Blackhawks News

Chicago Blackhawks: How To Improve In Key Areas

By Colin Likas
Feb 25, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk (57) with the puck during the second period against the Nashville Predators at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 25, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk (57) with the puck during the second period against the Nashville Predators at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /
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Mar 11, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) faces the Dallas Stars attack during the second period at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

Goaltending

Those of you here for a Crow bash, it isn’t going to happen. While his score sheet looks pretty ugly of late, it’s not as those he’s getting any sort of assistance from his teammates. He’s come up with a few less huge saves over the last nine games, but that would just be a guy coming down from playing way, way, way above his par level. That really shouldn’t mean the entire team implodes around him on a nightly basis.

Over the last nine games (eight starts for Crow), his even-strength save percentage is .918, while his adjusted save percentage is .923. I’d say that’s more than serviceable, and it’s better than you’re going to get from a lot of guys in front of a defense this rugged (that includes Scott Darling). He’s facing an average of a little more than 31 shots per game at evens alone in his last eight starts. That’s a problem, obviously, and it’s reflected in his quality of saves.

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The fact Crow’s low-quality (.963) and medium-quality (.974) save percentages at evens have been as high as they’ve been over the last eight starts should really tell you what he’s been dealing with from a defensive help and opposing shooting perspective. If you’re still not quite seeing what I’m saying, Crow’s high-quality save percentage is .811 at evens in his last eight starts. He’s allowed 14 even-strength goals in those eight starts, and 10 have been off high-quality attempts. What exactly is Crow supposed to do, grow another pair of arms? The guy needs assistance at some point.

On the penalty kill, the same issue rises up, though there’s a Crow-related problem in there as well. Crow’s medium-quality save percentage on the PK is 100 over the last eight starts, which is obviously great. But his low-quality mark is .905, and his high-quality mark is a motley .667. Some of this certainly falls on the penalty kill, which had been terrifying to watch until last night. But the goaltender often has to be the best penalty killer, so Crow needs to step up some in that respect.

But overall, I’m not sure what more you can ask for from Crow. He’s having a career season and, for my money, is still in the running for the Vezina Trophy. There are far more issues at play right now than the goaltending.

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Mar 11, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov (15) skates in warm-ups prior to the game against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

Special teams

While the Blackhawks powerplay couldn’t miss for a while, it’s gone on a pants-pooping spree over the last few games. Since the start of the Blues game last Wednesday, the Blackhawks have had 13 powerplays, including one of five minutes after Ryan Reaves earned a game misconduct. Chicago has scored one time in that span, and it was late in the Reaves PP. That includes an 0-for-10 mark in the last two games alone. So … obviously a problem, especially considering the previously-discussed even-strength concerns.

On paper, the Blackhawks far and away have enough talent to roll out a powerplay goal or two per night. But their zone entries and lack of desire to get the puck to the net unless it’s on the stick of Patrick Kane or Artemi Panarin has been very readily available recently. I have little doubt the Blackhawks will get their powerplay back on track soon, but it just looks like a case of the two units overthinking each possession and winding up with nothing, though last night, they had some great bids on Quick. Once another one goes in, things should get back to normal.

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The penalty kill is another story. Kruger’s impending return will help to some extent, but that’s what we said for Marian Hossa, too. The PK units are allowing 11 goals per 60 minutes over the last nine outings, which is obviously terrible. Some of it has been Crow not being able to come up with certain stops, but Q has struggled to find a group that can actually stop opposing teams from just firing at will. There are pretty much open auditions for the two four-man units right now, which isn’t something you like to see with the postseason about a month out.

Watching the Blackhawks’ PK, I’ve wished it were more aggressive in pressuring the player with the puck. The Blackhawks kind of do this passive diamond formation and just try to get in front of shots unless an opposing player misplays the puck. Perhaps challenging these guys a little more is the answer. It’s at least worth a shot.

I don’t see much reason to panic about the Blackhawks right now, but things are far from perfect. Most of the issues, thankfully, can be rectified soon.

(All stats courtesy war-on-ice.com)

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