Analysis

Chicago Blackhawks Roundtable: Making Changes And Leading Goalie

By Colin Likas
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 07: Vinnie Hinostroza
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 07: Vinnie Hinostroza /
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CHICAGO, IL – JANUARY 07: Anton Forsberg
CHICAGO, IL – JANUARY 07: Anton Forsberg /

Colin Likas

Question 1: There are a number of good answers to this. The really obvious one is a healthy Corey Crawford, but that’s something beyond the Blackhawks’ control.

Puck possession has been a lot better at 5-on-5 as the season has gone on, which helps take some pressure off the defense. Now, it’s pretty obvious that there’s still need for major improvements on the blue line — the Blackhawks still permit more than 30 shots per night despite possessing the puck pretty well. But I’m not sure there’s a market for what Chicago needs on defense.

So let’s turn to the powerplay, because that is an impressively bad unit. It’s amazing it isn’t ranked last in the NHL, but it’s close enough to being in that spot and feels like it belongs there.

The Blackhawks’ biggest issue with the man advantage has been standing still. This isn’t a recent development, either. Puck movement on the powerplay is something the Blackhawks almost seem averse to.

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So, yeah, move the puck. Just do that and see where this takes things. Having a true powerplay quarterback would also be nice, but the Blackhawks have enough talented athletes that they should be able to compile at least one non-laughable powerplay unit.

Question 2: Anton Forsberg is the answer. He’s been a more steady presence in net than Glass, who seemingly needs the team to go offensively catatonic anytime he wants to pick up a win.

Forsberg is a lot more quiet in net and fares better when he’s playing more consistently. Let him run out of a stretch of games here to grab some confidence that he can use in the future, while backing up Crow.

Steve Yatsushiro

Question 1: As I mentioned in my recent post, the ‘Hawks need to get themselves a bona fide shutdown center to reduce some of the hard minutes that Jonathan Toews is playing. There has always been a third-line shutdown center since 2010.

Dave Bolland was “The Rat,” and then Marcus Kruger filled in that role. Stan Bowman messed up the process when he traded away the heir apparent to that role in Phillip Danault, and then Kruger. So Toews as the only shutdown center is stuck playing against all the top lines.

He has recently shown that he still has elite skill, but this season has been an up-and-down ride for his production. It’s easy to say that he just needs to play like an elite $10M-per-year center, but for him to play at that level consistently with all those hard minutes is the thing.

There are a few trade candidates out there, but after looking at a lot of their advanced stats, Tomas Plekanec looks like the most attainable and best fit. The play of David Kampf has been great since his call-up, but sustainability is always a concern with rookies.

Even if he’s a keeper, getting a solid shutdown center will restore the structure to the team of having that guy who can give opponents fits. The trickle-down effect benefits all the forward lines.

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This is really a tough question, as getting a true top-four defender is also right up there at the top of the wish list. Shot suppression has been a sore spot for the ‘Hawks all season. The revolving door of defenders is not helping solidify the top-four spots, and there aren’t many teams out there willing to trade away a top-four defenseman.

There are just too many teams still chasing a playoff spot who won’t give up a quality defender right now. And the rumors surrounding Erik Karlsson and Kris Letang are simply pie-in-the-sky stuff.

Just as the trade deadline loomed a couple years ago, the ‘Hawks had to decide if obtaining Andrew Ladd or a solid defenseman was the right decision. We know how that worked out … should’ve gotten the defender.

But considering the ‘Hawks’ salary cap situation, lack of desirable trade assets and the lack of available quality defenders, I went with the shutdown center. If you allow me to be wishy-washy on this answer, I’d say that if Kampf miraculously turns out to be a solid shutdown center by the trade deadline, then do the about-face and pursue a top-four defenseman.

Question 2: The Jeff Glass run was a feel-good story, but that’s about it. His fundamentals are lacking as he loses his net often and seems to have frozen moments after making a save. Add in poor rebound control and you see why he made his NHL debut at the age of 32.

He is a true “gamer,” and I’m sure the guys love playing in front of him. But Anton Forsberg is so much more fundamentally sound and had performed well earlier. Forsberg had a little rough spot with mental mistakes in the games just before being benched, but he rebounded nicely against the Edmonton Oilers.

Next: Blackhawks' Toews Tracker: First Half Of 2017-18

So maybe the benching was a good jolt to his personal motivation and got him to focus more. That’s part of the learning curve with rookie goalies. The ‘Hawks need to develop this younger goalie with a higher floor and higher ceiling than Glass. And so it’s my opinion that Forsberg should be given the lion’s share of playing time until Crawford returns.

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