Sidney Brown provides dispatches from the front lines of Blackhawks fandom every week during the hockey season.
If you just looked at the 46-26-7 Chicago Blackhawks on the ice with one week remaining in the regular season you may be tempted to feel that the team is once again hitting a bit of a stride in its play.
Some intangibles, though, are being dealt with less smoothly and they’re keeping things from being exactly the way the Hawks would like them entering the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Star defenseman and 2015 Conn Smythe trophy winner Duncan Keith was suspended six games this past week — the last of those games being Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs — for his stick slash on Minnesota Wild’s Charlie Coyle in a loss last Tuesday.
Keith is known to play with an edge, but his emotions clearly were out of control and in a very bad moment he used bad judgment. Duncan was lucky to be suspended only one game into the playoffs, but he now knows that the league office, along with the other teams on ice, have him in their sights consistently. Keith finishes the year with nine goals and 34 assists for a total of 43 points.
Injuries are an obstacle that every team has to overcome and the Hawks have their list filled with Marian Hossa, Andrew Shaw and Corey Crawford in need of TLC. All three stars should be back in the fold before the regular season ends (Hossa has already gotten back to action), it would certainly be nice especially for Crawford to get in some action in preparation for a potentially long playoff run.
Keeping it to the ice, the Hawks are winners of four of their last five games and are showing signs that they’re ready and confident to make a long run in the playoffs amidst a competitive Western Conference.
During a four-game road trip last week, the Hawks went 10 for 10 on the penalty kill but only converted one of nine chances on their power play, a unit that currently ranks 3rd in the NHL. Let’s take a look at the individuals who have stepped up during this stretch run.
Last 5 Games:
Artemi Panarin: 8 points (5 assists)
Marian Hossa: 3 points (2 assists)
Jonathan Toews: 4 points (3 assists)
Scott Darling: 4-1 record, .910 save percentage, 14 total goals allowed
Trends For End of Regular Season
1) Consistency in Special Teams (Penalty Kill and Power Play)
2) Health — particularly that of Marian Hossa, Andrew Shaw and Corey Crawford
3) Where’s home ice for 1st Round? — may play Dallas or St. Louis
*To Marian Hossa for scoring career goal number 499 last Friday in the victory at Winnipeg. Will number 500 come before the end of the regular season?
*To rookie Artemi Panarin for recording the second-most 3-point games as a rookie since the 1993-94 season:
Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh): 11 in 2005-06
Artemi Panarin (Chicago): 9 in 2015-16
Alex Ovechkin (Washington): 8 in 2005-06
*Again to Panarin, the Bread Man, for being named the NHL’s #1 Star of the Week with 3 goals and 5 assists. Panarin is making a strong case for his receiving the Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year.
*To coach Joel Quenneville for collecting 800 career victories from behind the bench in Sunday’s win over Boston. With 3 Stanley Cups on his resume to go with the high win total the Hockey Hall of Fame will certainly be calling him when the time comes after he retires.
Points: Patrick Kane (100); Goals: Kane (43); Assists: Kane (57); Penalty Minutes: Andrew Shaw (69); Goals Against Average: Corey Crawford (2.32)
Goals Per Game: 2.8 (7th in NHL)
Goals Against: 2.5 (10th in NHL)
Power Play: 22.2% (3rd in NHL)
Penalty Kill: 79.8% (24th in NHL)
The Road Ahead (Final Week)*
Tonight vs. Arizona Coyotes — 7:30 pm
Thursday vs. St. Louis Blues (Home Finale) — 7:30 pm
Saturday at Columbus Blue Jackets (Regular Season Finale) — 7 pm
*All times central
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