It’s the same old story. The Chicago Blackhawks just can’t find a way to win. It seems as if everyone, including the players themselves, head into each game expecting to lose. It’s become their self-fulfilling prophecy. The hole keeps getting bigger and the depressing statistics keep getting larger. The Hawks have now suffered seven straight losses in a row. They’ve gone 10 consecutive games where they’ve given up the first goal (usually the second goal as well). They’ve lost 18 of their last 21 outings, and they’re 3-11-2 under new head coach Jeremy Colliton.
They just can’t seem to find any answers, and the frustration is mounting. Well, let’s carry on. Here are the highlights (or should I say lowlights) from this past week.
Blackhawks’ Week 10 Matchups
@ Anaheim Ducks, Wed. 12/5, Loss 4-2
@ Vegas Golden Knights, Thurs. 12/6, Loss 4-3
Vs. Montreal Canadiens, Sun. 12/9, Loss 3-2
Overall Record: 9-17-5, 23 points
Put the ‘Power’ back in Power Play, Please
The power play continues to be anything but. In these past three outings, the Hawks have gone 0-for-3, 0-for-4, and 1-for-8 on the man advantage. That’s one power play goal in 15 opportunities for a dismal six percent success rate. Yuck!
Now in the Blackhawks defense, they’ve been slowly improving in this area. Even from the Ducks’ game through to the Canadiens’ game, they’ve progressed in the right direction. They’ve been moving the puck better, shooting more, and creating opportunities. They’ve established a consistent net front presence. But alas, only one shot has found the back of the net. One would like to think eventually they’ll break through, and I guess we could technically say they did with Patrick Kane’s PP goal Sunday. But six percent just isn’t enough. After all, another power play goal could have made a difference in both one-goal losses to the Knights and the Canadiens.
Here’s a video of the Hawks’ lone power play goal. Notice Kane takes advantage of his time and space to shoot when he has the opportunity, and John Hayden provides a nice screen in front of the net.
Coach Colliton has also been experimenting with his personnel on the power play. He’s been leaning towards deploying four forwards and one defenseman, with Brent Seabrook and Erik Gustafsson the primary blueliners involved. Hayden has gotten an opportunity on the man advantage for the last two tilts, and as seen above it appears to be paying off. Dominik Kahun has seen more time in this area of special teams. Dylan Strome has been another welcome addition to the power play. And Kane isn’t necessarily being double-shifted anymore. Instead Colliton’s leaning on other top players (Jonathan Toews and Alex DeBrincat primarily) along with Kane by giving them all heavy minutes. It remains to be seen whether they can start to capitalize more often.
Related: Blackhawks’ Play Needs More Power
One positive note from this past week is defenseman Connor Murphy was released to play and made his Blackhawks’ season debut Sunday night. He’s was previously sidelined with a back injury since before the season began. Considering all the goals the Hawks have been giving up lately, they can use all the help they can get right now.
Murphy probably won’t come in and change the world, but a fresh face can always provide a helpful spark. He appears to have the right attitude to help the team. You gotta love his statement to the media before the game. “I’d play forward, goalie or D as long as I can get in the game.”
The blueliner came out charging against Montreal. He recorded the first shot attempt and the first shot on net of the game within the first minute of play. Murphy finished the night with four shots on goal, three hits, and one takeaway in 16:46 minutes of playing time. He was solid, reliable, and hard to play against. In other words, he provided just what the Blackhawks need moving forward.
We’ve already established the Blackhawks are doing a whole lot of losing. So it’s only natural to question the decisions of the new head coach, right? Since the Blackhawks were 6-6-3 under Coach Quenneville and are now 3-11-2 under Coach Colliton, this change doesn’t look too good in hindsight. Would the Hawks have a better record right now under Quenneville? Well, Q’s experience might have coaxed out a few more wins, but probably not enough to make a huge difference.
Perhaps it was time to look at the big picture. The top brass might not want to call it a rebuild, but that’s essentially what it is. The new guy is coming in and attempting to build a winning team out of brand-new pieces. He has some old pieces to work with as well. And he has to make the most of said old pieces (the core) even though it’s technically his job to eventually replace them. Wow, that’s a pretty tall order! It’s a learning curve for everyone, including the coach. And he’s going to make some mistakes along the way.
Here are a few of the recent trends we’ve seen with Colliton.
We already mentioned Hayden is being utilized on the power play. He’s also lined up on the first line, albeit for only one game. But Colliton is starting to show more trust in this younger player than Q ever did.
Colliton really likes center David Kampf. He’s definitely ahead of veteran Marcus Kruger on the depth chart. He’s been utilized as a No. 2 and No. 3 center, and been given a spot on the first line wing for the past two contests. Colliton is giving him numerous opportunities. Would this have happened with Quenneville? Probably not.
So the new coach is giving the young kids the shot they deserve and fazing out the veterans, yes? On the contrary. He’s leaning on the veterans perhaps even more than Q.
I obviously didn't look at the game sheet very closely after #Blackhawks loss in Vegas.
Because if I had, I would have tweeted out that Patrick Kane played 27 minutes, 49 seconds.
That's 6 seconds more than in Jeremy Colliton's coaching debut.
2nd most of Kane's career.
— John Dietz (@johndietzdh) December 9, 2018
As referenced above, Kane is seeing more minutes than ever. I’d say the same for Toews. And DeBrincat. Colliton is stubbornly leaning on Seabrook to man the point on the power play. In the meantime, he’s scratched the 19-year-old rookie Henri Jokiharju once, and cut his minutes and responsibility.
Is there a method to the madness? Will it eventually pay off with some progress and some wins? As Coach Q would say, we shall see.
Other Blackhawks’ News & Notes
- Including the most recent tilt against the Canadiens, goaltender Corey Crawford is now 5-14-1 in 20 starts. This is the most losses of any goaltender in the league. (from ‘Frustrated Blackhawks goalie Crawford: I feel like I’m not doing my job’, The Daily Herald – 12/9/18)
- When Murphy was brought off injured reserve, fellow defenseman Gustav Forsling was placed on IR (shoulder) retroactive to Dec. 5. However, he did practice with the team on Monday.
- Center Artem Anisimov was placed on concussion protocol after a hit by Canadiens’ Shea Weber in the third period Sunday. He did not travel with the team for Tuesday’s tilt in Winnipeg.
- On a more positive note, Dylan Strome has three goals and one assist in seven games since being acquired by the Blackhawks. He’s also won 20-of-36 faceoffs for an average of 55% in the last three games.
- Meanwhile, the Brandon Perlini, the other latest addition from the Arizona Coyotes, was a healthy scratch Sunday night.
Related From Last Week – Blackhawks’ Silver Lining From 4 More Losses
A tough and busy schedule awaits the Blackhawks this week, although three of their four tilts are mercifully at the United Center. The team heads to Winnipeg to meet the Jets on Tuesday, then turns right back around to host the Pittsburgh Penguins Wednesday night. The week is rounded out with a second tilt versus the Jets this Friday, and a contest against the San Jose Sharks Sunday night. While the Pens sit right outside of a wildcard spot, the Jets and the Sharks are both in third place in their respective divisions. Things aren’t going to get any easier for this struggling team.
May the force be with you, boys! Here’s to the Blackhawks changing their script.