Duncan Keith still leads the rag-tag group that makes up the Chicago Blackhawks defense in average time on ice, however a four-game stretch starting with the New York Rangers shows that a different trend may be starting (this according to Scott Powers).
"Against Rangers Henri Jokiharju 20:01 Erik Gustafsson 19:24 Duncan Keith 16:36 Brent Seabrook 14:24 Jan Rutta 14:24 Brandon Manning 10:31 Against Ducks Jokiharju: 17:25 Keith: 15:45 Gustafsson: 14:28 Rutta: 13:39 Manning: 12:48 Seabrook: 11:34 Against Lightning Jokiharju: 18:28 Keith: 17:42 Gustafsson: 16:07 Rutta: 14:58 Brandon Davidson: 11:22 Seabrook: 11:13 Against Blue Jackets Jokiharju: 18:28 Keith: 16:30 Gustafsson: 1604 Rutta: 15:06 Seabrook: 14:01 Davidson: 13:06"
A teenager in 19-year old Henri Jokiharju is taking over as the team’s number one defenseman (in ATOI, at least) and is doing so without getting time on the power play. Additionally, Erik Gustafsson has propelled himself into a role as one of the team’s semi-reliable defensemen.
While it’s great to see two young defensemen playing significant parts in the team’s defense, there’s far more negatives here than there are positives. Brandon Manning, the only defensemen brought in over the off-season, is sitting around the lowest average for defensemen and has earned himself a handful of healthy scratches to date.
Additionally, against the Oilers two nights ago, Luke Johnson (who played his first NHL game this season and skates primarily in a bottom-six role) played more minutes than Brandon Davidson and just over one minute less then Manning.
For fun, let’s take a look at how the Blackhawks defensemen have fared in +/- to start the season.
- Jokiharju: +3
- Keith: +3
- Seabrook: -1
- Gustafsson: -2
- Rutta: -2
- Davidson: -3
- Manning: -5
If you’re someone who doesn’t care for statistics, no one is trying to argue that these guys are passing the eye test, either. Take a look at the type of scoring chances this defense gave up against Edmonton.
The red area highlights where the Oilers generated the most of their shots from. It’s not an unfamiliar site to see the Blackhawks giving up so many chances surrounding their net as this has been a trend all season.
Sometimes your goaltender can bail you out, but the Edmonton game showcased exactly what happens when you give up one (or four) too many high quality scoring chances against.
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Defense is a problem with this team and it looks as if that won’t be changing for the foreseeable future.
But hey, at least Jokiharju is damn fun to watch.