Sidney Brown provides dispatches from the front lines of Blackhawks fandom every week during the hockey season.
Ask any of the 68 teams who are waiting impatiently to play in the NCAA tournament right now and they’ll tell you March is a month made for Madness.
No seasons are on the line in March in the National Hockey League, but it can be pretty mad in the NHL as we get closer and closer to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With no room to argue, each team has entered the a time made for playoff positioning and team chemistry.
The Chicago Blackhawks currently sit in third place in the Western Conference Central Division with 88 standings points (41-22-6) despite their recent struggles. As I’ve reminded readers in my last post, with new additions from the trade deadline, it was going to take time for a regenerated Hawks roster to gel, but with experience, this team will be battle-tested just in time for the playoffs.
After a 2-2-1 start to the month, there are problems that scream major attention. In the last 13 games, the Hawks have allowed 16 power play goals (6 in last five games) and have given up a total of 13 goals overall in the last five games. Since their franchise-setting 12 game winning streak in January, the Hawks have gone 9-9-2. The new additions for the Men in Red are still finding their way, but they’ve managed to make an impact from the word GO.
Since Trade Deadline (5 games):
Andrew Ladd = 3 points (2 goals)
Tomas Fleischmann = 3 points (2 goals)
Dale Weise = 1 assist
Christian Ehrfoff = 1 assist
On the other side of the coin, the core veterans have guided the ship through this current tough stretch, keeping the Hawks within striking distance of the top spot in the Western Conference.
Teuvo Teravainen = 4 points (3 assists)
Artemi Panarin = 5 points (3 goals)
Jonathan Toews = 4 points (2 goals)
Patrick Kane = 4 points (2 goals)
Brent Seabrook = 4 points (3 assists)
Duncan Keith = 4 points (3 assists)
As far goaltending is concerned, in his first three starts for the month of March, Corey Crawford gave up a total of 5 goals. In last Friday’s loss at Dallas, Crawford gave up 4, including 3 in the second period which led to him being pulled for the night.
What do I read into this? Nothing, except that Corey’s mental toughness makeup will have to carry him through the rest of the season. Crawford’s mental toughness paired with his play has made him one of the best goalies in the league. For you Crawford detractors, there’s nothing to discuss at this time.
With Marian Hossa returning to the lineup in last Friday’s loss at Dallas, experience is covered on the top line with Toews and Ladd joining him. And expect scoring to pickup in a hurry with 13 games remaining in the regular season, with a 26th ranking on the penalty kill, help could be on the way with the return of Marcus Kruger.
Kruger has been practicing with the team within the past few days and could see action before the regular season ends. Kruger hasn’t played since injuring his hand on December 17th. With the PK taking a free fall, Kruger’s presence is very much needed and it couldn’t come at a better time.
Points: Patrick Kane (89); Goals: Kane (38); Assists: Kane (51); Penalty Minutes: Andrew Shaw (53); Goals Against Average: Corey Crawford (2.27)
Goals Per Game: 2.8 (6th in NHL)
Goals Against: 2.4 (8th in NHL)
Power Play: 23.6% (2nd in NHL)
Penalty Kill: 78.3% (26th in NHL)
The Road Ahead (Through 3/22)*
Tonight vs. L.A. Kings — 7 pm
Wednesday vs. Philadelphia Flyers — 7 pm
Friday at Winnipeg Jets — 7 pm
3/20 vs. Minnesota Wild — 7:30 pm
3/22 vs. Dallas Stars — 7:30 pm
*All times central
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