How to minimize the TVR issue
The Blackhawks have enough questions on defense to make TVR’s case get pushed to the side on occasion. Duncan Keith looks a step off (whether intentional or not remains to be seen). Brent Seabrook, though better this season than last, still is missing a step or two.
Campbell is having a bum year (though, again, getting him away from TVR may offer a semblance of improvement). Gustav Forsling offers a ton of questions on the defensive end. Michal Rozsival is being Nikolai Khabibulin‘d.
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Apparently, Erik Gutafsson and Ville Pokka just aren’t NHL-capable in the Blackhawks’ eyes, and I don’t really want to see Viktor Svedberg crawling down the United Center ice anytime soon. General manager Stan Bowman seems more likely to make a move to improve the offense than the defense as well.
So it’s not just a TVR problem on the Blackhawks blueline. But his play is so egregiously bad that his usage is just inexcusable.
TVR managed to receive 20:38 in ice time against Minnesota, more than Seabrook and any Chicago forward. He also got 1:52 on the penalty kill, which seems like the exact opposite of what you’d want to see, considering TVR overcommits on guys, loses himself when getting close to the net and doesn’t move quickly in any direction.
Quenneville is never going to outright bench TVR. That ship has sailed. He may have done it briefly after the first couple games of the season, but TVR was also hurt then, so it didn’t show as a benching. Therefore, Q has got to find a way to minimize TVR’s minutes.
Da Windy City
Hjalmarsson (who was the Blackhawks’ third star last night behind Crow and Jonathan Toews) is having a dandy season. Keith and Seabrook are far better than TVR. Campbell can play better than he has, it’s just a matter of finding the right combo for him.
Know who I haven’t mentioned yet? Michal Kempny. This guy should be the Blackhawks’ No. 4 D, not TVR.
Kempny is continually benched for reasons unknown despite carrying play at a really strong pace for a first-year North American defenseman. He spends almost all his time at 5-on-5 and holds a 55.0 Corsi-for mark (albeit with 54.7 percent of his shift starts in the offensive zone).
However, Kempny has shown a capability of having puck-carrying success with most of the Blackhawks. Kempny has played with 23 different Blackhawks this season and has a positive Corsi-for rate with 18 of them. A 19th, Forsling, has been on the ice with Kempny for 25 seconds this season.
Now, two of those 18 have seen less than 10 minutes of ice time with Kempny this season, but that’s still 16 guys who Kempny has posted strong possession ability while playing with. That’s far better than TVR’s 10/9.
Kempny’s Corsi-for marks since the calendar turned to 2017: 50.00, 62.96, 40.91, 56.67, 65.71, 62.86, 68.97, 47.37, 43.33, 42.31, 66.67, 59.26. Yes, he’s spent a lot of time at even strength and in the offensive zone, but if the Blackhawks are going to change their forward lines every 10 minutes, why can’t Kempny get a look at No. 4 D? Can he possibly be worse than TVR? I doubt it.
Kempny has also shown better ability to win board battles, position himself appropriates at the net and make more purposeful passes (though he wasn’t immune to a couple slip-ups last night, either).
TVR might be an NHL-capable blueliner, but it’s not as a guy who sees more than 10-12 minutes a night. Even that might be too much. He’s at least young enough to teach some things, but he’s iffy to bad in so many important areas it might not even matter.
I’d love to see the “TVR at No. 4 D” experiment end as soon as possible. If it continues into the postseason, the Blackhawks may not be long for the ride to the Stanley Cup.
(Thanks to naturalstattrick for pretty much all the stats in this post.)