5 Chicago Blackhawks Burning Questions Late In Season

Feb 17, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman duncan Keith (2) and New York Rangers center Derek Brassard (16) battle for a loose puck during the second period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 17, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman duncan Keith (2) and New York Rangers center Derek Brassard (16) battle for a loose puck during the second period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports /
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Feb 15, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith (2) and center Jonathan Toews (19) and right wing Patrick Kane (88) celebrate a goal by defenseman Brent Seabrook (7) against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports /

Can the Blackhawks prove they don’t need home ice in the playoffs?

This is *the* burning question to me, and it’s going to be overlooked until it matters. At least, it’ll be overlooked by some fans … if the Blackhawks overlook it, it could cost them a second consecutive Stanley Cup.

It’s not that the Blackhawks are an abhorrent road team. They kind of were through the first couple months, but they’ve leveled out to a 16-11-3 mark and just beat the Eastern Conference’s second-best home team in its own house. It’s more so that the Blackhawks have major possession problems on the road, especially on their blue line.

As an entire unit, the Blackhawks boast a 51.5 Corsi-for mark across all situations at home. That falls to 48.6 on the road. Let’s see how this lines up with the blueliners.

Above you see the Blackhawks’ most-recent defensive unit and each of its players’ basic home stats across all situations, courtesy war-on-ice. Three players in the positive and three in the negative for Corsi (CF%) isn’t so bad, especially considering two of the negatives, Hjalmarsson and van Riemsdyk, see their zone starts tilted toward the defensive side (ZSO%Rel). The other negative, Rozsival, is barely negative.

Now, ready to throw up? The road stats.

Yeah, someone brought a funhouse mirror into the Blackhawks’ locker room. But the only people having fun with it are Chicago’s opponents.

Gustafsson benefits from heavily tilted offensive-zone starts and being a decent puck-moving defenseman to keep his Corsi-for positive. Keith and Hjalmarsson are hammered by their zone starts, and the fact Keith can manage almost 50 percent Corsi-for with those starts is a testament to how good a player he is. Those last three guys, though … that’s a big part of the reason I won’t shut up about the Blackhawks acquiring a defenseman at the deadline (more on that later).

And if we’re just expecting Crow to carry the Blackhawks’ defense through the playoffs, regardless of whether the team has home ice or not …

The first bar features Crow’s home stats, and the second his road stats. No, his road stats certainly aren’t bad — the guy’s having a career year all around. But things tend to go cockeyed when the defense in front of you can’t keep up. And when the playoffs roll around, they can go even more cockeyed. Especially when you have to go through one of St. Louis or Dallas, and then Los Angeles, and then Washington.

So, if I haven’t already made my thoughts on this question clear, no, I don’t think the Blackhawks can prove they don’t need home ice before the regular season ends. But, if they acquire a legitimate No. 4/5/6 defenseman to take some of the pressure off the current unit and Crow, I may change my mind.

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Feb 11, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and Chicago Blackhawks Senior Vice President/General Manager Stan Bowman and Chairman Rocky Wirtz and President John McDonough (left to right) during a press conference to announce that Chicago will host the 2017 NHL Draft at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

Will Bowman acquire a top-line left wing or defenseman at the trade deadline?

This question will be answered sooner than the previous four, with the deadline coming Monday, Feb. 29. Frankly, I’m not sure what Bowman is going to do. Much of the public discussion centers around acquiring a left winger, and that was only fueled by Bob McKenzie’s report Wednesday that the Blackhawks are pursuing former Blackhawk Andrew Ladd, Mikkel Boedker, Loui Eriksson and Eric Staal.

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I think it’s easier for Bowman to trade for a defenseman so far as what he’d need to give up, but I think it’d be easier for him to trade for a left wing based on the market. It’s going to sting the Blackhawks regarding their prospects and draft picks either way, but it should make them a more potent team down the stretch, which is obviously the short-term goal.

I have to say, the current news being spread — including Q publicly saying the Blackhawks could use another forward or two — either indicates the Blackhawks are going all in on getting a top-line winger, or they’re playing a classic game of misdirection while shooting for something else, likely a defenseman. I’d love for the latter option to be reality, but I think the former option is more probable at this point. And it concerns me when discussing the Blackhawks’ Cup chances in 2016. We’ll see what happens.

What are your burning questions regarding the Blackhawks as the regular season winds down? Let us know in the comments.