Sidney Brown brings his weekly dispatches from the front lines of Blackhawks fandom every week during the hockey season.
Scoring is as hot as it has ever been for the stars of the Chicago Blackhawks and those main contributors have been the only thing keeping the Hawks’ recent road trip from being a big disaster.
For the first half of this latest seven-game road trip (2-2), the Hawks offense has posted 10 goals, despite being shutout last Saturday at San Jose. Here’s the list of usual suspects who carry the men in red offensively over the past four games:
Patrick Kane — 5 goals, 3 assists
Jonathan Toews — 2 goals, 4 assists
Patrick Sharp — 1 goal, 7 assists
As the stars have continued to shine, Chicago’s needed role players have dimmed in comparison. Try considering these stats without letting out a sigh: Bryan Bickell has zero goals in his last five games while Marcus Kruger hasn’t scored one point in his last 17 games and Ben Smith has a point-less drought stretching the last 14 games.
The backbone of the Hawks roster must begin to take pressure off its stars to be a complete team and get results like one. Role players on the third and fourth lines contributing offensively is key to the Hawks’ success and any other successful team’s success. A team that already scores among the league’s best like the Hawks are that much more dangerous when all four lines are in sink.
Meanwhile, special teams continue to be a season-long roller coaster. While the penalty kill unit has held down the top spot in the NHL, the power play unit has been a mystery and during the first half of this road trip, it has continued to mystify. The statistics below tell a good deal of the story as to why the Hawks have a 2-2 record on the road trip.
Power Play — 2 for 10
Penalty Kill — 8 for 10
With three games remaining away from home, the Hawks must gain ground within the division after compiling a 6-7 record in January. It shouldn’t be all that surprising to see why Chicago is slowly losing ground in the Central Division, now more than a game’s points behind St. Louis for second place and six points behind the division-leading Nashville Predators..
Strong defensive styles from Minnesota and St. Louis plus a young skillful unit in the Winnipeg Jets (who’ve beaten the Hawks three times this season) are ahead this week. Points are needed for the team to close out this trip on a positive note. If not, trouble could be around the corner.
Home is where the heart is if the Hawks want to make up ground in the Central Division. With eight straight home games scheduled at the United Center this month the Hawks should have a chance at least to re-assert their dominance but it won’t be easy as the home stand includes key dates with Pittsburgh (Feb. 15) and Boston (Feb. 22) both on national television (NBC) along with Detroit and division rival Colorado.
The light road schedule ahead should come as big lift off the Hawks’ shoulders after the conclusion of their current seven game road trip, which ends Sunday at St. Louis. The next road game after that occurs Feb. 26 at the Florida Panthers.
To Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith, who scored his seventh goal of the season last Friday at Anaheim in a 4-1 victory and collected his 400th career point in the NHL. Keith joins a great list of the highest-scoring Hawks defenders:
Most Points By Hawks Defenseman
Doug Wilson – 779
Bob Murray – 514
Chris Chelios – 487
Pierre Pilote – 477
Duncan Keith – 400
To Marian Hossa for scoring 10+ goals for a 16th consecutive season, joining a distinguished list of his own:
Jaromir Jagr (N.J. Devils) — 20 seasons
Jerome Iginla (Colorado) — 18
Marian Hossa (Chicago) — 16
Patrick Marleau (San Jose) — 16
Patrik Elias (Devils) — 16
Iginla and Hossa are the only players in the list who have extended their streaks so far this season.
Goals Per Game: 3.0 (5th in NHL)
Goals Against: 2.3 (3rd in NHL)
Power Play Percentage: 18.6 (14th in NHL)
Penalty Kill Percentage: 87.6 (1st in NHL)
Goals — Patrick Kane (25); Assists — Kane (31); Points — Kane (56); Goals Against Average — Antti Raanta (1.80); Penalty Minutes — Andrew Shaw (36).
The Road Ahead (2/3 — 2/8)*
Tonight at Minnesota Wild — 7 p.m.
Friday at Winnipeg Jets — 7 p.m.
Sunday at St. Louis Blues — 11:30 a.m.
*All times Central
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