Sidney Brown provides dispatches from the front lines of Blackhawks fandom every week during the hockey season.
After this year’s 3-3-1 Circus Trip, the Chicago Blackhawks and their fans should feel good about their place in the Central Division and in the Western Conference, but there’s still room for improvement.
To list the main areas of improvement: special teams, i.e., the power play — 2 for 16 for the trip with a penalty kill of 17 for 20. Injuries — the downside of the trip had to be the injury to captain Jonathan Toews, who’s missed the last two games. Inconsistent defense — especially in front of goalie Corey Crawford.
Corey posted a record of 2-3 for the trip allowing a total of 15 goals with a save percentage of .900. In spite of the poor statistics, Crawford — along with understudy Scott Darling — have given the Hawks a chance in every game with their play in net. Team defense remains a roller coaster at best, though, doing nothing to help in two shutouts but coming up big in critical moments in their three victories.
On the flip side, there were some positives from this year’s Circus Trip:
*Artem Anisimov: 2 goals
*Vinnie Hinostoza: goal, 2 assists
*Patrick Kane: 2 goals, 3 assists
*Ryan Hartman: 3 goals
*Marian Hossa: 2 goals (both game winners)
*Artemi Panarin: 2 goals, 3 assists
*Scott Darling: 1-0-1 record (5 goals allowed)
The unsung heroes from the trip were rookies Ryan Hartman and Vinnie Hinostroza. The 3rd and 4th line specialists came up big in the scoring department giving the Hawks the extra edge while complimenting the veteran core.
Let’s also not forget the play of rookies Nick Schmaltz and Tyler Motte, who returned from the injured list, although they didn’t record a point, their play defensively has made a difference on the ice. As we all know, head coach Joel Quenneville expects his young players to play two way hockey. If not, you’ll find yourself on the bench.
The bar for the new young core should and will be raised higher as the calendar turns to the last month of 2016.
With an overall home record of 8-1-2, the Hawks will have a great opportunity to collect points in the standings with a total of 8 games at the United Center before New Years.
The opposition will include their division rivals Winnipeg (2x), Dallas and Colorado along with San Jose, New Jersey and the New York Rangers. The road schedule will be light with a total of six games including division rivals Nashville and St. Louis along with the New York Rangers and Philadelphia.
The record within the division was dismal last season, but so far a 5-3 mark will do but a message must be sent and defeating your opponents within your division consistently will go a long way, this month will be the perfect test. Team defense must improve overall to help out the strong goal tending and the special teams must be “special” if the Hawks want to create separation in the standings.
With a record of 14-6-2, we should know by the end of the month who the Hawks are before their big showdown at the Blues on January 2nd in Busch Stadium to open 2017 with the Winter Classic.
Goals Against Average: 2.5 (14th in NHL)
Goals Per Game: 2.8 (10th in NHL)
Power Play Percentage: 17.7 (16th in NHL)
Penalty Kill Percentage: 70.8 (30th in NHL)
Points: Patrick Kane (23); Goals: Marian Hossa (11); Assists: Kane (15); Penalty Minutes: Marcus Kruger (18); Goals Against Average: Corey Crawford (2.31)
The Road Ahead (Thru 12/11)
Tonight vs. Florida Panthers — 7:30 PM
Thursday vs. New Jersey Devils — 7:30 PM
Saturday at Philadelphia Flyers — 12 PM
Sunday vs. Winnipeg Jets — 6 PM
12/6 vs. Arizona Coyotes — 7:30 PM
12/9 vs. New York Rangers — 7:30 PM
12/11 vs. Dallas Stars — 6 PM
*All times central
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