Chicago Blackhawks’ Hot And Not: Anisimov Up, Powerplay Still Down
By Colin Likas
This week’s Chicago Blackhawks hot and not covers just two games in which the Blackhawks lost, making positives a little harder to come by
Sometimes, the Chicago Blackhawks hot or not post is easier to write in one direction than the other. Unfortunately, this week is simpler for finding struggling players/parts on the Blackhawks.
Chicago played just two games between the last hot and not and this one, losing to Nashville 2-1 and Colorado 6-3. But it wasn’t all terrible, as I was still able to dig up some happier points for the week that was.
Who’s Hot: Corey Crawford
This is an easy pick, as Crow to turn in good performances. He saved 28 of 30 shots against Nashville for a .933 save percentage, and neither goal was really on him. He then came on in relief of Anton Forsberg in Denver and stopped seven of eight shots.
The Blackhawks would have very few wins without Crow in net this season. Even in several of their five wins, the Blackhawks have needed to rely on their goaltender pretty heavily.
On the positive side, Crow (and Forsberg) saw fewer shots than the opposition in each of the last two games. Hopefully that’s a sign of things to come for the Blackhawks, but it seems like Crow could stop about 100 shots in a game right now if he was asked to.
Who’s Not: The powerplay
Yeesh. How much ink/typed word can be spilled about how bad this unit is right now?
Da Windy City
I’m going to say not enough. Nothing the Blackhawks have tried of late on the man-advantage seems to work. And while there have been some bad-luck deals with the Blackhawks at 5-on-5, the powerplay has pretty much cut out its own legs time and again.
Against the Preds and Avs, the Blackhawks’ powerplay somehow went 0 for 11. That’s obscenely bad. Amazingly, however, the Blackhawks are beating four teams (!) in powerplay percentage, though the team’s 12.7 mark is woefully behind Dallas’ league-leading 30.8 percent.
The Blackhawks have also drawn the most penalties in the league with 55. This isn’t all that surprising, considering teams know they can commit penalties against Chicago and not be punished. This is a trend that needs to be reversed immediately.
Who’s Hot: Artem Anisimov
This is positive news. Anisimov was the only guy to score multiple goals for Chicago last week, potting one apiece in the Nashville and Colorado games.
Anisimov did a nice job following up on Nick Schmaltz‘s shorthanded breakaway against the Preds, giving him a golden rebound chance that he knocked past Pekka Rinne. Then, against the Avs, Anisimov no-looked a shot past Jonathan Bernier after eyeing up Patrick Sharp in a 2-on-1 situation.
This is a good development for Anisimov, and hopefully one he can build off. He’s had a very slow start to the year — both in terms of production and foot speed. Any supplementary offense the Blackhawks can get from him and the third line will go a long way most nights.
Who’s Not: Patrick Kane
He did carry the puck into the offensive zone to set up Schmaltz’s redirect goal against Colorado, but the Blackhawks need a lot more from their top scoring threat than “started a play.”
Kane was close to 20 minutes played in each of last week’s two games, and he had a minus-3 rating and eight shots on goal to show for it. He also spent more than 10 (!) minutes on the powerplay between those two losses and still couldn’t find the twine.
No matter how ineffective a powerplay setup is, Kane should be able to force at least one goal with that much man-advantage time. Hopefully pairing him with Brandon Saad and Schmaltz will see the goals start to flow for 88.
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Who’s Hot: Michal Kempny
After not playing much against Nashville, Kempny was given some rope once the Blackhawks went down 5-0 against Colorado. And he did a good amount with it.
Kempny’s attempted clear turned into a breakout pass for Anisimov’s 2-on-1 goal (assist to Alex DeBrincat for tying up an Avs defenseman as well), and then Kempny hammered a shot into traffic and off Schmaltz for a primary assist later that night.
Kempny did have a penalty against Colorado, but the Blackhawks killed it off. His earning two points has to be seen as a nice development for a guy who hasn’t received consistent ice time.
Who’s Not: The penalty kill
After some good returns earlier this season, the Blackhawks’ penalty kill failed three times across two games. All three were at critical moments as well.
The Blackhawks and Preds were tied at 1 in the second period when Craig Smith wired a wrister from just above the circles past a screened Crawford. The Blackhawks were back to their old ways when the goal happened, standing and watching Smith work instead of aggressively pursuing him.
The Blackhawks were still in it against Colorado, down 1-0, when they allowed two powerplay goals. The first saw a bit of bad luck, as John Hayden and Tommy Wingels broke for a 2-on-1 that Hayden hammered off the post. The rebound got so far away so quickly, that Colorado instantly had an odd-man break.
The second saw more of the Blackhawks standing around, seemingly hoping the period would end before Colorado could score. Instead, Forsberg struggled handling the puck, and the Blackhawks didn’t do anything to help him as Mikko Rantanen banked home a goal.
Next: Will Blackhawks' Heated Practice Create Results?
If the Blackhawks are going to succeed, they need both of their special teams units to at least be decent. The powerplay is a hot mess right now and has been for some time, but the PK was showing positive development. Last week was a step back.