Look out for Sidney Brown’s weekly dispatches from the front lines of Blackhawks fandom every week during the hockey season.
Chicago Blackhawks fans, say goodbye to the United Center for at least two weeks as the Men in Red embark on their annual Circus Trip.
Finishing their opening stretch of the season with a 8-2-1 record at home has kept this team afloat in the standings but its 2-5 road record has held Chicago back from becoming a contending team at the moment.
One player who has kept up his end of the bargain as it were has been no other than Patrick Kane. Kane has scored a goal in seven straight games entering Wednesday, joining ex-Hawks Steve Larmer (1987) as the only franchise members to achieve that feat. During the current goal scoring streak Kane has also tallied seven assists for a total of 14 points.
Needless to say that Kane is on an early course for a Hart Trophy (Regular Season MVP) while clearly separating himself from the pack as the Hawks’ MVP. With his overall skill, it’s easy to look at Kane’s highlights and just take away the flash, but a closer look at the numbers of his recent streak show how much work is being done, an historic amount.
Kaner’s 12 Game Point Streak
First 6 Games — 3 goals, 5 assists, 16 shots on goal, 2 power play goals
Last 6 Games — 6 goals, 7 assists, 27 shots, 2 PP
Defense to the Rescue
The Hawks received a major boost from the recent returns of defensemen Duncan Keith and Michal Rozsival and they proved so in winning their last two games against division opponents (St. Louis and Calgary).
Chicago was just over .500 in Keith’s absence, going 5-4-1, in the first two games of his comeback Keith contributed an assist and a goal to add to the stat sheet in the two wins. Keith clearly makes a difference in the Hawks’ defensive core and he acts as an anchor to the back unit, spending the most time on the ice. Expect the play of the defensive unit to pick up immediately, especially on the road trip.
After losing to the New Jersey Devils last Thursday at home, coach Joel Quenneville in so many words called out his veteran players, expecting more production on the ice. Two players who have answered the bell in the last three games have been captain Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, the veteran duo have combined for a total of 5 points in the time since with Toews and Hossa each providing two assists.
With Toews and Hossa leading the top line, hopefully this will be a sign of things to come and help will be needed if and when Kane cools down from his current point streak. Let’s not forget the hottest rookie in the NHL, Artemi Panarin, who has been on fire the last five games (4 goals, 3 assists) and playing alongside Kane has benefited him tremendously.
In my last post I reminded Hawks fans that this team, around this time, usually finds its identity for the season. Being on the road for consecutive days helps builds team chemistry and unity, the annual Circus trip has jump-started the Hawks to great regular seasons in recent years, including last year’s Stanley Cup championship, this year shouldn’t be any different, right? Numbers usually tell the story. You be the judge.
The Circus Trip — Last Two Seasons
W-L-OTL 6-1-0 5-1-0
Goals Per Game 3.28 3.83
Opp Goals Per Game 2.14 2.00
Power Play Percent 15.8 23.1
Penalty Kill Percent 77.8 88.2
2015 Circus Road Trip Schedule
Wednesday at Edmonton Oilers
Friday at Calgary Flames
Saturday at Vancouver Canucks
11/25 at San Jose Sharks
11/27 at Anaheim Ducks
11/28 at Los Angeles Kings
With the majority of the roster healthy, it’s now time for the Hawks to take off and with the schedule of this road trip, the results should be positive like in years past and the new players should start to be in sync with the core veterans.
MY PREDICTION: Hawks go 4-2
Points: Patrick Kane (28); Goals: Kane (13); Assists: Kane (15); Penalty Minutes: Jonathan Toews (24); Goals Against Average: Corey Crawford (2.40)
Goals Per Game: 2.7 (14th in NHL)
Goals Against: 2.4 (11th in NHL)
Power Play: 18.8% (15th in NHL)
Penalty Kill: 81.3% (12th in NHL)
The Road Ahead (Through 11/21)*
Tonight at Edmonton Oilers — 8:30 pm
Friday at Calgary Flames — 8 pm
Saturday at Vancouver Canucks — 9 pm
*All times central
Follow Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under Regal Radio; Follow Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and Sidney Brown @sidkid80