David Rundblad showcasing improvement for the Blackhawks
While it hasn't been without its inconsistencies, David Rundblad has improved as the season has worn on for the Chicago Blackhawks.
When Stan Bowman went out and acquired David Rundblad in the second half of last season, very few (if any) were actually sure of what the hell he was doing. After all, what benefit does bringing in a then 23-year-old who has already made three stops in his NHL career, when there are multiple puck-moving defensemen waiting in Rockford actually serve? Those questions were only amplified after Rundblad struggled to start the year.
The trade of Nick Leddy allowed David Rundblad to work his way into the lineup on a somewhat regular basis when the season began. He managed to see action in the first three games of the year, and then was used sparingly over the next stretch, as Michal Rozsival returned and Trevor van Riemsdyk showed he's capable of being an every-night type of player. Additionally, Rundblad found himself passed over even after TvR went down, as the likes of Adam Clendening and Klas Dahlbeck came up from the AHL to make their respective debuts.
Recently, though, we've began to see a shift in the game of David Rundblad, and it's definitely for the better. With TvR still out for quite a bit, and Rozsival out again as well, Rundblad has begun to stake a claim to a spot on the bottom pairing moving forward. Even playing with Tim Erixon during the time that Rozsival has been held out, he's still managed to look rather competent back there.
In his last four games, Rundblad has posted three points, including a goal and a pair of assists. He's displaying an aggressive style, particularly in relation to shooting the puck, that was completely absent earlier in the year. Where has was shooting once or not at all in games early on, even up until the end of November, he has 10 shots in his last four. On Monday night against Nashville, he let a shot rip from the point that Bryan Bickell was able to put home for the rebound in the waning minutes. That increased propensity for taking shots is certainly benefiting him, as he has a good one.
Even with his struggles in his own end, Rundblad's Corsi numbers throughout the season have looked quite good. On Monday, his Corsi For% was up at 83 percent in 12:39 of ice time. It was a similar result against Colorado on Saturday, where his ice time was relatively limited, going for a CF% of 71. Even against Winnipeg, a game that was a relative disaster for the Hawks, he was still at a 64. It helps when the vast majority of your zone starts are coming in the offensive zone (Rundblad is right at about 70 percent for the year), but as an offensive defenseman, he's doing exactly what he's supposed to do.
Of course, that's not to say that Rundblad has completely turned around from his lackluster start. His improvement has not come without its inconsistencies, which is part of the reason his minutes declined a bit from when he logged 16 and 19 minutes in back-to-back games. His play in his own zone needs work, but there's no question that he can be an asset when the majority of his zone starts come in the offensive zone.
Rundblad is certainly proving to be capable of becoming a regular on that bottom pairing. He can move the puck and has a terrific shot from the point, while serving as a regular contributor on the power play when he has found his way into the lineup. The offensive aspect of his game is exactly what he's touted to be. The defensive zone play needs work, but can be improved with more time and the right partner. It'll be interesting to see if he maintains a spot, or if he begins the press box shuffle once again as the year wears on. Regardless, the improvement is evident, and could be even more so with regular playing time.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.