot the last 10 games, propelling the Hawks back to their winning ways. Let’s take a look at the numbers from the last 10 games:
Goals: Kane — 7, Versteeg — 4, Richards — 3
Assists: Kane — 8, Versteeg — 11, Richards — 6
Multi-point games: Kane — 6, Versteeg — 5, Richards — 3
After a slow start to the season, Kane is proving once again that he belongs with the upper class of superstars in the NHL, leading his team in points, assists and goals. As shown in his two-goal performance last Wednesday against St Louis, Kane has benefited from playing on the 2nd line and with his speed and vision we can expect his play to improve even more as we move along the month of December. Kane has tallied 14 points in his last eight games, here’s his breakdown of goals scored by period so far this season:
1st Period: 2
2nd Period: 1
3rd Period: 9
Checking the Nets
With starting goaltender Corey Crawford on the shelf for the next 2 to 3 weeks, backups Antti Raanta and Scott Darling have stepped in and performed tremendously.
For Raanta, it’s deja vu all over again from when he stepped in for Crawford at this time last season, proving then that he could be a valuable backup goaltender. Starting with his allowing a single goal to St. Louis and extending to the key saves he made in a Chicago’s tough 4-3 win over Montreal, Raanta stood on his head with ease, his confidence should continue to rise with the expectation of more playing time in the foreseeable future.
Darling has been the best surprise of this young season to this point. After being recalled from Rockford due to the Crawford injury, Darling picked up where he left off earlier in the season, holding the Nashville Predators to one goal in last Saturday’s 3-1 win.
Now established with experience at the highest level, Darling is playing like a veteran, not letting things bother him and consistently making the easy saves needed to keep his team in games. For the season, Darling has a 3-1 record with a save percentage of .943 and a team-leading 1.73 goals against average.
With their 9-5 road record overall — including the recent and successful 5-1 Circus Road Trip — the Hawks will hit the road again for a trip along the East Coast, including stops in New Jersey, Boston and New York to face the Islanders.
With momentum on their side and the expected return of sniper Patrick Sharp, this consistent play should continue, especially with chances coming up against the struggling Devils and Bruins.
Player of the Week
Brandon Saad — Saad’s two goals this week (along with an assist) included the game-winner in the Hawks’ most competitive game as of late, a 4-3 victory against Montreal Friday. Check this feature on Saad’s recent success from Tracy Myers of CSN Chicago.
Goals per game: 3.0 (6th in NHL)
Goals against: 2.0 (1st in NHL)
Power Play percentage: 18.3 (17th in NHL)
Penalty Kill percentage: 91.1 (1st in NHL)
Goals — Patrick Kane (12); Assists — Marian Hossa, Kris Versteeg, Kane (14); Points — Kane (26); Goals Against Average — Scott Darling (1.73); Penalty Minutes — Andrew Shaw (23).
The Week Ahead
Tonight — at New Jersey, 6 pm; Thursday — at Boston, 6 pm; Saturday — at N.Y. Islanders, 6 pm; Sunday — vs. Calgary, 7 pm.
*All times Central
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