Here’s the fourth installment to Second City Hockey’s stock report series after a 3-2-1 stretch for Chicago starting Nov. 13 in Vegas through Nov. 23 in Dallas.
1. Patrick Kane
Kane just may stay at the top of this stock report until his scoring streak ends. That stretch is now up to 12 games, with Kane registering eight goals and 13 assists in the last dozen games. Kane now has 30 points this season, good for a seventh-place tie with Jonathan Huberdeau and Auston Matthews among the league’s leaders. It shouldn’t be any coincidence that, as Kane’s offensive production has skyrocketed over the last month, Chicago’s team fortunes have turned around from a tough start.
2. Penalty kill
Entering Chicago’s Oct. 29 game on the road against the Nashville Predators, the Blackhawks penalty kill was ranked 26th in the league with a 73.3-percent success rate. Since then, though, it’s steadily crept up the league rankings and currently sits in 17th place at 80.8-percent — a far cry from the 72.7 mark last season that was the worst penalty kill success rate in the NHL in three decades. In the last five games, Chicago has only been shorthanded 13 times, and the PK survived 12 of those instances (92.3-percent) without allowing a goal.
3. Connor Murphy
It’s a smaller sample size than all of the other Blackhawks defensemen due to his injury time, but Murphy’s analytics data continues to suggest he’s been the top Chicago defenseman this season, which amplified the importance of his return to the lineup on Nov. 16 against Nashville. According to Natural Stat Trick, Murphy has the top Corsi-For rate at 52.7-percent and expected goals for rate at 57.1-percent during 5-on-5 play among Chicago defensemen, all while having the second lowest offensive zone start ratio at 41.7-percent. Murphy also has the lowest rate of high-danger chances against per 60 minutes at 10.1 and there’s only been one game when Murphy was on the ice for more than one even-strength goal out of the 11 he’s played. If Murphy can remain in the lineup, he should continue to provide a steadying presence on the Blackhawks blue line.
1. Alex DeBrincat’s goals
DeBrincat ranks second on the Blackhawks with 18 points this season, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise, considering that DeBrincat was third with 76 points last season. What is surprising is that those points are primarily coming in the form of assists, not goals. DeBrincat has 13 assists, which is also second on the team, but just five goals through his first 23 games this season — far behind the pace of his 41-goal sophomore season. His ice time this season (17:45) is almost identical to last season (17:42) and there’s not a significant difference in his shots on goal per game (2.68 vs. 2.61) or shot attempts per game (4.93 vs. 4.22). The massive drop-off in shooting percentage, from 18.6 to 8.3 — with a career mark of 16.1 — suggests a market correction could be on the way for DeBrincat.
2. Alex Nylander
Nylander scored twice in the win over Nashville, but that’s the only production he’s had in the last 10 games — much of that while skating with Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad. There are always going to be struggles for a 21-year-old NHLer playing a full season for the first time in his career, but Nylander is going to need to start finding ways to generate more production if he’s going to remain on that top line with Toews and Saad.
3. Andrew Shaw
In the second game this season, Shaw scored twice. In the 21 games since, Shaw has scored once. Now, Shaw is never going to be a 30-goal scorer, and he managed 20 goals just once in his nine-year career. But three goals through 23 games isn’t quite enough production for a player with a $3.9 million cap hit. Shaw’s been almost as adept at drawing penalties (seven) as he has been at taking them (eight), but the goal and point production just aren’t there. The entire Chicago power play has been struggling, of course, but it’s going to be difficult to justify Shaw’s 2:17 average of power play ice time per game when he has just one point on that power play the entire season.
The Blackhawks return home and continue a stretch of five straight games against Central Division opponents by hosting the Stars at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.