We have spent a lot of time on Blackhawks Banter of late talking about interim head coach Derek King’s lineup. Specifically, we mentioned the bottom six and how some secondary scoring can be added to the offense. However, the bigger problem is that there is minimal primary scoring, and it isn’t coming from as many places as we excepted.
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.
Greg: You Can’t Have Secondary Scoring Without Primary Scoring
In the past few episodes of Blackhawks Banter, we have tried to come up with some ideas to get some balance in the lineup and provide some scoring on the bottom six. The more glaring issue is that the top six have been a major disappointment as three of their big stars have done little to nothing.
Heading into Sunday’s game, the Blackhawks have 29 goals at 5v5. Only the New York Islanders have fewer with 27. They have a -23 goal differential at 5v5, which is a huge reason why the playoffs are unlikely. The offense has primarily been a three-headed monster this season, with Patrick Kane (7 G, 14 A), Seth Jones (3 G, 18 A), and Alex DeBrincat (14 G, 4 A) leading the way. Meanwhile, Jonathan Toews, Kirby Dach, and Dominik Kubalik have been non-factors.
Toews has yet to score a goal in 23 games. Dach has just three on the season, two of which have come on the power play. Kubalik finally snapped his 15-game goal drought with a power-play tally against the Washington Capitals, but none of his four goals have come at 5v5. That means the Blackhawks have just one 5v5 goal from half of their top-six forwards. This is beyond disappointing. It is flat-out awful and unacceptable.
So, we can scream to the heavens all we want about who should be called up from Rockford to play on the fourth line, and none of it will matter until these three start producing goals. I called upon my colleagues to further break down these three struggling Blackhawks.
Brooke: Toews Struggles Go Beyond Offense
It feels wrong criticizing Toews’ performance considering he was dealing with serious health issues last year, so it’s hard to expect a lot from him. However, when you’re the captain, it comes with the territory. Right now, he is a beast at the faceoff dot with a 58% success rate, but he hasn’t been effective anywhere else.
He has been unlucky on some scoring chances hitting goal posts, but defensively, he has struggled mightily. He’s a minus-11, which is unlike him. He isn’t driving plays as you’d expect and is invisible most of the time. He just doesn’t look like himself at all, except at the dot, and that’s not going to cut it when you have a team like the Blackhawks that struggle to produce. He needs to score goals, point blank. The team can’t have sustained success without his production.
Shaun: Time to Lower Expectations for Dach
We’re now a quarter of the way into the 2021-22 campaign and, yet, Dach continues to play as though he’s fresh off coming back from injury. It’s as though we’re supposed to just accept that he won’t be the player all expected him to be this season, given that he’s not doing anything to prove that he’ll turn into something drastically different than what’s been on display thus far.
Nine points through 23 games and a faceoff win percentage of 32.6 just aren’t good enough. Not for a former third overall pick, not for a first or second-line center in this league, and certainly not for what the Blackhawks need out of the one they have positioned to take over the top role when the time comes.
And it’s not as though he hasn’t been set up to succeed. Dach is averaging just shy of 20:00 a night, mainly alongside Kane and DeBrincat. Either together or with at least one on his wing at any given time. While players like that are leading Chicago’s point totals leaderboard, Dach just isn’t fully pulling his weight in the ways he needs to in order to join them.
There needs to be more hunger in Dach’s game. It doesn’t appear as though he’s phased by this lackluster play, and that seems like a cause of concern in its own right. It’s not to say that he doesn’t care, but without his production doing the talking for him, we need more to go off of if we’re to assume he’s giving it his all in the meantime.
Gail: Kubalik’s Conundrum
A few weeks ago, King indicated he’s been happy with what Kubalik is doing away from the puck and that he’s not too concerned he isn’t scoring right now. But that was also a few weeks ago, and we’re still not seeing the production (from ‘As shooting chances run dry, Blackhawks forward Dominik Kubalik searches for spark,’ The Chicago Sun-Times – 11/19/21). The good news is Kubalik did break out of his scoring rut with a power-play goal against the Capitals on Thursday. But heading into Sunday’s matchup against the Islanders, it’s still his only goal in 16 games.
It appears the coaching staff is working with Kubalik on different facets of his game. He seems to be growing as a player, including stronger two-way play. But now it’s probably time to combine that with what comes naturally, which is shooting the puck. In his first 13 games of the season, Kubalik averaged 2.6 shots on goal per game. In the nine games after that, he only averaged 1.3 shots. It’s time to start being more aggressive and have that shoot-first mentality.
In Saturday night’s matchup against the New York Rangers, Kubalik recorded three shots on goal in just 12:04 minutes of ice time. Now that’s the kind of thing we like to see! Well, the shooting part anyway, not the minutes part. I’ve gone on and on about how I think Kubalik should be among the top-six forwards and the recipient of more ice time. But he does seem to have some chemistry with Henrik Borgstrom and Jujhar Khaira on that third line. Let’s see if they can build on that moving forward.
Kubalik has always been a bit of a streaky scorer, so now that he has that recent power-play goal under his belt, hopefully, that will jumpstart some more tallies. Just keep shooting that puck!
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. In case you need to get caught up, here is last week’s episode for your enjoyment.
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.