This season is full of ups and downs. One week you’re calculating odds for a top-4 draft pick, the next week you’re scoreboard watching and checking a playoff predictor model to see if the Blackhawks’ chances at a wild-card spot increased.
Regardless of what happens down the stretch, the 2018-2019 season is memorable. For the first time since the 2000-01 season when Tony Amonte, Eric Daze and Steve Sullivan accomplished the feat, they have three 30-goal scorers in one season: Patrick Kane (41), Alex DeBrincat (37) and Jonathan Toews (30). The Blackhawks’ 232 goal total in 69 games is four more than last season.
There’s a youthful energy around the team that is nostalgic. DeBrincat and Dylan Strome have chemistry like Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook had during the glory days.
At times it’s been undeniably frustrating to watch this team go through long losing streaks after seeing the potential they have burst out in games like Monday’s 7-1 win over Arizona. However, the past is the past. It is clear that the future is bright in Chicago.
During the Blackhawks’ three-game win streak, Crawford has made 85 saves on 91 shots for a .934 save percentage.
Although Chicago has locked it up defensively in their past two games by minimizing the number of high danger chances allowed, Crawford continues to bring a calming influence in net. He exudes confidence and rarely lets in a soft goal. It makes a skaters’ job easier. They just have to lock down the slot in the defensize zone and force the opponent to shoot from the outside knowing Crawford will make the stop.
Check out Crawford’s goalie shot density map from his last three starts.
In his last five games, Perlini has six goals, 17 shots, averaged a 61.6 Corsi-For rating and 12:38 minutes of ice time per game. His recent hot streak makes you wonder what his developmental ceiling is. Perlini is a former 12th overall pick from the 2014 draft. He has game changing speed, a wicked shot and size (6-foot-3, 211 pounds). If he keeps this up for the rest of the season, Perlini could be another dangerous scoring threat in Chicago’s top-nine.
In the last three games, Kahun has three assists while playing on the same line with Patrick Kane. Kahun set up a tic-tac-toe play for Kane’s 41st goal this season Monday, and nearly buried a 2-on-2 play with Kane at Dallas that was reminiscent of Artemi Panarin’s chemistry with Kane.
Kahun is the real deal. He came over from Germany’s top league with a scouting report that complimented his patience with puck, hockey IQ, ability to protect the puck against bigger opponents and above-average playmaking skillset. He’s doing all of that with the Blackhawks and is on pace to finish with 39 points.
After going 0-for-1 on the power play against Arizona, the Blackhawks have extended their drought on the man advantage to 0-for-13.
Opposing teams are taking away cross-ice options to Kane and DeBrincat, which makes it tough to spread penalty killers out and get them skating around. Faceoffs are regularly lost, which gives penalty killers an easy clear and takes 20-30 seconds off the power play when they force the Blackhawks to regroup. When the top unit does get into the zone and set up they look discombobulated because their main options are cut off. As a result, they have to rim the puck around the boards instead of passing it through the slot, which leads to bad bounces and turnovers.
The Blackhawks need to accept their primary options are not there anymore. They have to change it up by forcing penalty killers to react to a give-and-go out of the corner with Strome or give a quick pass to Toews in the high slot for a one-timer. This will inevitably free up Kane and DeBrincat again.
Toews is the only center with a faceoff percentage above 50 percent at 56.1 percent. Marcus Kruger (47.2), Artem Anisimov (46.3), David Kampf (45.6) and Strome (44.7) are all below 50 percent. Faceoffs start to become vital when defensive zone draws late in the third period can help clinch a win. With 13 games remaining in the season, it’s time for Chicago’s centers to be more reliable at the dot.
The Blackhawks only have two games against teams not in the playoff picture.
Teams in playoff positions: Toronto, San Jose, Winnipeg, St. Louis, Dallas, Nashville
Bubble teams: Colorado (twice), Arizona, Montreal and Philadelphia
Lottery teams: Vancouver and Los Angeles
The Blackhawks visit the Maple Leafs at 6 p.m Wednesday at Scotiabank Arena.