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Chicago Blackhawks’ Dennis Rasmussen Earns Average Marks In 2016-17

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Oct 18, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Dennis Rasmussen (70) scores a goal against Philadelphia Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth (30) during the first period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 18, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Dennis Rasmussen (70) scores a goal against Philadelphia Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth (30) during the first period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Chicago Blackhawks’ Dennis Rasmussen performed well overall in 2016-17, but offensive production remains elusive for the talented Swede

Quick — who scored the Chicago Blackhawks’ first goal in their first-round playoff series against the Nashville Predators? It was Dennis Rasmussen at 1:05 of the second period in Game 3 and gave the ‘Hawks their first goal — and lead — of the series.

The entire sequence leading to Rasmussen’s first career playoff goal highlighted the Blackhawks’ signature ability to produce scoring chances that was totally shut down by the Preds throughout the series.

Here’s the goal, starting with Richard Panik’s incredible effort to get the puck over to Marcus Kruger behind the net, whose nifty touch-pass Rasmussen banged home from the top of the crease.

In this edition of our series evaluating the performance of each of the Blackhawks over the past season, we’ll take a look at Rasmussen and give him a grade.

2016-17 regular season statistics:  68 games, 4 goals, 4 assists, 8 points, minus-4 rating, 48.7 Corsi-for (even strength)

2016-17 postseason statistics: 3 games, 1 goal, 1 point, minus-2 rating, 43.0 Corsi-for (even strength)

Positives

For the 2016-17 regular season, Rasmussen earned his ice time with shutdown defensive skills based on powerful legs, great stickhandling and a long reach that make him a versatile bottom-six forward who can play quality minutes. After sitting for the ‘Hawks’ first two games of the season, Rasmussen cracked the lineup for their 5-3 win over Nashville and then scored on a breakaway in the following 7-4 win over Philadelphia, in which he began a crucial role in turning around the Blackhawks’ horrendous penalty-killing unit. 

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In 68 regular-season games, Rasmussen led all Blackhawks centers with 61 hits and was third with 49 blocked shots. His 5:4 ratio of takeaways-to-giveaways ranked fourth.

On the penalty-killing unit, Rasmussen racked up 119:55 minutes and nine blocked shots, second only to Kruger in shorthanded ice time and blocked shots among Blackhawks forwards.

Rasmussen also led ‘Hawks forwards in shorthanded hits and takeaways, and was a prime mover in helping the Blackhawks improve their penalty killing from a league-worst 67.3 percent during the first month of play to a respectable 80.9 percent over the last five months of the season.

The durable forward split his even-strength ice time last season playing either left wing or center on the third and fourth lines. From Feb. 2 to Feb. 23, the ‘Hawks compiled an impressive 8-1 record with one of their best checking lines of the season — Kruger centering Rasmussen on the left wing and Marian Hossa on the right.

Moose was a healthy scratch for nine of Chicago’s final 20 games of the season while the ‘Hawks juggled their lineup, trying to work in late arrivals John Hayden, Tomas Jurco and Vinnie Hinostroza.

Negatives  

Like many Swedish players, Rasmussen came to the NHL with the DNA of a two-way player, but the big 6-foot-3, 205-pound centerman hasn’t shown the goal-scoring gene found in fellow countrymen Daniel Sedin and Nicklas Backstrom.

Although he scored on his first shot in his NHL debut on Dec. 8, 2015 against Nashville, Rasmussen posted only four goals and nine points in 44 regular-season games with the ‘Hawks in 2015-16, and was reassigned to Rockford on the eve of the 2016 playoffs.

This past season, Moose scored in his second appearance on Oct. 18 against the Flyers, but didn’t pot another lamp-lighter until Dec. 6 in a 4-0 win over Arizona, and scored his last goal of the regular season in Chicago’s 3-1 loss at San Jose on Jan. 31.

It’s worth noting that four of the five goals Rasmussen scored all season, including the playoffs, were generated from point-blank range, so he’s at his best charging the net and using his big body and great stickhandling to get some greasy goals. Rasmussen averaged just 1.1 shots per game last season and needs to shoot a lot more. He’s got a deceptively quick snap-shot that’s effective 15-35 feet from the net.

Rasmussen’s 48.7 Corsi-for at even strength ranks sixth among seven Blackhawks centers for puck possession, but is heavily mitigated by the fact he had a vast majority of starts in the defensive zone. Among ‘Hawks centers, only Kruger had more defensive-zone starts than Moose. It’s awfully tough to generate shots when you’re starting shifts in your own zone against the opposition’s top players.

Of more concern is Rasmussen’s failure to show improvement in the faceoff circle over the previous year. For the regular season, Rasmussen won 44.6 percent of his draws, a slight decline from 46.9 percent in 2015-16. He’s not alone — among six nominal Blackhawks centermen, only Jonathan Toews won a majority of his draws on the season. Still, this is an area Rasmussen needs to improve if he’s to fulfill his true potential and market value in the NHL.

Grade: C+

Rasmussen generated a good year overall that confirmed he’s a versatile, talented and durable skater with proven defensive skill and an untapped offensive upside. He’s cheap, too, with a current cap hit of just $575,000.

Rasmussen becomes a restricted free agent on July 1, which makes him another potential pawn in ‘Hawks general manager Stan Bowman’s summer games. With most of the expansion draft drama swirling around Kruger and his $3.08 million cap hit, Rasmussen could be a low-cost plug-in replacement for Krugs.

Next: Marian Hossa Season Grade

Just about all of us Blackhawks fans are likely still in a state of shock and depression over our favorite team’s unexpected and sudden exit from the playoffs. But take a few minutes to read the recent post from Keith Schultz, our leader here at Blackhawk Up, for a reality check on what should truly be most important to each of us —  our families. Find it in your heart to be kind to one another.

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