Blackhawks News

Chicago Blackhawks’ Week Ahead Is A Last Gasp

By Colin Likas
Mar 19, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Stars center Cody Eakin (20) talks with right wing Patrick Eaves (18) during a time out in the game against the New York Islanders at American Airlines Center. Dallas won 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 19, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Stars center Cody Eakin (20) talks with right wing Patrick Eaves (18) during a time out in the game against the New York Islanders at American Airlines Center. Dallas won 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /
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The title of this post may seem a little drastic, but if the Chicago Blackhawks have designs on winning the Central Division, this week is absolutely critical for them. We’ve reach the danger zone of the Blackhawks’ regular season, folks.

The men in the Indian Head managed to break a four-game skid with a 1-0 win over the lowly Winnipeg Jets last Friday, only to turn around and duff one at home against the Minnesota Wild. Yeah, they got a point out of it, but time is running short on claiming any sort of home ice in the playoffs, as the Blackhawks have just nine games remaining. Sure, not many of them are against playoff teams, but we’ve gotten to the point where giving away valuable points is no longer acceptable.

And with that, we arrive at a “last gasp” week for the Blackhawks. If this team’s last gasp is anything like it’s recent performances, we won’t have to sweat too much over the team winning or not winning a division crown. Let’s see what I mean with that by looking at the updated individual stats.

Forwards

Artem Anisimov: 72 games, 19 goals, 19 assists, plus-7 rating, 12 penalty minutes, 112 shots

a-Kyle Baun: 2 games, 0 goals, 0 assists, minus-2 rating, 0 penalty minutes, 1 shot

a-Bryan Bickell: 23 games, 0 goals, 2 assists, minus-4 rating, 2 penalty minutes, 21 shots

d-Phillip Danault: 30 games, 1 goal, 4 assists, minus-3 rating, 6 penalty minutes, 48 shots

d-Marko Dano: 13 games, 1 goal, 1 assist, 0 rating, 2 penalty minutes, 15 shots

Andrew Desjardins: 68 games, 7 goals, 4 assists, minus-7 rating, 30 penalty minutes, 89 shots

Tomas Fleischmann: 10 games, 3 goals, 1 assist, 0 rating, 2 penalty minutes, 11 shots

d-Ryan Garbutt: 42 games, 2 goals, 4 assists, minus-7 rating, 25 penalty minutes, 81 shots

a-Ryan Hartman: 3 games, 0 goals, 1 assist, minus-1 rating, 0 penalty minutes, 3 shots

a-Vincent Hinostroza: 7 games, 0 goals, 0 assists, minus-1 rating, 6 penalty minutes, 6 shots

Marian Hossa: 59 games, 12 goals, 18 assists, plus-9 rating, 22 penalty minutes, 179 shots

Patrick Kane: 73 games, 39 goals, 53 assists, plus-19 rating, 30 penalty minutes, 256 shots

a-Tanner Kero: 17 games, 1 goal, 2 assists, minus-2 rating, 2 penalty minutes, 26 shots

b-Marcus Kruger: 33 games, 0 goals, 1 assist, minus-5 rating, 20 penalty minutes, 39 shots

Andrew Ladd: 10 games, 3 goals, 2 assists, minus-1 rating, 4 penalty minutes, 20 shots

Brandon Mashinter: 36 games, 3 goals, 1 assist, minus-4 rating, 18 penalty minutes, 18 shots

a-Mark McNeill: 1 game, 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 rating, 0 penalty minutes, 0 shots

Artemi Panarin: 71 games, 25 goals, 38 assists, plus-7 rating, 32 penalty minutes, 169 shots

Richard Panik: 24 games, 4 goals, 2 assists, plus-5 rating, 2 penalty minutes, 29 shots

Dennis Rasmussen: 41 games, 4 goals, 4 assists, plus-7 rating, 4 penalty minutes, 40 shots

c-Jiri Sekac: 6 games, 0 goals, 1 assist, minus-1 rating, 2 penalty minutes, 11 shots

Andrew Shaw: 73 games, 12 goals, 20 assists, plus-14 rating, 58 penalty minutes, 142 shots

Teuvo Teravainen: 69 games, 11 goals, 20 assists, 0 rating, 12 penalty minutes, 126 shots

c-Viktor Tikhonov: 11 games, 0 goals, 0 assists, minus-4 rating, 6 penalty minutes, 11 shots

Jonathan Toews: 72 games, 25 goals, 25 assists, plus-17 rating, 50 penalty minutes, 162 shots

Dale Weise: 8 games, 0 goals, 1 assist, plus-2 rating, 2 penalty minutes, 9 shots

Defensemen

d-Trevor Daley: 29 games, 0 goals, 6 assists, plus-1 rating, 8 penalty minutes, 43 shots

Christian Ehrhoff: 5 games, 0 goals, 1 assist, minus-1 rating, 2 penalty minutes, 14 shots

Erik Gustafsson: 35 games, 0 goals, 12 assists, plus-9 rating, 2 penalty minutes, 51 shots

Niklas Hjalmarsson: 73 games, 2 goals, 19 assists, plus-11 rating, 32 penalty minutes, 73 shots

Duncan Keith: 63 games, 9 goals, 34 assists, plus-13 rating, 16 penalty minutes, 120 shots

Michal Rozsival: 43 games, 1 goal, 9 assists, plus-3 rating, 31 penalty minutes, 38 shots

a-David Rundblad: 9 games, 0 goals, 2 assists, minus-2 rating, 6 penalty minutes, 13 shots

d-Rob Scuderi: 17 games, 0 goals, 0 assists, minus-6 rating, 0 penalty minutes, 14 shots

Brent Seabrook: 73 games, 13 goals, 29 assists, plus-8 rating, 26 penalty minutes, 151 shots

a-Viktor Svedberg: 19 games, 2 goals, 2 assists, minus-1 rating, 2 penalty minutes, 31 shots

Trevor van Riemsdyk: 73 games, 3 goals, 7 assists, minus-3 rating, 29 penalty minutes, 70 shots

Goaltenders

Corey Crawford: 57 starts, 35 wins, 18 losses, 4 OT losses, 7 shutouts, .926 save percentage, 2.32 goals-allowed average

Scott Darling: 16 starts, 7 wins, 6 losses, 3 OT losses, 1 shutout, .918 save percentage, 2.42 goals-allowed average

(a-demoted to Rockford; b-on long-term injured reserve; c-waived and claimed; d-traded)

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The last one of these posts I did was nine games ago, and I didn’t have to change the statistics a whole lot for any one player. This is what we’d call a problem. Sure, the Blackhawks typically swoon their way through part or all of March, but with the weaknesses displayed by the club — i.e. lackluster defense, poor even-strength offense and sketchy special teams — swooning is no longer an option. Time to see if this team actually has another gear.

Unfortunately, that’ll probably ride entirely on the play of Kane, who still has a great shot at 100-plus points. With nine games remaining, including six against non-playoff teams (though the Wild nearly make it five), it’s easily conceivable he could surpass the century mark. Hell, he could put a huge dent in the gap this week, with the Blackhawks facing three teams that don’t do a whole lot of stopping the puck.

Most of the other offensive statistics are disappointing to behold. Hossa’s 30 points look really sad despite him not playing a full slate of games, as it would imply he’s beginning to hit a wall with age. Ladd’s point total is a far cry from what was expected of him after the trade deadline, and Joel Quenneville may need to consider more line shuffling. A lot of these guys are stuck in a rut right now, and I don’t know how much Kruger’s upcoming return to the lineup will “fix” things. We can always hope for a flipped switch with the playoffs getting nearer.

Of course, there are other bright spots. Fleischmann would certainly be one, as he’s been a huge playmaker alongside Teravainen and Desjardins. He doesn’t exactly have the points to show it, but the talent and willpower is there, as well as a connection with his most frequent linemates. Also positive was the play of Shaw and Panik on Sunday against Minnesota, as they accounted for both Blackhawks goals — and at even strength, no less.

It was also nice to see Darling snag his first shutout of the season against the Jets. He’s been fair to good in the wake of Crawford’s injury, but he just isn’t seeing a whole lot of help from his defense, nor is he seeing consistent scoring in front of him to support his efforts. Now he knows how Crow feels.

Let’s take a look at the updated Central Division standings.

Dallas: 43-21-9, 95 points, 41 regulation/overtime wins, 236 goals for, 211 goals against

St. Louis: 42-22-9, 93 points, 37 regulation/overtime wins, 194 goals for, 185 goals against

Chicago: 42-24-7, 91 points, 41 regulation/overtime wins, 203 goals for, 179 goals against

Nashville: 37-23-13, 87 points, 34 regulation/overtime wins, 202 goals for, 187 goals against

Colorado: 38-31-4, 80 points, 34 regulation/overtime wins, 198 goals for, 204 goals against

Minnesota: 34-28-11, 79 points, 31 regulation/overtime wins, 194 goals for, 186 goals against

Winnipeg: 29-37-6, 64 points, 27 regulation/overtime wins, 184 goals for, 216 goals against

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Yes, Nashville is quickly sneaking up on Chicago in the standings. All six teams in the playoff hunt have played 73 games, so there are no games in hand to be concerned with at this point. It’s just the Predators playing way, way better than the Blackhawks right now. And taking advantage of the pity point, as seen by the 13 overtime/shootout losses. Neither Dallas nor St. Louis has been that amazing of late, either (though the Stars have won two straight, and the Blues have corrected their last 10 mark to 7-3-0), so the Predators could really make some noise down the stretch.

It’ll also be interesting to see if Colorado or Minnesota gets the final wild card spot in the Western Conference. Whichever team does so should hope Dallas or maybe Chicago (if you’re Minnesota) gets the top overall seed. A first-round matchup against St. Louis or Los Angeles is unlikely to be desired.

Let’s move ahead to the three teams the Blackhawks will see this week.

Next: Glance At Dallas, Calgary And Vancouver

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