Look out for Sidney Brown’s weekly dispatches from the front lines of Blackhawks fandom every week during the hockey season.
With the month of October in the rear view mirror, the thing that Chicago Blackhawks fans should take out of it is that they’re still trying to find their identity for the 2015-16 campaign.
The team’s record of 6-5 perfectly reflects their play on the ice with flashes of greatness mixed with inconsistent play. Since my last post, the team completed a historic run of back to back shutout overtime wins and pulled off a streak of four wins in a row but they also stumbled in their first tests within the Central Division with consecutive losses on the road to Winnipeg and Minnesota.
The key stats from last week that stood out were the power play (4 of 18) and the penalty kill (13-16) which both units haven’t always been in sync in past seasons but with new players being incorporated into new roles, expect the power play to improve with time and the penalty kill unit which has been their strength should continue to be solid keeping their opponents off the scoreboard.
The struggles on offense is very obvious is to point the finger at why for the early season slow start with their 2.2 goals per game average. There’s a few players that need to be recognized for keeping the Hawks afloat — Jonathan Toews (4 goals, 3 assists), rookie Artemi Panarin (2G, 8A) and Artemi Anisimov (4G) and don’t forget Patrick Kane (6G, 8A) who is starting off the year at a MVP level.
On the flip side, a wakeup call is needed immediately to the 3rd and 4th liners who need to contribute offensively to balance out the top two lines — Andrew Shaw (1 point), Andrew Desjardins (0 points), Marcus Kruger (0 points) and Bryan Bickell (0 points).
With his being scratched from Thursday’s game at Winnipeg being Exhibit A, Teuvo Teravainen has seemed to struggle to meet the expectations of his taking the next step of becoming a star. When asked if Teravainen’s benching was a message being sent following Thursday’s loss to the Jets, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said no but expects much more out of his 20-year-old potential star.
A message should also be sent to Bickell for his play on the ice taking a major turn for the worst.
After stellar playoff performances in 2013 and 2014, Bickell’s recent play — dating back to last year’s playoffs — has not lived up to expectations especially after signing a contract extension following 2013. After failing to trade Bickell in the off-season, the question is now what to do going forward?
No one has the answer but the organization must get something out of Bickell and he must find motivation to prove that he’s worthy of consistent ice time not only to the coaching staff but to himself.
The Month of November
Entering the second month of the 2015-16 season gets more challenging with five home games and eight road games, including the infamous six game Circus Trip at the end of the month (11/18 through 11/28), which will take them thru six cities and three time zones.
In the past, the Hawks have made their identity with the road trip. With an expected return of defenseman Duncan Keith around Thanksgiving, the Hawks will have to bid time in finding ways to win games and their opponents for this month will not lay down just because they’re the defending champs, you can’t expect that from the likes of San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles, St. Louis (x2) and New Jersey to name most of the upcoming slate.
The time to climb back to the top of the division and the conference starts now and the new additions must start to show that they’re worthy of making this team a squad that the Western Conference should fear come the end of the season.
*To Captain Jonathan Toews, with this two-goal performance at Minnesota last Friday which allowed him to pass both Doug Wilson and Eric Daze for 12th place on the Hawks’ all-time goals list (227) and ex-teammate Patrick Sharp for 15th on the team’s all-time points list (513).
*To the Hawks, who recently became the first team to post back-to-back OT shutout wins (Tampa Bay and Anaheim) since overtime was reintroduced to the NHL in the 1983-84 season.
*Again to the whole team for becoming the third team in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup with a shutout and than blank its Cup Final opponent in their first meeting of the following season.
Points: Patrick Kane (14); Goals: Kane (6); Assists: Kane (8); Penalty Minutes: Ryan Garbutt (11); Goals Against Average: Corey Crawford (1.76)
Goals Per Game: 2.2 (24th in NHL)
Goals Against: 2.2 (8th in NHL)
Power Play Percentage: 20% (14th in NHL)
Penalty Kill Percentage: 83.3% (10th in NHL)
The Week Ahead (Through 11/8)*
Tonight vs. Los Angeles Kings — 7:30 pm
Wednesday vs. St. Louis Blues — 7 pm
Friday at New Jersey Devils — 6 pm
Sunday vs Edmonton Oilers — 7 pm
*All times central
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