Sidney Brown brings his weekly dispatches from the front lines of Blackhawks fandom every week during the hockey season.
We’ve approached the NHL All-Star break and with time to reflect and review all information, it’s time for me to play professor for the Chicago Blackhawks.
With all due fairness in mind, I’ll breakdown the good, bad and ugly from the first half of Chicago’s season. Let’s take a look and see who gets a good mark from me and who deserves to get put in the corner.
Power Play Percentage: 18.9 percent (14th in the NHL)
My Grade: C-
The Hawks have been inconsistent all season long on the power play and the reason for that I believe has to do with being impatient and at times not being organized. There are other times where you have to give opponents credit for shutting down the Hawks and taking away their space and playing a tight defensive scheme.
The only bright spot for the PP has been Patrick Kane, who leads the team with 6 PP goals along with 13 assists. In 2013, the Hawks overcame a bad power play to win a Stanley Cup. I don’t think that you want to mess with karma on a second go around.
Penalty Kill: 88.4% (1st in NHL)
My Grade: A+
This unit was the backbone of the 2013 Stanley Cup title and this season has been more consistent than the 2014 unit. You have to take notice and give credit where credit’s due with the likes of Marcus Kruger, Ben Smith, Kris Versteeg and Andrew Shaw contributing to the penalty kill effort.
The key to any PK unit is to stay home defensively, take away space from your opponents and help out your goaltender while clearing out pucks. This unit should be solid going forward but taking dumb penalties, especially at crucial time of games, could hurt this unit in the postseason.
Goals Scored: 3.0 per game (5th in NHL)
My Grade: B+
Much is always expected from this Hawks team in terms of scoring goals and this season has been no different. With Patrick Kane leading the way with 51 points (3rd in the NHL in overall points), you can start the conversation of MVP on his behalf.
Chicago’s second line — with Kane, Brad Richards and Kris Versteeg — got the team back on track in early November and in spite of an injury to Versteeg in the Winter Classic against Washington, the Hawks haven’t missed a beat, placing Brandon Saad and Bryan Bickell on that line to go along with Kane.
The Captain Jonathan Toews is second on the team in scoring with 42 points (28 assists) and with 6 points in his last five games, including a power play goal against Arizona in a 6-1 win this past Tuesday, expect his numbers to creep up and maybe his name could be in the conversation for MVP as well.
Free agent pickup Brad Richards has come on after a slow start to his year. After getting adjusted to the speed of play in the Western Conference, the former New York Ranger has tallied 9 goals and 19 assists anchoring the seconnd line along with Kane. With his grace period behind him, expect Richards to post close to 20 goals while getting himself ready for a potential long run in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Goals Allowed: 2.3 (2nd in NHL)
My Grade: B
The defensive play was a roller coaster a year ago due to fatigue and a lack of focus. In spite of recent struggles in this up and down January, the defense has been solid led by the top defensive pairing of Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith, shutting down opponent’s top scoring lines.
Let’s not forget either about the goaltending, despite Corey Crawford’s missing large sections of the season thus far with injuries.
With stellar play from backups Antti Raanta and Scott Darling, the Hawks have been able to stay afloat and complement their offensive attack behind its own blue line. Before the injury in December, Crawford had a goals against average of just under 2 goals a game, since his return Crow is posting a GAA of 2.75.
But no worries here, Crawford’s play overall has kept his team in games when Chicago’s offense wasn’t nearly at its best. As the old saying goes, great goaltending will take you a long way in the playoffs and Crawford is a top ten goalie in the NHL. Don’t forget that as well as the fact that he has a ring to his resume. When put back in winning time the Hawks know they have a goalie who knows how to affect things in a good way.
Home Record: 16-7-1
Road Record: 14-8-1
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