New Year’s Day coincidentally marked the official half-way point in the season for the Chicago Blackhawks. On Dec. 31 they played their 41st game against the Calgary Flames. 41 more contests remain to complete the regular season. With a record of 18-17-6 for 42 points, the Blackhawks still sit in last place in the Central division, yet they are only four points out of a wildcard spot.
The team is currently on a three-game winning streak and have won six of their last eight. The Blackhawks have a tough hill to climb, but there is reason for optimism as they head into 2020. Let’s look at some notable numbers and statistics at this halfway point.
Kane on Top
Just as he has for the last five seasons, Patrick Kane not-surprisingly leads the Blackhawks through the first half of this season as well. He currently has 22 goals and 29 assists for 51 points, which leads the team in all three categories. He has twice as many goals as the second-highest goal-scorer (Brandon Saad and Dominik Kubalik are tied with 11 goals), and 22 more points than the second-place Alex DeBrincat (29 points). Kudos to Dylan Strome, whose 20 assists is only nine less than Kane.
On Dec. 31, the last day of the decade, Kane assisted on the first two goals of the game against the Flames. These two points gave him 800 total points in the last 10 years, and he’s the only NHL player with that accomplishment.
With his 2nd assist of the night, #88 now has 800 points this decade…the only NHL player to accomplish that. pic.twitter.com/mZkP7mt0y1— Blackhawks Talk (@NBCSBlackhawks) January 1, 2020
But he wasn’t done there. Kane went on to tally two goals in that contest as well, giving him a four-point night and 802 on the decade. Yet he’s only listed at No. 15 on the Best players of the decade list. Whatever.
On a more deserving note, the 31-year-old was selected for the 2020 All-Star Game on Jan. 25 in St. Louis. This will be his sixth consecutive and ninth overall appearance.
Leaning on Lehner
Through the first half of the season, goaltenders Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner pretty much split starts in goal. As a matter of fact, for a good stretch the norm was to simply switch off between the two every other game.
But Lehner has pulled out in front of late with the better numbers and therefore more starts. He’s started for six of the last eight games with a 6-0-0 record. In that span, he has a combined .930 save percentage and a 2.33 goals-against average and he’s made some high-light reel saves. Head coach Jeremy Colliton is rightfully riding the hot hand.
On the season Lehner’s .926 SV% ranks seventh in the league, and his 2.78 GAA is nothing to balk at considering the high amount of shots he faces on a nightly basis (nine games facing 40 or more shots). Compare this to Crawford’s .905 SV% and 3.20 GAA, and it’s no wonder Lehner is now leading with 24 games played to Crawford’s 20. I won’t be surprised if Lehner continues as the No. 1 goaltender moving forward.
Special Teams: One Up, One Down
The Blackhawks’ late surge in the standings last season coincided with their new-found success on the power play. Having a good power play can certainly be beneficial. Unfortunately, the team hasn’t been able to re-create that this season. They currently have a 15.4% success rate on the man advantage, which is 26th in the league.
Incidentally, DeBrincat leads the team with six power play goals, and Kane leads with 15 power play points. We’ve seen young defenseman Adam Boqvist on the point on the power play recently instead of Erik Gustafsson. Can this change give the Blackhawks a boost moving forward? We shall see.
Conversely, the Blackhawks penalty kill currently ranks at an 82.2% success rate, which is 10th in the league. Considering they finished dead last with a measly 72.7% success rate last season, this is a pretty big accomplishment. Forward Ryan Carpenter leads with 99:36 minutes of time on the penalty kill, and he also boasts a shorthanded goal. David Kampf is credited with a shorthanded tally as well, and Saad has two.
Checking out the Rookies
The Blackhawks have introduced their fair share of young players into the lineup this season, and for four of them it’s their first season in the NHL. Here’s how they’re doing.
- Kubalik is the stand-out by far through this first half of the season. In 39 games, the former Swiss hockey league winger is tied for second on the team in goals, with 11, and also has seven assists. He’s currently playing and thriving on the top line for the Blackhawks.
- Third overall draft pick Kirby Dach didn’t make the team out of training camp due to being sidelined with a concussion. Nevertheless, the Blackhawks committed to the forward playing with the big club as soon as he was healthy. In 35 games played, he has six goals and five assists for 11 points. Even at only 18 years of age, he looks like he belongs in the NHL and has a huge ceiling.
- Boqvist has one goal and two assists in 16 games played. With numerous injuries on the blue line, the 19-year-old is playing more minutes and even quarterbacking the power play.
- Dennis Gilbert actually suited up for one game in the 2018-19 season, but for our purposes I’m going to call him a rookie. Gilbert has impressed many with his physical style of play. He boasts a goal and two assists in 17 games played.
Other Blackhawks’ Stand-Out Stats
Here are a few more interesting numbers and statistics from the first half of the Blackhawks’ season.
- Calvin de Haan, who recently had shoulder surgery and is out for the remainder of the 2019-20 season, currently leads the Blackhawks with 93 hits in 29 games. Zack Smith is second with 77 hits in 34 games. Gilbert, with only 17 games under his belt, is already at 61 hits.
- De Haan also leads the team with 73 in blocked shots. Man, the Blackhawks are going to miss him! Connor Murphy is second with 67 blocked shots.
- Jonathan Toews is credited with a team-high 32 takeaways. He also boasts the best faceoff percentage at 56.3%.
- Interestingly, Kampf isn’t too far behind Toews with a 52% success rate at the dot. The fourth-liner likewise has five goals, which is a career-high for him through three seasons.
It’s been an exciting first half of the season for the Blackhawks. Some players have contributed and found more success than others. But there’s still another half a season to go, and anything can happen. Who will lead in these categories once it’s all said and done? And can the team as a whole somehow make a push for the playoffs?