Dennis Rasmussen isn’t doing well. That’s what the box score would lead you to think. Through 22 games this season, he has recorded two assists and one goal. That goal wasn’t a play with showstopping skill and playmaking ability either. Ivan Provorov tripped while back-skating in his own zone, and gifted Rasmussen a breakaway opportunity on Michal Neuvirth.
The analytics community can’t be too thrilled with Rasmussen’s play lately either, as he sports the second worst Corsi For Percentage on the team. So what is he doing right? Why devote an article to praising him amidst the apparent lack of support?
The first answer is because he’s a poor man’s Marcus Kruger, and helps the team win, even if the ways aren’t flashy. The second answer is because he’s found favor with coach Joel Quenneville, and as a player with less than 70 NHL games played, that’s an impressive vote of confidence from a coach, specifically one with Quenneville’s history of giving young players a short leash.
Offense Isn’t Everything
Some of the highest praise Rasmussen has received has been from Quenneville. The Chicago Blackhawks had a well-known struggle on the penalty kill at the beginning of the year. They were by far the worst team in the league while a man down. While they still remain in that last spot at the time of this writing with a 70.1% kill rate, this is a large improvement from the sub-40% rate they posted just a few weeks into the season.
Much of this improvement is thanks to a revitalized effort, that Rasmussen helped man. Quenneville said that Rasmussen was the “stabilizer” and has added the “defensive reliability” that you look for within your organization’s depth. This is evident as Rasmussen leads the team in Fenwick Save Percentage and Adjusted Fenwick Save Percentage while he’s on the ice on the penalty kill, showing he’s a positive impact on the PK unit.
Offensive stars such as Patrick Kane have also been quick to point out how “defensively responsible” the Swedish-centerman is. Such abilities have earned him Quenneville’s trust as Rasmussen starts the majority of his time in the defensive zone. Only Marcus Kruger has a larger percentage of defensive zone starts than Rasmussen.
Rasmussen was quoted by Mark Lazerus, of the Chicago Sun-Times, saying:
Of course, I want to help the team on offense, too, and take my chances when I get them. But I’ve been mostly a defensive guy here, a lot of defensive-zone draws and penalty-killing. That’s my role here, and I like that role. Every team needs guys like that.
Taking His Chances
As Rasmussen admits, he’s mostly a defensive guy, but in 149 games in the Swedish Hockey League, he did manage 85 points, 40 of those coming in his final 52 games. He has shown that he is willing to take chances to create offense, he just does it with caution. When given the opportunity, Rasmussen has shown he has a knack for offense.
The above play, as Ryan Hartman mentions in the video, doesn’t happen without Rasmussen. Rasmussen knocks the puck towards the center of the ice, in front of the net. While he doesn’t end up getting an assist on the play due to Shea Theodore briefly holding the puck before Marcus Kruger’s forecheck, Rasmussen created the opportunity by forcing the puck into a dangerous area.
Below is another example of his knack for creating opportunities. Brent Seabrook fires a breakout pass that ends up with Marcus Kruger firing a laser into the top left corner past Cory Schneider o a two on one. Much of the fanfare of the goal on social media was focused on the shot by Kruger and how he is not typically the offensive dynamo he has shown he can be. Dennis Rasmussen in this manner is again the Marcus Kruger 2.0.
While not flashy or dynamic, Rasmussen subtly taps Seabrook’s pass and lays it in an area Kruger is headed. Richard Panik previously occupied this space, but his momentum carried him away from the puck towards the left side. Panik does drift behind John Moore, pulling his attention away from Kruger. This leaves Kruger to shoot with space and Rasmussen’s redirection caught him in stride as he pots the tying goal.
Marcus Kruger and Dennis Rasmussen share more than just their defensive fortitude and sneaky offensive skill. The fellow countrymen are from towns roughly 60 miles apart, Stockholm and Västerås, respectively. Beyond location and playing style, they are both 26, with Rasmussen being just 37 days younger than Kruger. While Rasmussen is somewhat of a late bloomer, he realizes that a similar age doesn’t mean similar experience.
You see Krugs, he’s won two Stanley Cups and he’s been out on the ice [in the final minute] when they won it, both times. He’s been on the ice at the end of big games when they’re trying to protect a lead. And that’s what you want to be. You want to be on the ice when everything happens and it’s all on the line. It’s great.
Kruger has been instrumental in the Chicago Blackhawks recent successes, and Dennis Rasmussen has picked up on what makes him such an important piece of the team. Trying to learn all he can from Kruger will be very beneficial in the long run. While Rasmussen won’t jockey for any major awards, his dedication to the defensive zone, and ability to chip in when possible at the other end of the rink, may ultimately help Chicago win the biggest award of all.