Sidney Brown brings his weekly dispatches from the front lines of Blackhawks fandom every week during the hockey season.
Back to back shutouts, back to back division wins, a lack luster effort against Minnesota and a blown lead late versus the defending Stanley Cup Champion LA Kings made up the Chicago Blackhawks’ recent 4-3 road trip. Not too bad but nothing to define the team’s effort to take control in the Western Conference as the Stanley Cup playoffs approach.
If anything, the Hawks can take solace in their conference-leading road record of 17-11-1 but as of late those wins certainly aren’t coming easy. During the road trip the Hawks scored 16 goals while giving up 15, numbers which scream out team defense inconsistency. With the line between wins and losses remaining consistently thin, one thing that’s been visably solid on the ice has been the goaltending of Corey Crawford.
In his last four games, Crawford has posted a 3-1-0 record along with a 1.77 goals against average. The timing is good and the confidence is back for “Crow,” which should make the Hawks more of the threat they want to be going through the rest of the season.
Elsewhere, Chicago’s third and fourth lines have been non existent as of late, until Sunday’s win at St. Louis with Marcus Kruger and Bryan Bickell contributing offensively and each contributing a goal during the game. Bickell also had an assist. Other back line stars like Andrew Shaw, Dan Carcillo and Ben Smith must contribute points as well as continue to shutdown the opposition’s top lines if the Hawks want to do damage come playoff time.
Another bright spot from the road trip has been the play of Marian Hossa. This aging veteran still has something left in the tank, having netted home 4 goals in his last two games, including the game winning goal vs. St. Louis last Sunday afternoon.
Hopefully these latest games will be a turning point for Mr. Hossa who has 14 goals for the season as his offensive numbers will be needed come April, May and hopefully June. Finally, I can’t end this road trip recap without mentioning the spectacular Patrick Kane. Kane has posted 3 points in his last three games, including his netting home his 26th goal of the season during the Hawks’ 2-1 overtime victory in Winnipeg last Friday and delivering the assist on the game-winning goal courtesy of Brandon Saad.
His offensive heroics well established , Kane is now tied for first next to Dallas Stars superstar Tyler Seguin for top scorer in the NHL with 59 points.
The Hawks managed to pick up a point in their the shootout loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Monday, but the game overall was another example of how the team can lack a full 60 minute effort against lessor competition. Throughout any season, teams will usually hit a wall but the good teams usually snap out of it and collect wins, especially against weaker teams.
As the Hawks play in their longest home stretch of the year here in the next couple of weeks, the Hawks gear up against some top teams but the sub .500 teams can and will possibly give Chicago trouble as they try and climb the top of the Central Division mountain. Keep this stat in mind when watching the Hawks as the rest of their eight-game home stand plays out:
This Season vs. Current Non-Playoff Teams
Through Dec. 31st — 13-1-1
Jan. 1st to Present — 4-5-1
Fun Fact — Feb. 10, 1966
The Expansion Era began in the NHL as its governing board announced the additions of six franchises to begin play in the 1967-68 season, joining the Original Six of Chicago, New York, Toronto, Montreal, Detroit and Boston.
Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Oakland were the first additions to the NHL since 1926.
Goals — Patrick Kane (26); Assists — Kane (33); Points — Kane (59); Goals Against Average — Antti Raanta (1.81); Penalty Minutes — Andrew Shaw (42).
Goals Per Game: 2.9 (8th in NHL)
Goals Against: 2.3 (2nd in NHL)
Power Play Percentage: 18.3 (14th in NHL)
Penalty Kill Percentage: 87.5 (1st in NHL)
The Road Ahead (2/11 – 2/15)*
Wednesday vs. Vancouver Canucks — 7 p.m.
Friday vs. New Jersey Devils — 7:30 p.m. Sunday vs. Pittsburgh Penguins — 11:30 a.m.
*All Times Central
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