Indeed it is difficult to watch the play of the Chicago Blackhawks these days. It certainly hasn’t been pretty lately. Nevertheless, let’s take a look at the hot — or should I say the lukewarm — and the not so hot.
Hot: Corey Crawford
The Chicago Blackhawks’ No. 1 goaltender, Corey Crawford, turns 33 on Dec. 31 and is probably playing the best hockey of his career to begin this 2017-18 season. He had a hiccup in his play on Sunday evening at home against New Jersey Devils but has been a force between the pipes on most nights despite the floundering team in front of him — and the numbers reflect that.
Crawford’s save percentage of .932 placed him third heading into the week among NHL netminders. He sported back-to-back shutouts to begin November and was the primary reason for a handful of Chicago wins in this young season.
Not: Brent Seabrook
When it comes to players who have struggled this season, pick your poison, but the worst of the worst has been Brent Seabrook.
Seabs’ lack of foot speed seems more apparent than ever this season, and it doesn’t help matters that coach Joel Quenneville insists on giving him first-pairing minutes. At 32, Seabs is signed for six more seasons and has a no-movement clause in his contract, which doesn’t bode well for the future on Chicago’s blue line.
In my opinion, Q should reduce Seabrook’s ice time significantly in the hope that he can utilize his experience and allow him to be a competent performer in a lesser role.
Hot: Jon Rutta
Da Windy City
The rookie rearguard continues to play well at both ends of the ice. The Czech defenseman had a bit of a glitch when he was switched to the left side for a few games, but that experiment didn’t last long. It seems just a matter of time before Rutta is permanently paired with Duncan Keith in the top pairing.
Not: Ryan Hartman
After a stellar beginning to the season playing with Patrick Kane, Ryan Hartman was shuffled down the lineup and has now found himself in Coach Q’s doghouse. He was taking dumb penalties and struggling to find chemistry with his teammates. The sophomore winger was a healthy scratch recently. He needs to get going.
Hot: Gustav Forsling
“Hot” may be a slight exaggeration when describing Forsling’s play. He continues to have his weak moments in front of Crawford, but he has come a long way since training camp. He has adapted well to the physicality of the NHL and shows flashes of leadership abilities.
Not: Patrick Sharp
It is not that Sharpie has played poorly, but he just can’t buy a goal these days. I don’t think anyone expected him to return to his younger self, but it would be nice to see a few key goals from the 35-year-old winger.
Hot: Alex DeBrincat
The highly-touted, diminutive rookie had a bit of a breakout in the last two games before Wednesday’s tilt against the Rangers, scoring three times. All of these were snipes of the style we have waited for.
Funny enough, the goals came after Coach Q, trying to get the team rolling, had Cat penciled in for fourth-line duties.
Hot: Artem Anisimov
After a sluggish beginning to the season, Anisimov has regained his offensive touch recently. In Wednesday’s tilt against the visiting New York Rangers, he broke the game wide open with a natural hat trick in the third period.
The lanky Russian is up to nine goals and 11 points in 19 games. His resurgence couldn’t come at a better time, as Blackhawks have often struggled generating offense when it is needed the most.
There’s no question the Blackhawks are in a funk at this time, but we have seen the team go through these trying times before. The good news is that it’s only November‚ better now than in the spring. The Blackhawks have plenty of time to get their collective act together.