Look out for Sidney Brown’s weekly dispatches from the front lines of Blackhawks fandom every week during the hockey season.
Every season has its challenges and playing as a defending champion brings extra pressure.
For the 2015-16 Chicago Blackhawks, consider these factors — incorporating new teammates into your lineup, every team in your division/conference has improved, playing inconsistently and dealing with injuries to your top players.
With a 3-3 record so far in this young season, the Hawks are trying to establish an identity with a whole new supporting cast. Rookie Artemi Panarian has stepped up and showing signs that he’s worthy of playing alongside Kane and Teuvo Teravainen is proving that last year’s playoff run was no fluke tallying two goals an one assist.
The Hawks’ inconsistent play has displayed its ugly head early and during their brief road trip along the east coast in Philadelphia and Washington, the things that makes this team great suddenly disappeared. An 0 for 5 performance on the power play against the Flyers didn’t help matters but the same unit improved matters in last Saturday’s win against Columbus.
Last Week’s Road Trip:
Goals Scored: 1
Goals Allowed: 7
Power Play: 0-6
Penalty Kill: 6-8
Note: 0 goals scored by forwards in last 143:35 (before Saturday’s win vs. Columbus)
On Tuesday, star defenseman Duncan Keith underwent surgery on his right knee and will miss four to six weeks. This means that the other defenseman on the roster must pickup their play, i.e. Trevor Daley, Trevor van Riemsdyk with help from veterans such as Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson.
With the injury to Keith, defenseman Michal Rozsival will be eligible to come off the injured reserved list soon and will provide much help, depth and experience moving forward. Despite winning the cup last spring, the Hawks missed Rozsival dearly which made the remaining defenseman log in heavy minutes.
Also, goaltending must continue to be solid and consistent to keep the Hawks in games. No one should complain at this point about the play in net but feel confident going forward as this season moves along.
Between The Pipes
Games Played: 4
Goals Against Average: 2.25
Save Percentage: .922
Games Played: 2
Goals Against Average: 2.50
Save Percentage: .906
Much of the Hawks struggles are due to the lack of goal scoring. This problem can be attributed to new players being inserted into new roles and timing with veteran players.
One line that has shined for coach Joel Quenneville has been the 2nd line led by Patrick Kane, rookie Artemi Panarian and center Artem Anisimov. This line has a combined total of 17 points to start the season and with the offensive skills of Kane, the speed of Panarian and the faceoff presence of Anisimov, this line has the potential to improve and will be fun to watch for fans alike.
2nd Line Stats
Patrick Kane: 4G, 3A = 7 Points
Artem Anisimov: 2G, A = 3 Points
Artemi Panarian: 2G, 5A = 7 Points
After going through the Eastern conference, the Hawks schedule now takes a turn towards the Western Conference along with their division opponents to end October. This team still has enough on the roster to establish some consistency despite the injury to Keith.
Fans will have to give this team at least 20 to 25 games to see how and what the Hawks are going to be for this year and when Keith returns, the men in red should be ready to take flight and insert their dominance in the Western Conference.
Points: Patrick Kane (7)
Goals: Patrick Kane (4)
Assists: Artemi Panarian (5)
Penalty Minutes: Jonathan Toews (6)
Goals Against Average: Corey Crawford (2.25)
Goals Per Game: 2.0 (22nd in NHL)
Goals Against: 2.6 (13th in NHL)
Power Play Percentage: 11.8% (22nd in NHL)
Penalty Kill Percentage: 83.3% (16th in NHL)
The Week Ahead (Through 10/30)*
Tonight vs. Florida Panthers (7:30 pm)
Saturday vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (7:30 pm)
Monday vs. Anaheim Ducks (7:30 pm)
10/29 at Winnipeg Jets (7 pm)
10/30 at Minnesota Wild (7 pm)
*All times central
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