Positive: Q figured out something on defense (maybe)
While the blue line is in disarray of late, it appears one item was ironed out Sunday. On the seven-man unit, guess who got the most ice time behind the big three? Michal Kempny.
Yeah, the guy who keeps getting healthy-scratched. After Duncan Keith (24:38), Brent Seabrook (24:01) and Niklas Hjalmarsson (20:50), Kempny logged 16:32 in ice time. And considering Trevor van Riemsdyk was a full three minutes off that mark, Kempny was the No. 4 defenseman on Sunday.
Now, this is what some Blackhawks fans have been calling for. While the scoring isn’t always there, Kempny brings more to the table. Did Q see it Sunday? If he didn’t, he only needs to head to Natural Stat Trick.
Kempny posted a possession rate of 62.86 in Corsi-for. Now while there were a lot of bloated Corsi-for rates Sunday as a result of Minnesota just falling back to goaltender Devan Dubnyk at every give chance, there’s something else that goes with this.
Kempny also was on the ice for 22 Corsi-for events. That tied Artemi Panarin for second-best on the team, behind Kane’s 31. (Considering Kane was on the ice half the game and had 12 shots, it only makes sense he’d lead this category.)
Furthermore, Kempny posted a Corsi-for rate of 50 percent or better against all but three Wild — two of them, Jason Zucker and Mikael Granlund, played on a line that destroyed the Blackhawks’ top center in Jonathan Toews.
What I’m saying is, Kempny is really good for the Blackhawks holding the puck, and thus getting more scoring attempts. This isn’t just a one-game sample, either. Go back and look at stats from past games. Hopefully, Sunday’s game just showed Q what he really needed to see.
Negative: Offense remains top-loaded
It’s no surprise Kane scored against Minnesota. He clearly likes playing against the Wild. It’s not even a surprise he scored more than once.
Unfortunately, it’s also not a surprise he *was* the scoring. The Blackhawks remain top-loaded on offense, and it’s not changing any time soon.
Especially not with an 11-person forward unit. The Blackhawks officially need to acquire a top-six forward at the trade deadline. I’ve said on this blog before I thought the Blackhawks had the tools already in place to make a strong playoff run, but I’m less sure about that by the day.
There are some solid guys like Vincent Hinostroza and Ryan Hartman who can crush on the bottom six, but that requires someone to take the top-line left wing spot that’s gone mostly unfilled since Brandon Saad was traded.
Not Nick Schmaltz‘s return, not Tyler Motte‘s eventual return and not any other in-system stopgap is going to work. Find a top-six forward, and the Blackhawks can balance this whole forward lineup. Until then … we’ll see a lot more of the Panarin-Aretm Anisimov-Kane line doing it all, like we did last season.