Chicago Blackhawks Hot And Not: Kane, Sharp, Murphy Have Struggles
By Tim Martens
While the Chicago Blackhawks’ goaltending has been a strength all season long, there is very little besides that to be excited about from the last few weeks
The Chicago Blackhawks have been struggling in several areas lately and have seen some marquee names failing to make the score sheet. Let’s see who has been playing well and who has been in a funk lately with another edition of the Chicago Blackhawks hot and not.
Who’s Hot: Corey Crawford
This is probably the most obvious name you would expect to see on this list. Coming off a week in which he was named the NHL’s No. 1 star, Crawford had two shutouts and improved his save percentage to a stellar .945 on the year.
Crawford has made some great stops and helped bail out a pretty poor defensive unit on many occasions lately. His positioning has been superb, and he continues to remain focused and at his best, even when he is peppered with 35 shots a night.
If Crawford can keep up his great play, it is a huge advantage for a team that has been struggling in almost every other area and could be the key to the ‘Hawks having success when their offense and defense start to figure things out.
Who’s Not: Patrick Kane
I know not everyone will quickly think of Kane as having a hard time right now, but Kane has had only two points in the last five games, a stretch in which he is a minus-3. Kane was only unable to score a point in 26 of the 82 games he played in last season, yet he has not scored three times in the last five.
While point production is something you want from any skater taking the ice, offensive generation is Kane’s game. As he goes, so does the whole team’s offense.
The Blackhawks need production from Kane to be successful, and his lack of output has been noticeable lately. Kane has been dealing with new linemates on almost a nightly basis, but if he continues to struggle it is hard to imagine the offense being a threat in most games.
Who’s Hot: Artem Anisimov
While he was unable to tally a point the last contest, Anisimov had scored four goals in as many games entering the United Center on Sunday evening and added an assist during that stretch. Only having had one goal and one assist on the season before this run, the outburst more than doubled the Russian center’s offensive numbers for the year.
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In this stretch, he is also at 56.6 percent in the faceoff dot, a number that has to please skeptical Blackhawks fans everywhere, including myself, that were talking about how poorly Anisimov had been in the circle since coming to Chicago.
If Anisimov can keep up this percentage and add some more scoring like he has been lately, it will give a much-needed boost to the offense.
Who’s Not: Patrick Sharp
When the Blackhawks brought Sharp back over the summer, many fans were lowering expectations for Sharp’s second stint. Having gotten two years older and having to undergo hip surgery, fans knew they couldn’t expect the same Sharp that won the Stanley Cup three times with the ‘Hawks.
But with no points in the last nine games and a minus-6 rating in that stretch, it is hard to not include Sharp on the “not” list. Beyond the low production, Sharp has looked slow and unable to hold a puck and generate offensive pressure.
Sharp has been moved to a line with Kane and Jonathan Toews now, so if the production doesn’t start soon, the ‘Hawks may need to really start considering alternatives.
Who’s Hot (Headed): Joel Quenneville
Reports came out of practice last week that Coach Q was pretty upset with the effort Blackhawks players were giving, and he had the team skating laps at the end of practice. Asked afterward, Quenneville was honest about his frustrations, as quoted by The Chicago Tribune.
"“I didn’t like the last part of our practice,” Quenneville said. “The intensity and the pace went down. It was tough to look at it and I was just like, ‘Let’s go.’ … We want to make sure there’s enough intensity where we get something out of the practice. At the end, the pace wasn’t good enough.”"
As Stephen Yatsushiro talked about in his post after Quenneville’s heated practice, frustration is starting to really take a hold on this team and its head coach. Quenneville has been around the league a long time and has faced more than his fair share of adversity, but it is not very common to see a blowup like this in practice. Interesting to keep an eye on as every player and coach is under the microscope right now.
Who’s Not: Connor Murphy
Struggling to stay in one place in the defensive lineup, or in the lineup at all for that matter, Murphy has had three times in the last four games where he has seen less than 14 minutes of ice time. He had a horrific turnover in the defensive zone on Sunday that resulted in a goal and has yet to tally a point in a Blackhawks uniform.
While I would love to see Murphy break out and start producing, especially with the salary he is paid and what was traded away to bring him to Chicago, he is starting to become a liability on the ice. Murphy was one of the keys to the Blackhawks maintaining some skill on the blue line and having a successful season, but he is yet to impress or create any sense of sustainability on defense.
Next: Blackhawks’ 5 Worst What If Scenarios
If he can’t start to produce on either end of the ice, the Blackhawks are in even worse shape defensively than we thought they would be entering the season.