Through the early portion of the regular season, some Chicago Blackhawks are playing better than others
Starting today, Blackhawk Up is going to run a segment where a different writer each week highlights three Chicago Blackhawks who are hot and three who are not.
Typically, this is going to cover games from Wednesday to the following Tuesday. But since this is the first one of these, I get to look at all 10 regular-season games thus far. Lucky me.
The Blackhawks have heated up a bit after a slow start. It hasn’t been just one guy carrying the load, but some guys are certainly playing better and having more of an impact than others.
So let’s take a look at three Blackhawks who are off to a strong start, and three who are struggling to get going.
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Who’s hot: Artem Anisimov
This is an easy first pick. The typical second-line center hasn’t even needed usual linemate Patrick Kane through all 10 games to get off to an impressive start.
Anisimov is on a career-high eight-game point streak, most recently tallying a goal and an assist last night against Calgar. He leads not only his team, but also the league in goals (7) and points (13).
Anisimov’s faceoff percentage is still in tough shape (40.97), but he already has three game-winning goals and seems extremely confident on the ice. He is currently the hottest Blackhawks skater.
Who’s not: Jordin Tootoo
I’m sorry, but when you’re occupying one of 12 forward spots on a team that, until recently, was struggling to get consistent scoring, you need to do something. Anything.
Instead, Tootoo is one of just four Blackhawks who has suited up to not yet tally a point. And he’s the only one of those four who has played in all 10 games. Tootoo has 13 shots on goal, but none of them have been particularly amazing.
The gritty forward is hardly even fulfilling that line of “duty.” Tootoo has just 11 hits, or barely one per game. So what exactly is he continually on the ice for?
Who’s hot: Corey Crawford
This is another obvious pick. While Crow’s penalty-kill save percentage is still recovering from early struggles — the Blackhawks have played two consecutive games without allowing a powerplay goal against — his even-strength percentage is insanely strong.
While it is unsustainable, we can certainly celebrate Crow’s .979 mark at 5-on-5. The last two outings, he hasn’t allowed a 5-on-5 goal. He shut out Los Angeles on Sunday, while the only goal he allowed yesterday against Calgary was on a shorthanded break for the Flames.
Crow’s positioning has been generally sound, he’s been controlling his rebounds well and he looks extremely comfortable seeing and handling the puck. This is an extremely positive development for the Blackhawks as they try to get some of their youngsters rolling at both ends of the ice.
Who’s not: Nick Schmaltz
This is kind of rough on the youngster, but you feel like the Blackhawks probably expected more from Schmaltz at this point — especially since Tyler Motte has looked pretty strong of late.
Schmaltz has been tossed around the bottom six, and the hope would be he gets a more consistent assignment moving forward and that will push his offense. Schmaltz does have two assists over his last two games, but the scoring just hasn’t been there yet.
In addition, Schmaltz has struggled at the dot. His faceoff percentage is a poor 33.3 early on. So while there’s plenty of room for Schmaltz to improve — and I believe he will — he’s off to a tough start so far for someone with such high expectations.
Who’s hot: Artemi Panarin
Panarin reached double-digit points for the season last night with a goal and an assist, lifting him to 10 points on the year. This is especially good to see, because Panarin hasn’t been playing with Kane of late.
Panarin and Anisimov, alongside Marian Hossa, have made for a particularly solid second line. Panarin doesn’t seem to be losing a whole lot being apart from Kane, as The Committed Indian pointed out earlier today.
Panarin has five points in his last three games and seven in his last five. Sophomore slumps are often a concern after solid rookie campaigns, but with Panarin not being your traditional rookie last season, it appears Panarin is having no trouble adjusting to Year 2 in the NHL.
Who’s not: Ryan Hartman
Injury aside, Hartman was expected to come in and at least try to fill the Andrew Shaw role for Chicago. That has not come close to happening thus far.
Hartman has just seven hits this season, with four coming in one game (against Toronto). He hasn’t posted a point in three games since returning from an injury, and he’s come up with a minus-2 rating in that time. Hartman’s going to need to dent the scoresheet a bit more if he doesn’t want to be the odd man out when Andrew Desjardins returns.