3 up, 3 down after 2-1 Shootout Loss to the LA Kings

The Blackhawks stock report following a 2-1 shootout loss to the LA Kings. Who is trending up and who is trending down?

Morning Blackhawks Fans,

Waking up after a tough Hawks loss is never easy. However, with every Hawks game there are always positives to discuss, as well as negatives that can be improved on for the next stretch of games. Time for the Hawks stock report.

Trending Up

  1. Brandon Saad

It is clear that Saad has regained confidence and is beginning to look like his former self. Maybe it’s the bubble cage he has on or maybe it was Coach Q threatening to scratch him. Whatever it was, it turned Saad’s game around drastically.

In Saad’s first eight games of the year, he had only mustered two assists and had 15 shots on net. His poor play forced him to a bottom 6 role, and it seemed like we were never going to see the Saad we all know and love from the glory days (2013-2015). However, over the next ten games, Saad buried 5 goals, dished out two assists, fired 19 shots, and had a +2 rating. His time on ice (TOI) shifted from being below 15 mins/gam, to averaging around 18 minutes/game.

Saad’s Corsi For % is sitting at 54.4%, which is right below his career average of 54.9%. During his best years with the Hawks, he had CF% of 56.7 and 58.2%. If he can continue to drive possession, win battles in the corners and in front of the net, and make strong plays out of the defensive zone, Saad could see those CF% start to jump up to where they are expected to be.

Saad’s goal from a couple weeks back against the Calgary Flames is a prime example of how Saad has shifted his focus back to driving the net with speed and using his body to shield the puck from defenders. Hawks fans were used to seeing this from Saad before he was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2015 offseason. Keep it up Saadfather!

2  Gustav Forsling

Getting Forsling back from a wrist injury has been a blessing. He has stabilized the third D pairing that is usually a nightmare most games. In the first game back agains the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday, he played 15:49 minutes. There were not any glaring mistakes other than him being a bit jumpy during the first period, which is to be expected. He settled down, jumped up into the play multiple times, and bailed out Manning in the d-zone. Clearly, Colliton noticed his strong play and gave him 19:39 minutes of ice time against the LA Kings. Against the Kings, he had the secondary assist to the Saad goal and also had 2 SOG with one of them being a dangerous opportunity in OT.

If Forsling can continue his strong play, we could see him in more high leverage situations  and on the ice even more. His injury gave him time to recover from last season, get faster, more agile, and improve his d-zone coverage. Multiple times last night, Forsling closed the gap on Kings forwards trying to penetrate the high slot with a poke check or by forcing the Kings player to the boards. When Connor Murphy comes back, the Hawks will have a much improved defensive core.

Update on Murphy from today’s morning practice:

3 Andreas Martinsen

When Martinsen was acquired by the Hawks last year for draft bust Kyle Baun, no one knew what to expect. He played in a few games throughout the year and did nothing that really stood out. He is a big body, but never really drove the net or utilized his height and weight advantage when forechecking or battling for the puck. After Jeremy Colliton was named the head coach, Martinsen’s game became a lot more noticeable. He is finishing checks, forechecking like a madman, getting the puck on net, and rarely has the puck taken away from him below the goal line. His resurgence has forced the other fourth liners, Chris Kunitz and Marcus Kruger or Luke Johnson, to follow suit. The fourth line, as a whole, has been significantly better recently. It would be nice to see a goal or two go in after a scramble in front of the net, but that will come with time. All that matters is that Colliton has found a way to spark the fourth line to do what fourth lines are expected to do:

Dump and chase, forecheck relentlessly, keep the puck below the goal line, finish checks, and keep the puck out of the d-zone. Martinsen has noticeably upped his game recently, and I would bet that in the next handful of games Hawks fans will see a goal from the fourth line.

Remember this big hit that sprung a 2 on 1 for the Hawks during the Blues game on Wednesday?

Keep grinding 29, fans are starting to notice your strong play.

Trending Down

I don’t like to focus on the negatives, so I will make this short and sweet.

1 Artem Anisimov

Anisimov is a very interesting case. He has size, but his speed is lacking. He is skilled at tipping pucks and creating screens in front of the net, but he barely gets out there on the powerplay. Anisimov sits at 2 goals, 7 assists, and a -4 rating. He is getting paid $4.55 million. If Bowman can find a way to move that contract off the books for some young talent, I would do that in a heartbeat. The NHL is evolving to a game where speed and skill dominates. Anisimov does not have much of either.

2 Luke Johnson

Johnson was pegged as a speedy agitator that would fit well on the third or fourth line. However, in recent weeks his ice time has drastically dropped and it looks like the Hawks are getting ready to move him back to Rockford. Look for Dylan Sikura or Viktor Ejdsell to take his place. Johnson needs more time to develop his skillset. He has speed and tenacity, but his hands and ability to create space with the puck needs to be improved.

3 Jan Rutta

Rutta was a healthy scratch for a second straight game. He does not look like a NHL defenseman and Colliton seems to agree. When Murphy returns from his back injury, look for Rutta to either be sent down to Rockford or traded.

Enjoy your Saturday Hawks fans! We have a big test coming up against the Minnesota Wild tomorrow at 5pm. The Madhouse needs to get loud again.