Luckily, I get to write this week's Atop the Sugar Pile after three straight wins as opposed to McClure's post last week, which followed three losses in a row.
The Dizzying Highs
- Marian Hossa, and whoever he's skating with - From a point production standpoint, Marian Hossa has been the Hawks most consistent offensive player through 18 games, and yes, I'm factoring in Kane's production when I make that statement. Hoss has produced at least 1 point in 12 of his 17 games played (Kane's at 11 of 18) and if you haven't noticed, he's second in the league with a +13 rating. If we zoom in on the past three games, we'll see 5 points and a +6. Hoss isn't just "getting his", he's clearly been the top 6 x-factor through the first month and a half of the season, and he continues to make life in all zones easier for his center.
- Jonathan Toews - If he's good enough for the NHL's Stars of the Week, he's good enough to earn a spot in the equally prestigious SCH "Dizzying Highs." The league's faceoff win percentage leader has 6 points in his last three games, and the space that he's now finding open with Marian Hossa on his line has paid immediate dividends.
The Terrifying Lows
- Corey Crawford - The struggling PK isn't making Crow's numbers look any better, but after going his first five starts without giving up 3 goals in any one game, he's given up 3 or more in 7 of his last nine outings. Crow''s lows certainly haven't been "terrifying" in the way that Hawks fans have come to define shaky goaltending over the last handful of years, but he hasn't been quite as steady lately. Between the 3-goal game numbers and the softies we saw against St. Louis (not really that soft) and Edmonton (Turco-soft), there's definitely a happy medium that can be found between Crow's first week of October and his 2nd week of November. If the Hawks are going to maintain their conference standing through the circus trip (an admittedly lofty goal), they'll probably need Crow to steal a game or two, especially if Seabrook remains out of the lineup.
- Bickell & Fro - I'll admit that the our standard for third (and checking) line offensive production is not the norm around the league, but even with that said, Bickell and Frolik are struggling right now. Bicks is without a point in his last six (with a healthy scratch in there) and Fro's not much better with 1 point in his last seven. I've alluded to this several times in the past, and again most recently in the Calgary wrap, but these two go through spells in which they can't seem to do much right in the offensive zone. When Bolland is in the lineup, they're asked to be defense first players, but that doesn't mean that they have to direct the puck toward the net from anywhere at all times just so that they can be the first forward back. Dump and chase, get in on the forecheck, work a cycle, you might actually like it.
The Creamy Middles
Monty - As odd as it may seem, the second unit has rescued the Blackhawk powerplay for the time being, and Steve Montador has played a key role in that effort. What the 2nd unit has shown us is that Montador is pretty damn versatile for a 3rd pairing defenseman. Monty's "just ok" own zone play keeps him from a "dizzying high" status, but with Seabrook's injury, he should get some top 4 shifts and with those shifts, a chance to dramatically raise or lower his stock over the next few games.