Question 1: I think that move was already made when Vinnie Hinostroza was finally called up from the AHL. The promotion to the big club was long overdue, and finally the Blackhawks have some life to their game.
Going forward, I am concerned the special teams are not getting the job done. I think it is time to drop Duncan Keith’s powerplay minutes significantly and give more PP ice time to Gustav Forsling, Alex DeBrincat and Vinnie Hinostroza. I would also keep Patrick Kane on the ice for the full two minutes when possible.
As for the penalty kill, I don’t understand why Q keeps marching out Forsling on the first unit. I’m sure he will be there one day, but not quite yet. I also question when we see three inexperienced players on the same unit. I’m talking about Nick Schmaltz, Forsling and David Kampf. Chicago’s PK was 20th overall at last check and sinking. That inexperience is not helping.
Question 2: Prior to Sunday’s game I would have called it a toss-up between all three guys (Forsberg, Glass and J.F. Berube) — but I felt the win against Oilers was a statement game by Anton Forsberg.
I did like that Coach Q rode Jeff Glass while he was winning. As long as Crawford remains out of the lineup, I expect a similar strategy of going with the hot hand among the three potential backups. Right now, it’s Forsberg’s turn to carry the torch. I think he has the talent to carry it for a while.
Da Windy City
Question 1: The biggest change that needs to happen is on the powerplay. There is no perfect solution between different players, a switch in the coaching staff or just a change in strategy. The ‘Hawks are nearing the bottom of the league at 29th with a 14.4 percent conversion rate.
If the Blackhawks want a chance to make the playoffs, or go further than the first round, they need to improve now. When the ‘Hawks use their speed and move the puck effectively, they pull people out of position are able to get good looks. Most of the time, the ‘Hawks are caught standing still. They set up in good spots, but they don’t move and are easily defended.
Without moving the puck, they constantly have shots blocked and there are no open shooting lanes. Last year, the Blackhawks were at 19th in the league, clicking at 18 percent. While not much better, they had more movement.
Artemi Panarin was a big piece of the powerplay last year, with him moving to get open and able to pinpoint his one-timers they were able to pull out defenders much easier. So either looking for someone else who can coach the team to a better powerplay or finding a true powerplay “quarterback” type player is going to be the best way to get this team going.
With being able to convert on just a few of their missed opportunities, the ‘Hawks could easily have 8-12 more points, especially in some of the close games where they went 0 for 6 or 0 for 4 on the powerplay, which has been way too common.
Question 2: Anton Forsberg. While watching Jeff Glass was awesome to see, he was kind of a wild card and maybe a spark the team needed. While they seemed to play well in front of him, it is clear he should not be the No. 1 in Crawford’s absence.
Glass got some points the team needed, and at this point those points may be the few the Blackhawks need to stay in the playoff picture. After watching him a few games, he made some great saves, but he also way overslid his crease and was out of position way too many times.
The defense was able to bail him out but many times there was a wide-open net staring the opponents in the face. Forsberg needs to be in net and getting the reps, as he plays more there has been some visible improvements.
He has good instincts and is usually in the right position. One thing he needs to work on is vision. He doesn’t seem to be able to see the play well at times. He also seems to lose focus every couple games. He will have two or three games where he is giving the Blackhawks the chance to win, then he will have a game in which he seems to take his eye off the puck and not be there 100 percent.
As being a backup is difficult and not getting to play consistently can be hard, Forsberg needs to take this time to hone his skills and get as many games as possible. If he can get into a groove, his ceiling seems to be a bit higher than that of Glass, and in time Forsberg will be a much better fit.