Sidney Brown brings his weekly dispatches from the front lines of Blackhawks fandom every week during the hockey season.
The Chicago Blackhawks’ recent win streak came to an end at eight games last Saturday in Long Island against the Islanders but it doesn’t discount the great hockey that this team has played the last few weeks.
Still winners of 9 out of their last 10 games, the Hawks find themselves in first place in the Central Division over the St. Louis Blues by just one point. Their recent road trip through the east coast gave them a 3-1 record and an 11-6 road record overall tied for first in the NHL (Vancouver & Anaheim).
In order to win a Stanley Cup, you must win games against lessor opponents along with dominating on home ice and establishing consistency on the road. With their recent winning streak snapped, the Hawks placed themselves among the leagues elite teams in terms of having the most winning streaks of 8 plus games through recent years.
Most 8+ Game Winning Streaks (Since 2008-09)
Chicago Blackhawks (5)
Pittsburgh Penguins (4)
Boston Bruins (3)
New Jersey Devils (3)
San Jose Sharks (3)
Washington Capitals (3)
*Regular Season only
Going For The #2 Spot
With the lower body injury of starting goaltender Corey Crawford keeping him out through most of the past month, the Hawks had to make this current stretch an audition for who should be entrenched as the team’s backup goalie going forward. Antti Raanta and Scott Darling have both starred in the supporting role and neither man has disappointed so far.
In winning three of four games last week, Scott Darling, the phenom from Lemont, has shown that he belongs on the big stage in defeating teams like Nashville, New Jersey and Boston. Darling has made big saves and has not let the moment overcome him during any game. It’s a lot of pressure on a rookie to just stay on a team, let alone a championship contending team. Luckily for Darling, he has great teammates in front of him to help out and his confidence has sky-rocketed with extended playing time.
Darling’s competition knows how he’s feeling currently, he was in the same position last year as a rookie. A year ago Antti Raanta took advantage of his opportunity when Crawford went down with a different lower body injury. Raanta displayed his skills and kept himself in the backup role for the remainder of last season.
Though there’s more depth at his position this year, Raanta hasn’t let up his performance, which has included a 4-0 shutout win against Philadelphia on October 21st and collecting 33 saves in a 4-1 win over St. Louis on December 3rd. The only disadvantage for Raanta has been his not recieving enough playing time. Sunday against Calgary marked Raanta’s first start since December 5th. Raanta has the experience from last season at his advantage, but Darling has horned into the ice time and that could cost the incumbent.
For the Hawks, this is a great problem to have with the added possible benefit of being able to use one of these net-minders as trade bait down the road. Crawford is expected to return to the lineup by this weekend.
Scott Darling — 5-2 record, 1.97 Goals Against Average, .937 Save Percentage
Antti Raanta — 4-2 Record, 1.85 GAA, .944 Save, 1 Shutout
Player of the Week
Ben Smith — The fourth line winger tallied two points, including netting home his third goal of the year in a 3-2 win at Boston during a return to his college hometown (attended Boston College).
Smith has been a major contributor to the fourth line along with Daniel Carcillo and Marcus Kruger. Expect this line to continue to neutralize the opposition’s top scoring lines during crucial game stretches.
To rookie defenseman Klas Dahlbeck for scoring his first NHL goal in the win over Boston. Dahlbeck played in only four games on the top level but he will receive more playing time now that he’s back in Rockford.
To Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews for both being in the top five overall in fan voting for the 2015 NHL All Star Game, which will take place in Columbus, Ohio in late January.
Overall Votes for the Hawks (as of Dec. 9):
Corey Crawford (311,166) — 1st overall, Goaltender
Duncan Keith (361,830) — 1st overall, Defenseman
Brent Seabrook (275,990) — 3rd overall, Defenseman
Patrick Kane (375,758) — 2nd overall, Forward
Jonathan Toews (367,962) — 3rd overall, Forward
Patrick Sharp (186,198) — 7th overall, Forward
The Hawks traded forward Jeremy Morin to the Columbus Blue Jackets for defenseman Tim Erixon over the weekend. Erixson debuted for the Hawks the same day he was traded, Sunday against Calgary.
Recalled rookie defenseman Klas Dahlbeck to Rockford and recalled Joakim Nordstrom.
Goals per game: 2.9 (6th in NHL)
Goals against: 2.0 (2nd in NHL)
Power Play percentage: 17.6 (18th in NHL)
Penalty Kill percentage: 90.9 (1st in NHL)
Goals — Patrick Kane (14); Assists — Marian Hossa, Kris Versteeg, Kane (15); Points — Kane (29); Goals Against Average — Antti Raanta (1.85); Penalty Minutes — Andrew Shaw (28).
The Week Ahead
Tonight — vs. Minnesota, 7:30 pm; Saturday — at Columbus, 6 pm; Sunday — vs. Toronto, 6 pm; 12/23 — vs. Winnipeg, 7:30 pm.
*All times Central
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