Point production not there, but Antoine Vermette a key for Blackhawks
While Antoine Vermette has only four points in his tenure with the Blackhawks, including the regular season and playoffs, he's managing to make an impact in other ways.
The Chicago Blackhawks haven't gotten quite the return on their investment that they were hoping for when they sent defensive prospect Klas Dahlbeck and a first round pick to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for veteran forward Antoine Vermette. At no point was this more evident than when Vermette served as a healthy scratch for Games 1 & 2 of their first round series against the Nashville Predators.
But that doesn't necessarily mean that Vermette hasn't been making an impact for the Blackhawks, particularly in relation to the Nashville series. In fact, one could make that case that despite recording just a single point in the series, Vermette was an integral piece in the four games that he did appear for the Blackhawks, three of which saw them claim victory.
Vermette appeared in the full 82 games throughout the 2014-15 NHL season, finishing with 38 points across his tenures with the Coyotes and Blackhawks. Of those 38 points, just three came after his trade to the Hawks, all of which were assists. His goal in Game 4 against Nashville represented his first tally, and it came in his 21st game. Obviously the Blackhawks didn't acquire him to be a pure offensive threat, but it is an element that they likely counted on getting, especially from a guy coming off of a season in which he scored 24 goals.
Yet, Vermette, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, was able to contribute to the Blackhawks' series victory over the Preds primarily through his faceoff prowess. With Vermette hanging out in the press box for the first two games of the series, the Hawks were forced to trot Andrew Shaw out as a third line center, a role for which he is quite obviously not best suited.
Shaw won only 39 percent of his draws in Game 1, and went for a 43 percent clip in Game 2. The Hawks were completely worked at the dot in Game 1, with Nashville taking a 54-34 edge, though things did get a bit closer by the time Game 2 rolled around. Nonetheless, Vermette's presence was vital in getting back on track in that area. The next four games saw the Blackhawks take the edge in two games, come within three faceoff wins of calling it a draw in another, and tying the Preds in the decisive Game 6.
After taking a game to get into a rhythm, winning just 44 percent in Game 3, Vermette went on to post success rates of 60, 50, and 65 percent, respectively, across the final three games of the series. Corsi didn't paint the prettiest of pictures for Vermette early on, but he did improve as the series wore on, with a CF% up at 53 in Game 6 on Saturday.
Vermette's role in that regard is without question. Both he and Andrew Shaw totaled 55 draws in the first round series against Nashville. Vermette finished with an overall success rate just over 58 percent, while Shaw was down at 47 percent. As far as the possession figures, we could see something of a boost in his on-ice Corsi heading into the Round 2 matchup against the Minnesota Wild.
Practices have seen Vermette skating in between Patrick Sharp and Teuvo Teravainen, who hasn't been seen since Vermette worked his way into the lineup. Sharp has been dynamite this postseason, and Teravainen has demonstrated an ability to set up his teammates, but has unfortunately been bogged down but some lower quality linemates to this point. That trio could be a fun one to watch, and we could see the point production begin to appear for Antoine Vermette.
Even if it doesn't, though, he's carved out a key role with this team in his ability to win faceoffs. With Jonathan Toews up top, and Brad Richards finding success at the dot, and Marcus Kruger plying his trade on the fourth line, the Blackhawks have set themselves up well down the middle. We'll see if it pays off against a dangerous Minnesota team.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.