Fansided
Analysis

Chicago Blackhawks Ride Hot Offense, Win at Home

jmartin1
Feb 18, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Michal Kempny (6) controls the puck during the third period against the Edmonton Oilers at the United Center. Edmonton won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 18, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Michal Kempny (6) controls the puck during the third period against the Edmonton Oilers at the United Center. Edmonton won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /
facebooktwitterreddit

An awkward first period defensively laid the foundation for another visibly successful on-the-fly adjustment for the Blackhawks Thursday night in their 6-3 victory over the Arizona Coyotes

I heard a lot about the importance of winning games like the one the Blackhawks played last night on the basis that they are a much better team on paper than their opponent. This is something the team has struggled with in years past, particularly towards the tail end of their seasons. There’s been a tendency for the Hawks to lower their level of play when facing a theoretically lesser opponent. The latter half of the first period Thursday night was a great example.

Sloppy play in the defensive zone from defensemen and forwards alike created a bundle of helpless plays for Crawford in the first, but it created yet another unique opportunity to visually inspect the Blackhawks’ ability to adjust on the fly in the middle of a game, something they’ve been arguably the best in the league for at least the last four years–and adjust they did.

Offense, Offense, Offense

The Blackhawks are scoring an obscene amount of goals of late. By my math, they’ve scored 40 goals in their last 9 games. That is nothing short of jawdropping. So far in February the Hawks are average 4.4 goals per game, more than enough to win on the vast majority of nights, regardless of how average they may look defensively at times.

I think the most encouraging thing about this offensive surge, though, is that the scoring has been distributed fairly evening. The Hawks have seven forwards with at least 15 goals this season, and three who have already scored 20. This is promising because it implies consistency up and down the lineup, and allows the Hawks to assume with relative confidence that, on any given night, someone will be able to pick up any slack and provide the team with its necessary offense.

You go, we go

It’s often been said that “The Blackhawks go as Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews go”. Could that be any more reflective of the way this season has unfolded? Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have traded hat-trick performances the last two games, and not coincidentally, both have led to wins. Both of the Hawks’ franchise superstars are playing their best hockey right now, and all signs continue to point up in regards to their numbers for the season. If 19 and 88 sustain this level of dependability, the Blackhawks depth forwards will continue to grow in productivity and confidence, providing the ideal offensive recipe for a playoff run.

Growing comfort on the back-end

I thought Michal Kempny looked acceptably solid once again last night. Playing with Brent Seabrook seems to be doing wonders Kempny, and it’s manifesting itself in a few crucial areas of his play. For one, I like Kempny’s shot selection. He hasn’t been turning them into goals, but his shots have a tendency to find their way on net–rarely do you see him take the patented Duncan Keith missile that sails 8 feet over the twine. Kempny had 4 shots last night.

I won’t get into how bad Michael Roszival was last night, because I think it goes without saying. Roszy is a great veteran defenseman in a very limited role who can eat up minutes when it’s necessary, but Joel Quenneville and Mike Kitchen would be pretty crazy to allow 32 to see ice-time come playoffs. The embarrassingly slow misque on the Ryan White goal literally made me a little nauseous. That play actually looked like something you’d see at a rat hockey session. Just terrible. As for his goal, I don’t think we can count on that happening often enough to reward him with more playing time.

Roszival’s regrettable performance last night and a poor team effort in the first period, I still think things are looking up for the Hawks’ pairings, which seem somewhat solidified for the moment (aside from the Hjalmarsson injury, which I’ll get to). Trevor van Riemsdyk looks comfortable with Brian Campbell, and their chemistry is leading to clean outlets that get TVR out of trouble in tough spots–plays where he previously might have hopelessly tried to hoist the puck off the glass and out.

Although they had a sloppy first period defensively, the Hawks showcased their ability to adjust mid-game last night. They did a thorough revamping of their gap-control after the first, and didn’t allow the Yotes such easy entry over their blue-line. This made the difference, along with some excellent goaltending from Corey Crawford. They tightened up defensively, possessed the puck effectively, and were able to turn zone-time into legitimate scoring opportunities.

Hjalmarsson

I haven’t heard anything definitive yet on the Hjalmarsson injury, but the general consensus is that it was issue he was having prior to last night’s game–and so he was questionable going into it. For this reason, it could be that he simply wasn’t feeling good enough to play through whatever is ailing him, but the decision to dress him initially could point to it not being a completely devastating injury. He’s set to be re-evaluated today, so more news could erupt. He’s a crucial part of the D-core on the Blackhawks, and missing him could mean more ice time for Roszival, as well as an upset of the pairings which I previously mentioned seem to finally be solidifying.

An interesting side note, though, is what a legitimate injury to Niklas Hjalmarsson could mean for the Hawks cap hit. One of the most versed hockey fans I know mentioned to me this morning that the Hjalmarsson injury has an eerily similar feel to the Kane and Hossa injuries of the last two years which opened up the necessary cap space to land the Hawks Antoine Vermette and Andrew Ladd. Hjalmarsson sitting out the remainder of the season on the IR could open up some space for the Hawks money wise, as well as rest him up and allow whatever injury he’s fighting to heal completely. Just a thought.

Looking Ahead

There’s plenty of measuring-stick games coming ahead with the Blues this weekend and the Penguins twice in March. This will give us a chance to continuously evaluate their ability to beat solid teams, something they’ve done effectively throughout this little run they’re on. More to come soon. Thanks to our buddies at We’re True Chicago Blackhawk Fans for the share.

Next: 5 Thoughts on Hawks' Win

facebooktwitterreddit