We are back with the first Blackhawks Banter of 2022! The year did not get off to a great start with an embarrassing 6-1 loss to the Nashville Predators on Saturday afternoon. For this week’s episode, we will present our Chicago Blackhawks new year resolutions. These will differ from our Dear Santa wish list from two weeks ago, as we will focus on things this team was not great at doing in 2021 and hope they improve on in 2022.
Our Blackhawks writing crew of Greg Boysen, Brooke LoFurno, Shaun Filippelli, and Gail Kauchak will get together to discuss this topic and more on the latest episode of Blackhawks Banter. Today, we are giving you a little sneak peek of the discussion that will drop on Tuesday morning.
Brooke: Penalty Kill Improvement
The penalty kill needs a major turnaround in 2022. As of late, there is no team in the NHL that has a worse penalty kill percentage than the Blackhawks, with a 68% success rate.
They were the fifth-best in the league to start this season. This massive drop is concerning because a team like the Blackhawks, who struggle with depth, have a hard time making up for mistakes and the penalty kill struggles make losses seem inevitable. It showed mightily during the New Year’s Day matchup against the Predators. The Hawks went 1/3 on the penalty kill. Nashville’s two power-play goals contributed to Chicago’s 6-1 blowout loss.
The team said they made the penalty kill an area of focus during the two-week pause. Whatever adjustments they tried to make weren’t successful, and they need to figure it out quickly because if it’s not fixed, it will result in more losses.
Gail: A Winning Streak
After starting the season 1-9-2 under former head coach Jeremy Colliton, the Blackhawks won four games in a row when Derek King took the helm. Ah, remember that?! Four games in a row! Since then, they’ve lost and then won every other game. Until their last three contests, in which they’ve lost all three.
So in the new year, let’s keep it simple. First, the Blackhawks need to win a game. But then the goal should be to win the next game. A two-game winning streak would be lovely! Let’s start with that, and then we can take it from there. Maybe three games in a row. Or matching that four-game winning stretch from when King joined the team. But let’s not get too carried away. Even a bunch of little mini-streaks would be something.
The point here is that the Blackhawks lack that consistency and that finish. They do good things in small stretches, but they can’t seem to string it all together. If they could win a few in a row, that would help them build their confidence and momentum moving forward.
Shaun: Work Harder at the Dot
For the Blackhawks to find any sense of sustained success, there needs to be a more consistent effort put forth in every regard. And that includes an elevation in their ability to win faceoffs. Having Jonathan Toews back has masked just how poorly their collective effort has been at the dot. He’s winning nearly 60% of his draws, and that’s exactly what’s both expected and needed.
The issue is that there is a steep drop off when you compare Chicago’s other centers, which have a large enough sample size to have formed a pattern throughout 2021-22. Although Ryan Carpenter has won more faceoffs than he’s lost, his faceoff win percentage (FO%) is still only 52.0. That number drops dramatically with Henrik Borgström, who sits at 38.3 FO%. And, most disappointingly, is Kirby Dach, who has a 32.7 FO%. That’s not only far from good enough; it’s just flat-out bad.
If this team isn’t winning draws, they aren’t giving themselves the most optimal opportunity to possess the puck. Meaning, they are further limiting any potential to produce, especially in a balanced fashion throughout their lineup. This is evidenced by the fact that they have one of the lowest goal totals in the league.
Chicago needs to continue focusing on progress, even though they won’t achieve in the ways they initially set out to this season. Spending more time practicing their faceoff techniques is a great start, as it will encourage an elevation in those who need it most, building momentum in the areas of the game that will directly result in meaningful success.
Simply stated, winning faceoffs means increased puck possession, which will inevitably lead to additional opportunities and result in more goals for with fewer against.
Greg: Do the Small Things Better
Let’s face the facts; the Blackhawks do not have enough talent to get away with making repeated mistakes night in and night out. This is a team that must focus on the details and be more aware on the ice. As we saw in Nashville, too many blown assignments and a lack of awareness led to easy goals for the Predators. Sure, this was the team’s first game since Dec. 18 with very little practice, but these are professionals who have played this game for a long time.
The team defense has improved since King took over, but those lapses still occur from time to time. The Blackhawks do not have the offensive firepower to get into high-scoring games each night. They need to do better at limiting high danger scoring chances against their goaltenders. The focus must be there on every shift. All five guys need to know where to be on the ice and what to do to cover a teammate if he leaves his post.
This team is not good enough to play a run-and-gun style of hockey. The Blackhawks must do all the little things right to have sustained success. They have to be in the right position, win board battles, make better passes, and play smart and simple hockey.
This is just one of the topics we will be breaking down on the new episode of Blackhawks Banter. Be sure to tune in after the show drops on Tuesday morning. You can watch us on our YouTube channel or listen wherever you consume your favorite podcasts.
Greg Boysen has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks since 2010 and has been a site manager for both FanSided and SB Nation. He has been published in The Hockey News and was fully credentialed for the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Among his various roles with The Hockey Writers are covering the Blackhawks, the AHL, writing the daily “Today in Hockey History” column, serving as a copy editor, and appearing and hosting multiple YouTube shows, including Blackhawks Banter. He is credentialed with the Chicago Wolves, Rockford IceHogs, and Milwaukee Admirals, while also being a regional scout for the NAHL. And, just because his plate isn’t full enough, Greg hosts trivia in the Chicago area two nights a week. For interview requests or to provide topic suggestions, follow Greg on Twitter and reach out.