So this tweet came off the bat of CSN Chicago’s Tracey Myers on Friday morning:
It turned out Patrick Kane was just getting a morning off to rest ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks’ four-game road trip, which starts tonight in Calgary. Unfortunately, Corey Crawford probably won’t travel with the team due to his upper-body injury, which could still be a cover for getting him rest, but seems more and more like a legitimate injury with each passing day Crow doesn’t even skate.
Now, while Marcus Kruger will return tonight against the Flames, and while Viktor Svedberg is back with the club to try and fortify a beleaguered blue line, there’s no escaping reality here: The 2015-16 Blackhawks have gone as far as Kane and Crow have taken them. During 74 games, during which the team has accumulated 91 points and at one point tied a franchise record with 12 consecutive wins, it seems amazing that two guys could really be carrying the team. But I’m here to tell you, it’s the truth.
My reasons for this are two-fold. First, I want to dispel the notion the Blackhawks “suddenly suck” or anything of that regard. Sure, things have gotten particularly rough since the trade deadline, so everyone wants to use the “chemistry is broken, they’ll be fine over time” excuse. This is just not a reasonable excuse, and I’ll explain why. And second, I want to display how important these two have been to the team regardless of what point in the season we’re at, and why this team might not even be in the playoff hunt if Kane and Crow weren’t having out-of-this-world seasons on the ice.
Thankfully, we can package both of these points into a single argument, so let’s get on with it. We’ll start with Kane, who has tallied at least one point in all but two of the Blackhawks’ 42 victories this season. It wasn’t until January 8 against Buffalo that Kane didn’t tally a single point and the Blackhawks still managed to walk away with a victory. The only other instance of this came six days later against Montreal. You might notice the Sabers and Canadiens are two bad teams … teams the Blackhawks should be able to beat just fine without Kane registering a point.
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In the Blackhawks’ 40 other victories, Kane has compiled 70 of his 92 points. That means, in the 32 games the Blackhawks have either lost outright or lost in extra time, Kane has tallied “just” 22 points. That equates to Kane scoring 1.75 points per game when the Blackhawks are victorious, and 0.6875 points per game when they lose. Talk about an key piece.
And while that might be fine news if his performance was being supplemented, it really isn’t. Artemi Panarin is second on the team with 64 points, but he’s scored nearly every one of them playing alongside Kane. Artem Anisimov is sixth on the team with 38 points, again with most of those coming alongside Kane. Duncan Keith (43 points) and Brent Seabrook (42) see time with Kane at evens and on the powerplay, so their totals are also supplemented by Kane’s career year. Really, only Jonathan Toews‘ 50 points aren’t heavily based on Kane’s success, and even some of those have come on the powerplay or with six men on the ice — situations Kane would be present for.
If there’s no Kane, or a lesser version of him, the Blackhawks are easily in bottom third of the league in scoring. Considering Niklas Hjalmarsson — the defensive defenseman to end them all — is 10th on the team in points with a 21, I don’t think I’m taking too big a leap in making that assertion.
Of course, Kane wasn’t the sole driving force behind all of Chicago’s 42 wins to this point. In addition to his two pointless games, he also had 21 games with just one point in which in the Blackhawks still pulled out a win. Enter Crow.
It’ll probably be an alarming amount of time before I feel I no longer have to explain why Crow is worthy of his contract and appreciation from the entire Chicago fan base, but that’s fine. We can just keep going to the stats. Let’s look at some numbers from his winning performances this season.
30-plus shots faced: In 22 of 35 wins
.920 save percentage or better: In 28 of 35 wins
.900 save percentage or worse: In 3 of 35 wins
These are marks of a goaltender saving his team. A .920 or better save percentage in 28 of 35 wins? That’s bordering on the absurd. And while facing that many shots that often? You really wouldn’t blame the Blackhawks and Crow if they decided he needed to go on a break prior to the regular season ending … right.
As a side note, two of those three sub-.900 save percentage wins came against Arizona, a team that brings out some of the strangest behavior in these Blackhawks. (I’m fairly convinced their April game will feature a line brawl.) The other was against Florida, and Crow saw just 18 shots in that game, allowing two goals. Hooray, shot prevention!
And you might think a lot of Crow’s wins are coming against non-playoff teams, but in fact, only 14 of the 38 have been earned against teams we’d consider out of the playoff hunt. Which makes his stats a little more silly, and shows even more the Blackhawks have needed him to be that good.
It’s only fair we look at Crow’s losses too, though.
30-plus shots faced: In 7 of 22 losses
.920 save percentage or better: In 8 of 22 losses
.900 save percentage or worse: In 12 of 22 losses
Pulled from a game: In 5 of 22 losses
This one is going to take some work, because there are some fascinating stats in play. Let’s start with this: In five of Crow’s losses during which he’s faced 30 shots or more, he’s also posted a .920 save percentage or better. It’s almost like he thrives with more work … which makes a certain level of sense, considering TV and radio broadcasters always mention goalies getting rusty when they don’t see a lot of action at some point during a game.
By the way, the two losses during which Crow saw 30 or more shots and posted a save percentage worse than .920 were a 28-of-31 show against Winnipeg and a 28-of-32 display against Dallas. I think we’d generally take the former, and we could probably understand the latter knowing of the Stars’ potent offense and the Blackhawks’ struggles with that team.
But there’s still that 12-of-22 issue when it comes to Crow posting a .900 save percentage or worse in his losses this season, right? Well … let’s dig into that, too. Starting with the glaring games, all five of Crow’s pulls came when he posted a save percentage worse than .900. Not shocking, but let’s consider those games:
at New Jersey: 10 saves on 13 shots, .769 save percentage, in 20 minutes
at Carolina: 13 saves on 16 shots, .813 save percentage, in 20 minutes
vs. Dallas: 14 saves on 18 shots, .778 save percentage, in 20 minutes
at Minnesota: 19 saves on 23 shots, .826 save percentage, in 40 minutes
at Dallas: 16 saves on 20 shots, .800 save percentage, in 30:42 minutes
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No, I’m not going to make a point that some of Crow’s worst statistical showings have come on the road, because we already know the Blackhawks are a mediocre road team at best. I’m instead going to make a point that these games are all recognized as ones during which the Blackhawks collectively crapped themselves. Not games during which Crow crapped himself … games during which the Blackhawks crapped themselves. AKA, games they left their goaltender out to dry.
The Blackhawks have played New Jersey terribly twice this season. They’ve played Carolina terribly twice this season. They’ve played Minnesota terribly multiple times this season. They’ve played Dallas terribly multiple times this season. Crow is certainly part of the team playing poorly on some nights when it does so, but could you honestly look at any of those games and say Crow just imploded all on his own? I doubt it.
So what of the other seven losses in which Crow has posted a save percentage of .900 or worse?
at New York Rangers: 24 saves on 27 shots, .889 save percentage
at Philadelphia: 26 saves on 29 shots, .897 save percentage
vs. St. Louis: 23 saves on 29 shots, .793 save percentage
vs. New Jersey: 19 saves on 22 shots, .864 save percentage
at Vancouver: 14 saves on 19 shots, .737 save percentage
at Ottawa: 23 saves on 27 shots, .852 save percentage
at Dallas: 28 saves on 32 shots, .875 save percentage
vs. Los Angeles: 20 saves on 25 shots, .800 save percentage
Want to know something kind of neat? Two of these results have come in the calendar year 2016. Two. Crow has been that good. Also, one of those two games, apparently, saw Crow suffer an injury he’s still sidelined from (against the Kings).
Here’s what’s fascinating to me: Crow couldn’t allow three goals earlier in the season at risk of ensuring a loss for his team. Three goals allowed to the Rangers, Flyers and Devils (as well as the Senators, who won that game in a shootout), and the Blackhawks had no shot despite their talented offense. Because … Kane was and still is the entire offense. Bingo.
This team needs Patrick Kane and Corey Crawford this season. It might as well be Montreal Canadiens 2.0 without these guys. And it’s why no one should buy the argument the team “suddenly sucks.” It doesn’t: It just wasn’t crazy good to begin with. This team is not that good. I’m sorry to say it … and I have to say, it took me a long time to actually realize that … but it isn’t that good.
I’m not saying this team can’t surprise us all and make a Stanley Cup run, because writing off this team is akin to slowly nudging your tongue toward a full-powered fan blade. But what I am saying is, the recent downturn for Kane and Crow has a lot more to do with the Blackhawks’ recent struggles than it does with unfounded chemistry regarding the trade deadline acquisitions and other players suddenly falling on hard times simultaneously. What I’m saying is, the Blackhawks need Kane and Crow for the postseason, or else the team is royally screwed.
Kane has four points in his last nine outings. Crow has been hurt for the last four games (three Blackhawks losses) and posted a .800 save percentage in his last two games before injury (both Blackhawks losses). It’s not exactly a coincidence the team has fallen on hard times, considering those stats.