Blackhawks Flight Check
This feature reviews which Chicago Blackhawks players have soared above the competition and which ones could use a jump-start. Call it hot or not, call it a heat check, let’s look at how the men of the four feathers are doing.
People named Patrick. Patrick Sharp and his high cheekbones are playing damn fine hockey lately. I'm sure he would approve. Ten points (6G 4A) in his last 8 games. Sharpshooter is on one of those streaks where he fills the net with nothing but wicked snipes and pure sex appeal. If you go back a bit further, Sharp has 12 goals in his last 18 games after starting with just 3 in his first 18. Through the first month and a half his shooting percentage was a paltry 4.4% well below his career average, so it was only a matter of time before Sharp started denting the twine at a better rate. These hot streaks have always been a mark of Sharpie's game, and I wouldn't be surprised if the brain trust at Team Canada takes notice. Meanwhile, Patrick Kane is a white hot grease fire of pure hockey entertainment right now. He's riding a 9 game point streak, points in 21 of his last 22, and 29 of 36 games overall. Last night snapped a ridiculous 4 game multipoint streak for Kaner. "Whatcha doin' Kane?" "Oh, just piling up numbers like it's going out of style, nothing to see here."
The penalty kill is coasting along right now. Unfortunately, it's like a dump truck full of diapers that is also on fire. Struggling like a puppy trapped in a bowl. Despite a stretch last week with 11 straight kills, the penalty kill has given up 9 goals in the last 9 games to the tune of a 72.7 percentage. Pretty much par for the course this season. The unit does not seem to be improving at all. It just keeps rolling along in all its craptacular glory. Tough to pinpoint the issues here. I would like to see some personnel changes such as Sharp and Versteeg in the rotation, and Brandon Bollig riding the pine pony. Thankfully in that same stretch of 9, the power play has potted 12 goals in 36 chances to cool our collective nerves. The shorty against the Kings was the tops as well.
Johnny Oduya has been scuffling as of late. At a time when the defense really needs to step up, Oduya has not been cutting it. You can probably make a case for any defenseman (except Keith) to be here, but Oduya's struggles have been the most noticeable. Aside from the Kings game, you would be hard pressed to find a stout defensive effort in the last couple weeks. Johnny has developed a habit of dropping for shot blocks instead of positioning himself to play defense. I distinctly remember him redirecting one past Crawford against the Wild and screening Crow on a goal for the Panthers. His play around his own net has been less than stellar. Whether it's losing his man or losing position, he is making mistakes that are costing his team possessions and goals. You toss in a couple lazy penalties against the Ducks and Stars and it's no wonder he lands on the Grounded report. I'm confident that he can bounce back. The Swedish tandem has been as reliable as it comes.
Kris Versteeg didn't exactly set the world on fire immediately on arrival. He's come on as of late and is settling into his role on the squad. He is winning board battles and the "DAMMIT VERSTEEG" moments are on the downslope for now. He's chipping in with 7 points (3G 4A) in the last 8 games. Not bad for a, what 6th option? Yeah, I'll take that. As he continues to adjust, I hope we see him on the special teams a bit more. He has already carved out a role on the power play's second unit, but Steeger is a useful penalty kill guy that should be able to crack this rotation. It will be interesting to see how everything shakes out once Bickell returns, but I think their games compliment each other a lot. A third line of Bicks Shaw Steeger would be nothing to trifle with.
I feel like Jeremy Morin will be locked on this report for as long as he is a Blackhawk. He's been on an up and down ride since he's donned the Indian head, and the roller coaster has hit a fever pitch lately. Every time he makes a play that we swoon over, he does something to muddle the water. Whether it's a penalty or letting his temper flare, it ends with him getting sent back to Q's doghouse. He played some of his best hockey against the Wild, Ducks, and Panthers yet still couldn't get a bump in ice time. Then he's a healthy scratch against the Kings. It feels like he will never be able to do anything to loosen the leash enough where he can showcase his skill set and learn through trail and error. It's aggravating as a fan, and I'm sure its a 1000 times worse for him. It is one of the reasons people get frustrated with Quenneville, despite the team's clear success. Guys like Morin and Pirri can flash downright filthy offense and competent defense, but soften up on one backcheck and it's hit the bricks. Meanwhile, punch faces for two years, learn to skate in an off season, and you can play every single night.