While there are certainly a lot of things to be thankful for as a Chicago Blackhawks fan, the way they ended the month of November isn’t one of them. Despite finishing the month with a 7-5-3 record, a notable improvement from October, Chicago went 1-4-1 in their last six games to finish out the month. After splitting a home-and-home with the red-hot Dallas Stars, including a 2-1 shootout loss and a 3-0 win, the Blackhawks had another home-and-home with the Colorado Avalanche in which they weren’t so fortunate, losing 5-2 at home and 7-3 on the road.
Chicago is 10-11-5 this season and currently sits in seventh place, dead last, in the stacked Central Division. It wasn’t how many fans envisioned the season going, and after a glimmer of hope and progress in the form of a four-game winning streak, the momentum has stalled yet again. There were plenty of things we’d like to forget about this past week, but there are also some positives to take away. Here’s a look at who’s rising and who’s falling after a tumultuous week in Chicago.
Saad is quietly putting together another quality season. He’s fourth on the team in points with 16 and has scored 8 goals, second on the team behind Patrick Kane. He added two goals and an assist to his totals this past week, including a goal in the win against Dallas and a shorthanded goal in Saturday’s loss to Colorado.
Saad started the season on the dominant Saad, David Kampf, Dominik Kubalik line, and has continued to produce results no matter where he has lined up. He has a 52.9 Corsi For % (CF%) on the season and has even contributed a 47.8% faceoff win percentage. There weren’t a lot of bright spots in Chicago last week, but Saad was definitely one of them.
It has been a relatively quiet season for Smith, but he has made the most of his opportunities of late. He scored his first goal of the season against the Avalanche on Friday night and added an assist in Saturday’s game.
Smith’s line also played an integral role in the win against the Stars including a 77.8 CF%, a 6-0 shot advantage, and no high-danger chances allowed in just over seven minutes of ice time together. He had a big week at the faceoff dot, going 12-for-20 for a 60% success rate. He has only played in 19 of Chicago’s games this season but that number is likely to grow if he keeps doing the little things right and makes a difference where it matters.
What more can be said about Kane that hasn’t already been said? He’s Chicago’s best offensive player and has been one of the few consistently exciting pieces of this team, even during the down periods. He is currently the owner of a 15-game point streak, including goals in all three games last week, and was just named the NHL’s third star of November with 24 points on 11 goals and 13 assists in 15 games. He has 14 more points than anyone else on the Blackhawks. Even when his team looks lifeless, the man affectionately known as “Showtime” continues to show a pulse and give fans something to cheer for.
Shaw was his own worst enemy last week. Despite adding an assist in the win over Dallas, he finished the week with 13 penalty minutes, including nine in Friday’s game, and a minus-3 rating. He added nine hits in the three games but didn’t provide much else in the way of help.
The Blackhawks have been at their best when Shaw stays out of trouble since he provides them so much two-way value. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case against the Avalanche, especially in Friday’s game.
The up-and-down saga of Alex Nylander continues. Just like Shaw, Nylander had an assist in the Dallas win but completely disappeared against Colorado with a minus-4 rating and two hits to his name across the two games. In his last seven games, he has tallied one point, three hits, and a minus-5 rating. Not exactly what the Blackhawks were hoping for when they traded for him.
First Period Woes
After such a big win and taking three of four points against a tough Dallas team, it’s hard to acknowledge how quickly the Blackhawks seemed to fall off of a cliff and kill all of their momentum. Nothing showcases that more than their first period woes against the Avalanche. Chicago allowed three goals in the first periods of both games, including three in the span of 3:15 on Saturday.
To put that into perspective, in their last 24 games Chicago only allowed 15 total goals in the first period. Simply put, they’re digging themselves into a hole that they can’t crawl out of.
Even one of Chicago’s best players, Robin Lehner, struggled in his start against Colorado, allowing five goals on 23 shots before he was pulled. As he was leaving the ice, the well-spoken goaltender was seen shouting something at his bench.
Lehner’s candor has been one of the few consistently refreshing things about this Blackhawks squad, and his message was spot on. There’s a lot of talent on this team and it’s time to wake up.
Chicago will get a chance to right the ship and get back on track starting Monday at home against the St. Louis Blues, followed by back-to-back away games against the Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils on Thursday and Friday.