Chicago Blackhawks’ Hot And Not Entering New Year 2018

OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 9: Patrick Kane
OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 9: Patrick Kane /

Welcome to this week’s roundup of who’s hot and not among the Chicago Blackhawks as the new year of 2018 starts picking up steam

The Chicago Blackhawks completed their first five games of 2018 with a mixed bag of performances.  The ‘Hawks outscored their opponents 23-11 as the offense came to life, and they posted a record of 3-2.  Let’s take a look at the hot and the not in these games.

Hot: Patrick Kane

Over the five games, Patrick Kane turned up the heat with two goals and six assists for eight points.  This included an electrifying performance against the Ottawa Senators, with a personal high of five points.

Kane has been on a tear with a new line of Nick Schmaltz at center and Ryan Hartman at left wing.  This trio, which worked out together last summer in Florida, rekindled the explosive chemistry it displayed on opening night.

The insertion of Hartman for the injured Artem Anisimov has added more speed and energy to make Kane and Schmaltz dangerous scoring weapons.  It will be difficult for coach Joel Quenneville to break up this trio when Anisimov returns from injury.

Not: Duncan Keith

Duncan Keith continues to play solid defense but has still not scored a single goal this season.  Over the five game span, he recorded three assists for three points and a plus-5 rating.  While he continues to post a positive Corsi-for percentage of 54.2 percent, he continues to look tentative in the offensive zone.

His difficulty with decision-making is putting him on pace for the most giveaways in his career.  This negative trend found him losing his spot on the powerplay first unit to Jordan Oesterle in the Edmonton game.  As Coach Q likes to say, we’re looking for more from him.

More from Analysis

Hot: Nick Schmaltz

The return to the center position has boosted Schmaltz into second place in team scoring, just behind his linemate Kane.  Over the five games, Schmaltz tallied five goals and three assists for eight points and a five-game scoring streak.

In the open ice, he has been creating scoring opportunities with his speed and slick stick handling.  The only knock on him is that he still has moments where he should shoot but passes instead.  His stellar play at center may cement him there on the second line.

NOT: The powerplay

The powerplay continues to be a concern.  The ‘Hawks went 4 for 15 over the five-game span, but all four goals came in the lopsided game against the Ottawa Senators.  So besides that game, the power play went 0 for 9.

The same defects exist: poor zone entries, insufficient net-front presence, lack of movement, too many passes and low quantity and quality of shots.  While it appeared that the ‘Hawks had learned how to work the 1-3-1 overload in the Ottawa game, they regressed in the next game in a loss to the Minnesota Wild.

If the ‘Hawks wish to get back into playoff contention, they’ll need to get this aspect of their game going now.

Hot: Vinnie Hinostroza

Vinnie Hinostroza has tallied two goals and four assists for six points over the last five games.  While he trailed captain Jonathan Toews by one point (four goals and three assists for seven points), he has truly been the catalyst for the resurgence of the top line.

Hinostroza’s speed and hockey IQ make him a fine complement to the talents of Toews and Brandon Saad.  While Richard Panik continually went to the same areas of the ice as his linemates, his replacement Hinostroza creates space by speeding down the sideboards and taking defenders with him.

He is able to feed the puck more quickly to Toews and Saad in the middle of the ice than did Panik.  This top line is once again a scoring threat due to the presence of Hinostroza.

Not: Richard Panik

More from Analysis

Outside of the Ottawa game, Panik had become so much of a non-factor that he was dropped to the fourth line to replace John Hayden.  Hayden was sent down to the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL to get some more playing time in a top-nine and perhaps even a top-six capacity.

Panik then found himself traded Wednesday to the Arizona Coyotes for forward Anthony Duclair.  We wish him well in his endeavors with the Coyotes.

Honorable hot mentions

Captain Toews with seven points in the last five games has become a scoring force again.

Defenseman Oesterle has cemented his spot on the top pairing with high minutes and a scoring line of one goal and three assists for four points.

Center David Kampf has stepped right in from Rockford to head the third line and play effectively on the penalty kill with partner Schmaltz.

Next: 5 Thoughts On Blackhawks' Duclair-Panik Trade

Final thought

The trade of Panik for Duclair increases the ‘Hawks’ salary cap room to $2.81M, per CapFriendly.  This will certainly generate some HOT discussion about how general manager Stan Bowman will utilize this larger cushion.