It has been a similar narrative over the past ten games. The Blackhawks come out flat, go down one or two early, fight and claw back to tie the game before the third, and then find a way to lose. Here are a few glaring stats from one of the toughest stretches the Hawks have been on in over a decade.
So updating, Laz's tweet (for him, of course!):#Blackhawks have fallen behind 1-0:— John Dietz (@johndietzdh) December 9, 2018
at WSH 0:54
at TBL 0:29
at FLA 5:48
vs. VGK 2:10
at WPG 1:43
at NSH 2:11
vs. CGY 10:07
at ANA 5:41
at VGK 1:28
vs. MON 6:05@MarkLazerus #NHL
Most minutes trailing by each NHL team since Colliton’s hiring— Satchel Price (@SatchelPrice) December 9, 2018
27. Flyers - 381 minutes
28. Wild - 399 minutes
29. Canucks – 401 minutes
30. Devils – 408 minutes
31. Blackhawks – *573* minutes
- Outscored 24 to 6 in the first period over the last ten games.
The stats paint a pretty bleak picture. It is easy to get upset and just throw in the towel as a fan in times like this, but right now, the teams needs our support more than ever. Let’s focus on the positives and hopefully watch the team and players improve the negatives every shift, period, and game. It is a chance for fans to see young players evolve their skillset and to witness the metamorphosis of the team.
Let’s jump into the stock report.
Over his last 6 games, Anisimov has 3 goals, 1 assist, a +3 rating, 21 SOG, and has looked a lot more noticeable. He is causing turnovers in the neutral zone, getting the puck to the net, and playing smart in the defensive zone. I got really pumped when he scored off a turnover and mini-breakaway against the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday. It gave the Hawks the lead for the first time in nine games.
Most likely, Stan Bowman and the front office are looking to move Anisimov’s $4.55 million cap hit. With his recent surge in play, Anisimov is slightly improving his trade value. A contending team could use him as a third line center for their playoff run. Look for Bowman to work some magic when the trade deadline rolls around.
Patrick “Showtime” Kane
Kane finally got a couple pucks across the goal line and broke out of his goal scoring slump. Before Sunday night’s clash with Montreal, Kane had only scored once in 7 games. That is an odd stat for someone as talented as Kane. Recently, he has uncharacteristically been missing some wide open opportunities and has visibly looked upset. Kane finally got off the schneid with two vintage goals. One was on the power-play with a quick snapper, short-side through a John Hayden screen. The second goal was off a face-off play where 88 snuck backdoor and put home a slick cross ice pass. That is a tough one timer to handle, but Kane made it look easy.
Hopefully, this starts a hot streak for Kane and the pucks start finding the twine. I have not seen Kane as frustrated as he looked in Vegas on Thursday night. He missed a couple goals by mere inches and took over the game a handful of shifts. He deserved a couple bounces to go his way against the Habs.
15 goals, 19 assists, 34 points - 1.13 points/game
He is on pace for 41 goals and 93 points. That would be the second best total in his career. At 30 Kane is still a superstar and I would not be surprised if he continued to play at this pace until he is 34 or 35.
Kahun has not gotten on the scoresheet lately. He only has one primary assist in his last five games, which was the cross ice pass to Kane’s second goal. Kahun has been jumping around on lines and for most rookies in the NHL that would be a tough task to handle. However, in his last five or so games Kahun has looked comfortable and is playing a strong possession driven game. He is protecting the puck on the boards, minimizing turnovers, making short, tight turns to get away from defenseman in the neutral and offensive zones, and playing a solid two-way game. Even though the Hawks have been outscored 33 to 19 over their past seven games, Kahun sits at a +2. He has noticeably been playing with confidence when he handles the puck and I think Jeremy Colliton should give him another look on the first line. Coach Quenneville could tell that Kahun had chemistry with Jonathan Toews at the beginning of the season. Now with Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome playing together, Colliton should put Kahun back with Toews and give him some stability, instead of constantly moving him around the lineup.
Since Colliton took over behind the bench on November 6th, the Hawks have had 45 power play opportunities (PPO). They only have 4 goals in 45 PPO for a 8.8% conversion rate.
Juxtaposing that conversion rate, since November 6th, with other central division foes that are in the playoff hunt:
Winnipeg Jets - 52 PPO, 13 goals, 25.0%
Nashville Predators - 53 PPO, 10 goals, 18.9%
Minnesota Wild - 52 PPO, 13 goals, 25.0%
Colorado Avalanche - 46 PPO, 16 goals, 34.8%
Team Records since November 6th
Winnipeg Jets - 10-4-1
Nashville Predators - 8-7-1
Minnesota Wild - 7-9-0
Colorado Avalanche - 10-4-2
Chicago Blackhawks - 3-11-2
It is time for a shake up on the man advantage. Having a low power play conversion rate is not the only variable that goes into a loss; however, it absolutely is a strong correlating factor. Excuses do not work anymore when you spend 14:58 mins (1/4 of the entire game) on the man advantage and you can not muster even a point out of the game. No more moral victories when it comes to the man advantage.
How do we fix it?
- Get rid of the drop pass on the breakout. Every team knows how to defend the Hawks breakout. Kane is going to speed up from behind, take a drop pass, and try and dangle through two or three guys at the blue line while the rest of the unit stands still and watches. When you are in a slide, go back to being simple. Bring three Hawks back to support the defenseman carrying the puck from behind the net. Come up with speed and as a unit. Force the penalty killers to have to take a perfect gap to stop you from coming into the zone on a 4 on 2. The breakout has to be one of the most maddening things I have watched over the past two seasons.
- Keep Hayden in front of the net on the first unit. For too long, Toews stood in front of the net on the power play. That is not where he should be on the man advantage. Kane and Toews should try give and go’s coming out of the corner, position switching to force the penalty killers out of their box formation, and to just throw pucks on net from the top of the circle. Kane’s first goal of the night is a perfect example of this strategy:
- The Hawks need to stop going for the cross ice one timer and just letting Kane dance around on the boards with zero movement from his other line-mates. Park Hayden in front and tell him his entire job is to annoy the goalie, force defenders to cross check him and mess with him in front (leads to space for the Hawks on the wall), and to help out in the corners when there is a battle for the puck. If Colliton just preaches simplicity, the power play will inevitably convert more often. Power plays provide chances for pretty, highlight goals, but the majority of conversions happen on a deflection, a rebound, or a shot from the point that gets through multiple screens. The Hawks need to accept that they do not have any mojo going for them on the man advantage, so get back to simple plays that you learned back in youth hockey. Once a unit gets on a roll and has the confidence flowing on the man advantage, that is when you start looking for the cross ice one timer.
In Kruger’s last five games, he has 0 points, is -1, has a 42.8 face-off winning percentage, and is only averaging 9:09 mins on ice. Additionally, Kruger has a 46.3 CF%, which means he is defending in his own zone and giving up quality chances to the opposition often. Kruger is making $2.78 million to win face offs, kill penalties, and to cycle the puck and drive possession in the offensive zone. In his 8 year career, Kruger has only had a CF% below 50 one other time when he played 41 games for the Blackhawks in 2015-2016.
Kruger is not expected to get on the scoresheet. However, this season Kruger already has 16 penalty minutes (PIM). His career high is 36 penalty minutes in 81 games played during the 2013-2014 season. If the penalty taking trend continues, we could see Kruger set a new career high in PIM. He is on pace for 46 PIM. The Hawks need Kruger on the penalty kill, not in the box.
Fortin has some electrifying speed. It can be a game changer if combined with more strength and better touch. Too often, Fortin will speed down the wing, try to cut to the net, and just lose the puck without much effort by the defending player. Give him some time in Rockford. Let him play top line minutes, gain confidence, and develop his game. He has the potential to be a third line winger in the NHL, but not right now. I would rather see Dylan Sikura in his spot.
The Hawks are in a new territory for the first time in over a decade - last place in the NHL. The only way to get out of this funk is to continue to grind it out. The core needs to lead by example, and the young group need to focus on developing their game every chance they get. Colliton had a great point about staying positive after the game last night:
Colliton on expecting everyone to remain with a positive mindset: "We have to. There’s no choice. Nobody’s going to give us an easy way out of this. We have to make our own way. That’s what I’m going to bring and that’s what I expect them to bring."— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) December 10, 2018
Eddie O says it a lot. You earn your bounces. The effort has been there recently. The bounces and results will come. Stick with it. Let’s get some revenge in Winnipeg on Tuesday.