Sidney Brown provides dispatches from the front lines of Blackhawks fandom every week during the hockey season.
Injuries, inconsistent scoring and a current two game losing streak aside, the month of December has been kind to the Chicago Blackhawks as they’ve battled through the last days of 2016 to post a current record of 22-9-5, placing them atop their division and conference.
Some of the young core players have stepped up with the likes of Ryan Hartman and Vincent Hinostroza standing out, but the return of veteran goaltender Corey Crawford has given the Men in Red a much needed boost on the ice. Another good sign — captain Jonathan Toews finally scoring a goal for the first time in 13 games in last Friday’s loss against Colorado.
Yes, you need your veterans to carry you through the tough times but your supporting cast must fill in the gaps. Let’s take a look at who stepped up for the Hawks in the month of December.
Artemi Panarin: 7 Goals, 8 Assists (Last 5 games: 4G, 6A)
Marian Hossa: 5 goals, Assist
Patrick Kane: 2 Goals, 9 Assists (Last 5 games: 2 Goals, 4 Assists)
The stellar play in net from both goalies Corey Crawford and backup Scott Darling is the only thing that has been consistent from the very beginning of this season from the Hawks.
In spite of the results in terms of recent final scores, strong goaltending has been the Hawks’ calling card and the aspect of the game which they’ve taken most advantage. Crawford made his return to the lineup for the first time since December 1st in last Friday’s loss against Colorado but showed that his time away was no big deal with his stopping 34 of 35 shots.
Crawford’s health will be key going forward, but if he’s out for any extended period of time the Hawks could be in serious trouble come playoff time, even though Darling has proved to be a solid backup.
Scott Darling: 6-3-1 record, 2.12 Goals Against Average, .930 Save Percentage (Last 5 games: 4-1 record, 14 goals allowed, 143 saves)
Corey Crawford: 1-0-1 record, 2.49 GAA, .925 save %
What To Look For This Week
As the month of December and the calendar year of 2016 comes to a close, the Hawks will have three key divisional games including two on the road. We all know of the team’s problems on the road and within the division last season, but this season has been different with a 9-6-1 road record and 7-4-1 division record.
Nashville and St. Louis will provide tough challenges as always, but with the majority of the roster healthy (except Hossa and Anisimov), Chicago has a chance to put separation between themselves and the rest of the competition. There’s no better opportunity to display that than against their most serious division rival, the Blues on the road and in the outdoors in front of a national audience on January 2nd.
Goals Against Average: 2.4 (6th in NHL)
Goals Per Game: 2.8 (11th in NHL)
Power Play Percentage: 18.8 (16th in NHL)
Penalty Kill Percentage: 74.5 (29th in NHL)
Points: Artemi Panarin (36); Goals: Marian Hossa (16); Assists: Patrick Kane (24); Penalty Minutes: Kane (20); Goals Against Average: Corey Crawford (2.26)
The Road Ahead (Thru 1/2/17)
Tonight vs. Winnipeg
Thursday at Nashville — 7 PM
Friday at Carolina — 6:30 PM
Jan. 2 vs. St. Louis (Busch Stadium) — 12 PM
*All times central
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