Analysis

Chicago Blackhawks Hot And Not: Kane, Goaltenders Show Well

By Colin Likas
Mar 4, 2017; Nashville, TN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) looks through traffic during the third period against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. The Blackhawks won 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 4, 2017; Nashville, TN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) looks through traffic during the third period against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. The Blackhawks won 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /
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It’s pretty easy to do a Chicago Blackhawks Hot and Not post when the team is in the midst of a seven-game win streak

The Chicago Blackhawks are nearing the end of their final extended break of the regular season, but their ongoing hot streak remains on all fans’ minds.

The Blackhawks have won seven consecutive games and sit just one point out of the Central Division and Western Conference lead. Joel Quenneville’s bunch got an assist from an unlikely source last night as well, seeing the St. Louis Blues knock off the Minnesota Wild 2-1 in regulation.

The Wild now have just one game in hand on the Blackhawks to go with their one-point advantage. But we’re not here to just talk about team stats and the league standings. We’re here to discuss which Blackhawks have had the most successful last seven days.

Let’s take a look at which Blackhawks heated up and which ones cooled off between March 1 and today.

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Who’s Hot: Patrick Kane

This one is among the easier selections, as Kane rolled through the month of February and has stayed hot early in March.

In the last three games, Kane has tallied a team-leading five points — all of them goals. He did this with a robust 38.5  shooting percentage while eating the second-most minutes played among all Blackhawks forwards, trailing Jonathan Toews by a whopping 2 seconds (21:30 ATOI versus 21:28).

Kane netted three of his goals in the last week against the Pittsburgh Penguins, among them the ice-breaker and the game-sealer (or sealers, if you count the empty-netter). He followed that by being held scoreless against the Islanders — a stunning development — before notching two more goals against Nashville.

Kane’s play with Nick Schmaltz (more on him later) has been particularly impressive, as the two seem to have a pretty potent connection. While they likely won’t be on the same line very often with Artem Anisimov in the fold, it’s a good connection to see.

Who’s Not: Marian Hossa

This is a bit harsh, but I’m just going off the stats. Despite the Blackhawks rolling along, Hossa tallied no points in the last three games to go with a minus-1 rating — one of only four negative ratings on the team in the last week.

Now, Anisimov’s injury jumbling the lines did Hossa no favors last week, but it’s still odd to see him not record a single point while the Blackhawks are pouring in goals. No doubt that’s be course-corrected sooner rather than later.

chicago blackhawks
Mar 4, 2017; Nashville, TN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) looks through traffic during the third period against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. The Blackhawks won 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

Who’s Hot: The goaltenders

No doubt a few fans will sputter at the idea Corey Crawford is hot because he allowed a couple goals last week he no doubt would like back. And some might even flinch at Scott Darling being deemed on the hot side because he’s now injured.

But let’s go to the stats once more. Crow notched two wins last week by stopping 63 of 67 shots, posting a .940 save percentage and 1.94 goals-against average. Darling collected a win prior to his injury by allowing just one goal on 37 tries against Pittsburgh.

Those are fantastic numbers, all posted against current postseason teams in the Penguins, Islanders and Predators. And this was without arguable top defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and with Johnny Oduya also not playing.

Chicago Blackhawks

It’s a disappointment Darling is now sidelined after some really solid play, but it’s great to see Crow getting back in the groove. He seems to have found himself again following his brief illness, something we weren’t seeing a lot of after his emergency appendectomy.

Who’s Not: Tomas Jurco

It’s really early in Jurco’s tenure with the Blackhawks, but he’s been near-invisible thus far. When you’re being noticeably outplayed by Jordin Tootoo, something has gone horribly wrong.

Jurco hasn’t been bad, by any means. He just hasn’t been much of anything. He had two penalty minutes and three shots on net in the last three games while averaging 12:08 in ice time. It’s just … blah.

Jurco wasn’t picked up at the trade deadline in hopes of filling a top-six role, but the Blackhawks likely expected him to be visible in games. He’ll need to get learn the Blackhawks’ system a little more quickly, as guys like Dennis Rasmussen are being scratched in his favor.

Who’s Hot: Nick Schmaltz

This spot could have easily gone to the captain Toews, but Schmaltz deserves some recognition in this space.

The kid is just oozing with confidence following his Rockford stint, and it’s so obvious on the ice. For as invisible as Jurco has been of late, Schmaltz has been just as visible.

He only had two points to show for it in the last three games, but those both came in one contest — he missed the other two due to illness. Against the Penguins, Schmaltz was making pinpoint passes to Kane after Anisimov went down with an injury.

It’s amazing how different a version of Schmaltz we’re seeing now compared to the one from earlier in the season. If he keeps this up, we’ll be glad the Blackhawks didn’t worry about renting a top-line left wing. Schmaltz will be the answer.

chicago blackhawks
Mar 1, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Richard Panik (14) skates around Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Carter Rowney (37) during the third period at the United Center. Chicago won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

Who’s … Still Hot: Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik

Couldn’t go for the traditional three hot and three not this week. There were too many positives to recognize among the Blackhawks.

Toews tallied a goal and an assist in the last three games, but like Schmaltz, you can just see him looking rejuvenated on the ice. Toews is flying to the net, winning board battles and getting in all the right places at the right time.

For as frustrated as he might have been earlier in the season while on a constant line jumble (as he should’ve been), he looks thrilled with his current arrangement. Now, the goal is to just keep everyone healthy.

Panik, meanwhile, could have made this post solely for his undressing of Evgeni Malkin last week. Let’s take another look at that, shall we?

Toronto and Tampa Bay fans were no doubt wondering where in the world that move came from. But, like Schmaltz, Panik just looks so confident on the ice anymore.

He notched three points in the last three games, and he’s just found a perfect home alongside Schmaltz and Toews. Weird combination that is paying huge dividends of late.

Next: Blackhawks Guide To Advanced Stats

The Chicago Blackhawks will try to stay hot this weekend, as they return to the ice against the Anaheim Ducks tomorrow.

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