Sidney Brown writes on the Blackhawks and the NHL for WARR, look for his weekly dispatches from the front lines of hockey fandom
In this up and down Chicago Blackhawks season, the tide turned in a big way, washing the team unexpectedly, when starting goalie Corey Crawford suffered an undisclosed injury in last Thursday’s overtime loss to Dallas, reportedly putting him on the shelf for at least a week.
Backup Anton Forsberg has filled in nicely throughout this season, carrying a 1.45 goals against average, 3 goals allowed and a save percentage of .947., his 1-3 record is mostly a product of circumstance and definitely not a reflection of his all around play.
Chicago’s consistent lack of scoring, turnovers and bad penalties have contributed to making life tough on whoever’s in net for the team. On the flip side, though, the visible holes in the other areas of the Hawks’ game have made it easier to focus on the top-notch effort given by Crawford (and Forsberg when given his chance) to keep the Hawks in games and overall afloat just above the .500 mark.
With an 11-7-2 record, you may think that Crawford’s stats are mediocre? Check this out, though — Crawford is tied for 5th in the NHL in save percentage (.930), tied for 4th in shutouts (2) and 7th in goals against average (2.29).
It is safe to say that Crawford is in top form, playing among the best goalies in professional hockey, but can the rest of his teammates come along with him? With a tough schedule ahead for the month of December, the Hawks need Crawford back healthy along with the scoring and a consistent power play, If not, the struggle to qualify for the playoffs maybe tougher than what they realize.
As the month of November came to a close, the Hawks posted a record of 7-4-2 to conclude the stretch. After some early month struggles, things briefly looked to start to turn around, but that was before the bad news regarding Crawford.
In any season, role players are relied on to carry a team in stretches but superstars must lead the way to establish an identity and out of the Hawks’ true stars, Crawford was doing the most to pull his weight, which makes his sudden loss so devastating.
As we look deeper into December, the Men in Red must improve on these key records: 6-4-2 at home, 6-5-2 on the road, 2-5-1 against the Central Division and 4-6-2 versus the Western Conference.
St. Louis, Nashville and Winnipeg are leading the way in the Central and are all at least 10 points ahead of the Hawks, who themselves are just 3 points out of last place. Chicago must continue to play with consistency in scoring timely goals, controlling the puck, improving on the power play and playing strong in front of Crawford or whoever’s in goal if they want to have any chance of competing for a decent playoff spot.
A Look Ahead to December
Entering the last month of 2017, the Hawks schedule gets a little more tougher with only five home games at the United Center and eight road games to fill out the slate before New Years. The month ends with a five-game road trip which will take them thru Canada (Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary).
Other road games for the month include tomorrow’s showdown in Washington, the second of two stops in Dallas (the first providing Saturday’s tough overtime loss), Winnipeg and New Jersey. The home portion features division rival Minnesota beyond Sunday’s loss to Los Angeles at the UC.
The time is now for the Hawks to start establishing themselves as playoff contenders along with sending a message to rivals in their division and the Western Conference. Will the Hawks dominate the last month of 2017? The start hasn’t supported such a prediction, but there’s still time.
To rookie sensation Alex Debrincat for scoring his first career hat trick in Monday’s win vs. Anaheim becoming the second youngest player in Hawks history to score a hat trick.
Jeremy Roenick: December 23, 1989 at Toronto (19 years, 340 days)
Alex DeBrincat: November 27, 2017 vs. Anaheim (19 years, 344 days)
Patrick Kane: May 11, 2009 vs. Vancouver (20 years, 173 days)
Most Goals In A Month By A Rookie
Alex DeBrincat: November 2017 (10)
Murray Balfour: January 1960 (9)
Darryl Sutter: February 1981 (9)
Steve Larmer: December 1982 (9)
To Corey Crawford for playing in his 400th career game in a Hawks uniform in last Saturday’s win at Florida. The other Hawks goalies to play 400 or more:
Tony Esposito (873)
Glenn Hall (618)
Ed Belfour (415)
Programming Reminder: Make sure to listen to The D & Davis Show on chicagolandsportsradio.com this Saturday at 1:20 pm Chicago time as the guys will be joined by John Kreiser — nhl.com editor and author of the new book, “So You Think You’re A Chicago Blackhawks Fan?”
Points: Patrick Kane (27)
Goals: Artem Anisimov (12)
Assists: Patrick Kane (17)
Penalty Minutes: Richard Panik (24)
Goals Against Average: Corey Crawford (2.29)
Goals Per Game: 3.04 (11th in NHL)
Goals Against: 2.67 (T-25th in NHL)
Penalty Kill Percentage: 84.4 (5th in NHL)
Power Play Percentage: 16.1 (29th in NHL)
The Road Ahead (thru 12/14)
Wednesday at Washington Capitals @ 7 pm
Friday vs. Buffalo Sabres @ 7:30 pm
Sunday vs. Arizona Coyotes @ 6 pm
12/12 vs. Florida Panthers @ 7:30 pm
12/14 at Winnipeg Jets @ 7 pm
*All times central
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