2018 was a bust for the Chicago Blackhawks. Will 2019 be any better?
The Chicago Blackhawks have been spiraling downward since their 2015 Stanley Cup championship. We’ve chronicled the trials and tribulations of the organization from the front office down to the players. It certainly hasn’t been pretty or very enjoyable to watch a great team implode to the bottom of the NHL standings. When you drop that far down, there’s only one way left to go but up, right?
Not so fast, Kowalski!
Reasons to be concerned.
Last year at this time, I wrote about the Chicago Blackhawks’ wish list. It included shot suppression, an NHL-caliber defense, forward line chemistry, and Santa Crow bringing goalie wins to all good boys and girls. Fast forward to the present and they’re still wishing for the same things. Let’s look at these issues.
Shots, shots, shots.
Last year, the Chicago Blackhawks were living in the netherworld between bad and good in regard to unblocked shots for and against. This year, they’re just bad. Take a peek at the chart from Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) that plots 5-on-5 unblocked shots for and against. The only team worse than the ‘Hawks are the Ottawa Senators.
In their last game against the New York Islanders, the ‘Hawks surrendered 50 shots on their net. Goalie Collin Delia managed to stop all but 3 of that barrage of shots. In their last five games, they have been out-shot 193-145. The ‘Hawks currently rank 23rd in the league for the number blocked shots. They are not last in this statistic, but they also give up the 3rd most shots in the NHL. This paints the whole picture of the ‘Hawks allowing their netminder to be pummeled on a nightly basis.
The roster lacks enough players fast enough to keep up with speedy forwards. We’ve seen numerous scoring chances and actual goals where the opposition managed to get behind the defense. The roster also lacks players who are willing to sell out in the defensive zone to block shots. It was obvious how upset former coach Joel Quenneville became when his best shot blocker in Niklas Hjalmarsson was traded away. There aren’t enough defenseman willing to turn their bodies to absorb shots the way Hjalmarsson did, other than Brent Seabrook and Connor Murphy.
What we have seen in the way of shot blocks has mainly been players in a stand-up goalie stance offering about a 2-foot width barrier. Turning sideways in a genuflect offers at least twice that area, but boy that can hurt. This is a major problem that hasn’t been corrected. There doesn’t seem to be any desire from the team to improve in that area. And the Chicago Blackhawks can’t depend on Collin Delia to sustain a gaudy .952 save percentage to constantly compensate for their lack of dedication.