Hossa sets the tone for the Hawks with his consistant two-way play. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Everyone remembers the goals scored whether your team wins or loses, but no one really remembers the circumstances that lead to the goals. When the Hawks won the cup in 2010, I remember a lot of people calling out Hossa for not producing huge numbers in the playoffs, but they forget about the little things he did to win. He was third in takeaways, fourth among offensemen in blocked shots, and seventh overall in hits. That is a lot of effort off the puck, and we are getting that performance from the whole team this season. The Hawks are leading the league in takeaways, which can be a misleading stat, but in the Hawks’ case, it shows their team defensive effort. I say it can be misleading because you need to be without the puck for a takeaway to happen, but as most already know, the Hawks tend to have the puck more often than not. When you add the fact that we are among the top ten teams with the fewest giveaways, you have a monster of a possession game going.
All that puck possession isn’t wasted either; we are currently sitting in first place for five on five scoring and third overall in goals per game. This also has a direct effect on our defense which is the stingiest in the league and has been one of the reasons our goalies have been able to be league leaders. I’m not saying the goalies haven’t been pulling their weight because they definitely have, but the team game and work ethic have been key all season. The Blackhawks are averaging almost ten takeaways per game. Toews is leading the league with 52, and Hossa is in third with 45, even having played in seven less games. The Hawks have eight players with 20+ takeaways, and another eight with 10+. One player specifically I have been impressed with is Patrick Kane, who has 35 takeaways and has worked hard on his defensive game all season long. In fact, the whole team is working extremely hard to keep up our possession time, and when we aren’t in possession, they are really making it hard for teams to get any easy shots on our goalies. Most of the team is in the double digits for blocked shots and in hits; no one is taking a night off.
A quick look at the list of the top players for takeaways on NHL.com
The only stat the team could really work on is face off percentage, which, outside of Captain Marvel himself, hasn’t been a strong point for this team. Handzus has come in and performed exactly as expected, and the Hawks have been using Sharp to win face offs in place of Bolland. Sharp has taken 60 face offs this year and won 63.3% which is technically leading the team, but that number isn’t comparable to Toews’s 60.8% on 816 faceoffs taken. If the Hawks can get their other “natural” centermen to at least 50%, then they’ll really dominate in puck possession time. While that won’t magically happen by playoffs, the Hawks have found the backup plan already in their two-way play. So fear not Hawks fans, our big weakness, well besides the PP, does have a silver lining because our team never stops hounding the opposing puck carriers. All these little things the Hawks do as a team are what allow us to roll four lines, to possess the puck, and most importantly win games. These 2013 playoffs have every chance to provide some extraordinary hockey, especially for the great city of Chicago.