This is the ninth installment in Second City Hockey’s stock report series on a nice 6-9-0 run for Chicago that started with a 5-2 loss against Winnipeg on Feb. 9 through a 2-0 loss to St. Louis on March 8.
1. Corey Crawford’s longevity
Crawford went from having the better 2020, but being the backup, to having the net entirely to himself. Crawford’s performance has likely wrapped up a contract for himself in the offseason, as the Blackhawks’ most important goaltender since Tony Esposito will likely retire in Chicago.
Every stat has gone up during this stretch.
Save percentage: .912 to .924
Goals saved above average: 2.78 to 4.97
Goals saved above expected: minus-6.16 to plus-3.05
Crawford has likely been the Blackhawks’ MVP since the trade deadline, especially with the team struggling to score.
2. Rookie defensemen
Adam Boqvist is another player that has improved in every statistical category. His Corsi, shot share, expected goal share, high-danger share and goal share have all improved despite him taking on more defensive responsibility, he’s gone from .88 goals per 60 to 1.93, and he’s drawing more penalties and taking the puck away more often.
Boqvist is becoming the defender the Blackhawks need him to be while seeing an increase in production and playing in a less sheltered role. The 19-year-old is showing glimpses of what he could be in the near future, and that’s been a great thing for the Blackhawks.
But Boqvist isn’t alone. Lucas Carlsson has looked like a puck-moving, defensively-capable defenseman in his first five NHL games. He scored his first NHL point, and had a better shot share, expected goal share and high-danger share in a more defensively-responsible role than Erik Gustafsson, who Carlsson effectively replaced. Carlsson playing with Connor Murphy likely helped, but Carlsson more than held his own and contributed defensively during the team’s four-game winning streak.
Multiple milestones have been reached in the past month, highlighted by Jonathan Toews scoring his 800th point and Duncan Keith his 100th goal. There’s also been less significant milestones players have moved toward fulfilling.
Rookie winger Dominik Kubalik is one goal away from 30. Alex DeBrincat is two away from hitting 20 again, tacking on five tallies since Feb. 7. Carlsson scored his first NHL point.
1. Playoff odds
Chicago’s four-game winning streak had fantasies of a playoff appearance, but two straight losses saw the Blackhawks essentially give that up. Even before the Blues shut out the Blackhawks — the second time Jake Allen, yes Jake Allen, has posted a shutout this season in Chicago — they stood at just 8 percent of making the playoffs, according to some models.
Now, perhaps that’s a good thing. The Blackhawks remain eighth overall in the draft, which gives them a pretty good chance at winning a lottery pick. Chicago was unable to pass Montreal in the standings, and maybe that will make all the difference.
It’s still a definite downer the Blackhawks stand to miss the playoffs for a third-straight season, especially as the downfall has not been defense, at least not recently, but rather the distinct lack of offense.
2. Bragging rights
The Blues swept the season series against the Blackhawks for the first time. The season in which St. Louis is the reigning Stanley Cup champion. Yikes.
With the way this season has gone, not a lot hurts now. There have been misses and games the Blackhawks shouldn’t have lost like in Detroit, but being swept in the season series against the No. 1 team the Blackhawks should hate and try to beat at every opportunity perhaps hurts most.
With a season tie with the Red Wings and a season sweep by the Blues, who do the Blackhawks have bragging rights over now?
3. Power play
How did it get worse? After a brief two-game scoring stint, the power play has been worse in the past month than it was in the previous four. Despite having the most time on the power play per game in the League through this time period, the Blackhawks have decreased their shots per 60, goals per 60 and expected goals per 60 on the power play.
If you thought it couldn’t get worse, the Blackhawks will find a way to make you reconsider. The power play is easily the worst aspect of their game this season and it keeps finding new ways to hit rock bottom. Chicago is currently 0-for-14 on the power play in its past five games.
The Blackhawks play three of their next five games at home, starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday against the Sharks.