These are the Chicago Blackhawks that we were hoping to see. After what can only be described as a sobering wake-up call of a game against the San Jose Sharks, the Blackhawks have gone 3-0-1 including wins against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vegas Golden Knights, and a shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the last week.
The offense has been flowing as well as it has all season after a scheme change, and the team as a whole is trending upward, let’s take a look at some of those players helping and hurting that momentum in the last week.
When it comes to Chicago’s goalies, Robin Lehner has gotten most of the attention thus far, and rightfully so. Corey Crawford has been doing everything in his power to nudge the spotlight back towards himself, and he has been succeeding as of late.
The Blackhawks are 2-0-2 in Crawford’s last four starts including stopping 29 of 31 shots in a shootout loss to the Penguins and turning aside 39 of 42 shots in the win against the Golden Knights. Lehner got in on the fun with 53 saves in the win against Toronto, but for the first time all season, Crawford did most of the heavy lifting last week for the Blackhawks. Both goalies are seeing and stopping a ton of shots, but Crawford finally looks like a top guy again. This is great news for the Blackhawks, and their coach is pleased with the duo’s efforts.
“We got two guys who are outstanding,” head coach Jeremy Colliton said. “I think they’re both going real well now and that’s a huge advantage for us no matter who’s in the net, we’re getting a chance to win. It gives our guys a chance to come through offensively, so they’ve been big for us.”
Last week, the line of Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, and Patrick Kane were all over the place, leading to a major rise in their stock. If last week was a major rise, this week’s rise was off the charts – that charge has been led by Kane.
Kane has scored 14 points on six goals and eight assists in November which ties him with Connor McDavid for second in points scored this month, just behind Leon Draisaitl, who has 16. McDavid and Draisaitl, who both play for the Edmonton Oilers, just came off of a mammoth game against the Colorado Avalanche in which McDavid scored three goals and three assists and Draisaitl chipped in five assists. Despite that major jump in points for the duo, Kane is still neck-and-neck, which illustrates just how well he has been playing during his team’s hot streak.
He has a seven-game point streak, including four goals and three assists this past week. His linemates are reaping the benefits as well, as Strome has eight points in his last four games and DeBrincat helped out with five assists and a goal of his own in that same span. Kane leads the team in points, with Strome and DeBrincat tied for second, and a lot of their success can be attributed to Kane helping elevate their level of play.
It was a big week for Kirby Dach. After a few fairly quiet weeks, and despite limited ice time, the third overall draft pick in the 2019 NHL Draft posted his first multi-point performance of his young career with a goal and an assist against the Golden Knights. He also recorded a point in back-to-back games for the first time with a goal against Toronto the game prior. The Blackhawks have high hopes for Dach, and this past week he certainly showed what he was capable of against a couple of quality teams.
Ideally, the young forward would get a little more ice time to aid in his development, but his coach has been happy with his progress, especially recently.
“The last two games he’s been very good,” Colliton said after the Vegas game. “He’s showing away from the puck that he’s under control, he’s winning puck battles, he’s finding ways to get pucks out. Skill guys find a way to produce. That’s really good to see.”from, ‘Is Kirby Dach’s lack of ice time a problem?’ Daily Herald – 11/15/2019
Honorable Mention – Chelsea Dagger
If you’re a fan of goal songs, this one’s for you! The NHL recently polled players to find out what their favorite goal song in the league is. Chelsea Dagger, the Blackhawks’ goal song since the 2008-09 season, ended up winning the player vote by a wide margin, tallying 18 votes. Vegas and the Nashville Predators tied for second with five votes each.
Despite scoring his first goal of the season against Vegas, Erik Gustafsson has had a rough go of things this season, including 11 games without a point before the goal. After a breakout 2018-19 campaign, in which he finished sixth among defensemen with 60 points, the Swedish defenseman has seen his fair share of struggles which eventually led to him being a healthy scratch against the Los Angeles Kings.
On the season, Gustafsson has been one of the worst Blackhawks blueliners, including the second-worst even-strength shots against per-60 at 40.31, a 40.94 expected goal share, also second-worst, and a 3.44 expected goals against per-60, which ranks him last among Chicago defensemen.
There were a lot of high expectations for the 27-year-old coming into this season, but he has consistently been one of the worst defensemen for Chicago. To his credit, after the healthy scratch, Gustafsson took it all in stride and acknowledged his shortcomings while welcoming the chance to improve.
“Defensively, I’ve got to be harder, that’s it,” Gustafsson said. “With the puck and the power play too, I don’t think I created a lot. So I need to be better overall. Of course I’m frustrated. I want to play. But you look at last year and it might be a good thing.”from ‘Erik Gustafsson latest victim of Blackhawks’ healthy-scratch rotation,’
Chicago Sun-Times – 11/2/2019
Unfortunately, it hasn’t gotten much better since the scratch, but maybe the goal against the Golden Knights is a sign of change and can get him trending back in the right direction again.
Paging Alex Nylander. The 21-year-old hasn’t scored a point in five games and hasn’t contributed much of anything else in that span except ice time. Essentially he has been a warm body and nothing else, and that warm body is ice cold. Much like Gustafsson, there were high hopes for Nylander coming into the season after he was acquired in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres for Henri Jokiharju, but his momentum seemed to stall after a strong preseason and quick regular-season start.
He has the ability to impact the game at both ends of the ice, but he hasn’t done much of either. Nylander is sporting a 43.2 Corsi for percentage on the season, partially impacted by his 61.7 Defensive Zone Start percentage, but recently it would be hard to know he was even active and on the ice if his name wasn’t a part of the box score.
It’ll be a busy week for the Blackhawks as they take on the Nashville Predators on the road, followed by the Buffalo Sabres at home in a back-to-back Saturday and Sunday. They’ll also host the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning Tuesday and Thursday.