Here’s the second installment to the updated stock report series after a 2-4-1 stretch starting Oct. 18 vs. Columbus through Oct. 29 at Nashville.
1. Robin Lehner
In his last five starts, Lehner has been bombarded with 186 shots and has only allowed eleven goals. That’s a .941 save-percentage! He’s also been elite when it comes to saving expected goals:
Has Robin Lehner been the best goalie in the NHL this season? It's entirely possible. He's saved his team well over a goal per-game, relative to expected goals against. #Blackhawks pic.twitter.com/82AW5wo83s— The Point (@ThePointHockey) October 30, 2019
Lehner has not only been stellar in the crease, but his positive energy on and off the ice and honesty in interviews has been noteworthy. After the 3-0 trashing by the Predators, Jonathan Toews told Blackhawks insider Charlie Roumeliotis, “[Lehner] was vocal, he had energy, he would come to the bench and always had something positive to say despite the fact we were hanging him out to dry every single shift.”
Hopefully, Chicago rallies around that mindset, because it’s one of the ingredients that will push them out of this frustrating start.
2. Ryan Carpenter
The three-year, $3 million contract Carpenter signed in July is looking like a bargain.
In his last seven games, he’s compiled two assists, 12 hits, six bocks, won 53.7-percent of his faceoffs and only given up one goal against at 5-on-5. Plus, he has given Toews a much needed break by leading the Blackhawks forward group with 17:18 minutes of penalty kill ice time.
Carpenter has been quietly one of the most consistent forwards. He’s not going to provide lots of offense, but his work ethic, physicality and reliability in the defensive zone and on draws has not gone unnoticed.
3. Penalty Kill
In their last 22 penalty kill chances, the Blackhawks have killed off 19 for a success rate of 86.4-percent. If that rate was stretched across all 11 games this season, it would put Chicago in the top four of the NHL.
Carpenter and Lehner, who has saved all 29 shots faced, including 15 high-danger chances against, have been pivotal in Chicago’s recent stretch of shorthanded success. Calvin de Haan, David Kampf, Duncan Keith, Olli Maatta, Brandon Saad and Toews have also pitched in giving Jeremy Colliton seven skaters, including Carpenter, that he can rely on to soak up most of the penalty kill minutes.
The box formation hasn’t been stagnant in recent games. There’s a heightened aggressiveness when the opponent is indecisive on the boards or fumbles the puck, which has led to turnovers and clears.
If the Blackhawks hope to be in the playoff hunt this season, keeping their shorthanded success rate in the 78-82 percent range will be key.
1. Andrew Shaw
Since Shaw’s two-goal outburst against San Jose, he’s gone ice cold. In this seven game stretch, he’s collected one assist and fired seven shots on net in 14:13 minutes of average ice time.
Although his physicality hasn’t diminished with 19 hits, Shaw is finding himself in the box too often with four more penalties that has made him the team leader in penalty minutes. His tenacity and relentlessness can be contagious and has led to momentum swings, but officials have their eyes on Shaw looking for infractions.
Shaw has to get back to doing what he does best: cycling the puck in the offensive zone and being a pest in front of the net. He could use a spark and that could be done by reuniting him with Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome. They generated a 52.5 Corsi-For and 57.9 expected goal rate in 24 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time early in the season.
2. Jonathan Toews
Toews has not been himself. In his last seven games he’s potted one goal on 12 shots, has a minus-5 rating, owns a 45.5 Corsi-For rate — well below his career average of 55 percent — and a 40.9 expected goal for rate, which is fourth worst on the team.
The Blackhawks won’t win many games with him only having two points in 11 games. Another alarming stat is he’s barely generating any individual scoring chances (iSCF) at 5-on-5. Compared to all of the Blackhawks forwards, Toews has the second least iSCF at five. Zack Smith is the only forward with less iSCF.
If Jeremy Colliton can’t find a line combination to ignite Toews offensively, Chicago is in deep trouble.
3. Too many high slot and point shots are getting blocked.
It seems like most opponents are collapsing to the slot blocking off shooting lanes. Check out the shot attempts chart from the 4-0 loss to the Hurricanes:
The majority of Carolina’s shot attempts came from right around the crease and in the slot. However, Chicago rifled above 50-percent of their shots from outside the danger area and the blue line making it easier for defenders to get in shooting lanes to block or deflect shots to the boards.
If the Blackhawks want to improve on their dreadful goal scoring, which is last in the league at 25 goals, they’ll have to work harder to get opponents out of their defensive zone structure with cycles, give and go’s out of the corner and by having one of their forwards stay high in the slot sneaking around for a one-timer or quick release opportunity.
The Blackhawks face the Kings at 9:30 p.m. Saturday at Staples Center.