Sidney Brown writes on the Blackhawks and the NHL for WARR, look for his weekly dispatches from the front lines of hockey fandom
The month of December started off rough for the Chicago Blackhawks, with three losses bringing up the rear of a five-game losing streak, but since then the Christmas month could not have been kinder to the Hawks.
In flipping the script all the way and developing a current five game winning streak to push to the December record to 5-2-1 so far, the Men in Red are clicking on all cylinders. At 17-11-5 for the season, the Hawks are climbing back up the Central Division standings and are currently in a Western Conference wild card slot if the playoffs started right now, quite a site after languishing near the bottom of the division standings less than a month ago.
So, what are the main factors behind the current wining streak?
1) Corey Crawford: 9-0-2 record in his last 11 games; 1.98 goals against average and a .938 save percentage. Last five games: 5-0-0 record; 1.37 goals against average and a .954 save percentage. Can you say team MVP?
2) Patrick Kane: Named the NHL’s #1 Star of the Week with four goals and an assist. including two game winning goals versus Minnesota and Florida. Overall, Kane has four goals and three assists for the month.
3) Tommy Wingels: The free agent pickup from Ottawa has made his presence felt on the fourth line with linemates John Hayden and Lance Bouma with his scoring ability. Wingels has scored a goal in four out of his last five gams (6G,4A for the season).
4) Penalty Kill Unit: After the struggles most of last season and the changes that followed during the summer with the exist of Marcus Kruger, this year’s unit has ranked in the top five in the NHL all season long (83.5). 15 for 19 in killing off penalties for the month.
5) Jonathan Toews: In battling injures and a slow start to the season, Captain Serious has picked up play scoring three times and tallying three assists. This trend needs to continue to go upwards for the remainder of the season.
On the flipside, there are still a few things that the Hawks need to clean up and improve if they want to continue to build on this recent success:
1) Power Play: Ranked third from the bottom will not get it done and it seems like there are no solutions in sight anytime soon. 1 for 29 to start the month of December
2) Patrick Sharp: With only two assists so far for the month, questions are brewing if age is catching up to Mr. Sharp? Many including yours truly would come to that conclusion based on his play overall. It seems that Head Coach Joel Quenneville may face that reality very soon, but in the meantime, Sharp will be a healthy scratch for tonight’s game at Dallas. Maybe this will be his wakeup call and jumpstart his season.
3) Richard Panik: No points in the month of December and a healthy scratch in last Tuesday’s win against Florida are definitely signs of a player with confidence issues. This 20 plus goal scorer has the potential to light the lamp at anytime at what line you put him on. If and when his confidence and consistency returns, so will his playing time.
Chicago will finish the calendar year with a five game road including the last three games in Canada against some beatable teams. Will the good times continue or is there a major speed bump ahead?
Points: Patrick Kane (34)
Goals: Patrick Kane (14)
Assists: Patrick Kane (20)
Penalty Minutes: Richard Panik, Jonathan Toews (24)
Goals Against Average: Corey Crawford (2.11)
Goals Per Game: 3.1 (11th in NHL)
Goals Against: 2.6 (T-25th in NHL)
Penalty Kill Percentage: 83.5 (5th in NHL)
Power Play Percentage: 14.2 (29th in NHL)
The Road Ahead (thru 12/31)
Tonight at Dallas Stars @ 7:30 pm
Saturday at New Jersey Devils @ 6 pm
12/28 at Vancouver Canucks @ 9 pm
12/29 at Edmonton Oilers @ 8 pm
12/31 at Calgary Flames @ 8 pm
*All times central
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