After their overtime loss on Monday in Vancouver, the Chicago Blackhawks sit with 74 points on the season. The race to the playoffs is heating up and two notable players have stood out through this stretch.
The Chicago Blackhawks wouldn’t be where they are today without these guys, so let’s take a look.
Not only has no. 11 been very productive lately, he is proving to be a better asset than originally assumed. The bar was set low for Perlini when he came to the Chicago Blackhawks as part of the Nick Schmaltz deal. The former first round pick never quite lived up to the expectations that come with being drafted so high.
When the trade went down, Perlini was more or less viewed as an extra forward thrown into the deal.
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In 22 games with Arizona before the deal, he tallied 6 points with a -5 +/- rating. All things considering, low expectations were certainly deserved given his performance throughout the start of his career.
However, playing with Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome has seemingly unlocked something within the winger. Somehow, his shooting percentage has almost tripled since his arrival in Chicago. With his mark currently at 17.7%, he is scoring goals with a career-high efficiency. By comparison, Connor McDavid’s shooting percentage is 16.7%.
Perlini has played so well for the Chicago Blackhawks lately that the league has started to take notice. Most recently, he was named the 2nd Star of the Week (ending March 17th). During the Chicago Blackhawks 5-game win streak, Perlini totaled 8 points (6 G, 2 A).
In that time, he recorded his first career hat trick at home against his former team, the Arizona Coyotes.
Simply put, Perlini is playing his best hockey while in Chicago. It’s also worth noting that he’s is an RFA after this season. Should Chicago keep him around? Read about it here.
What can be said about this defenseman that has not already been said? For a squad that has had back-end problems game after game all season, seeing a bright glimmer of hope deserves the recognition. Even before the Duncan Keith trade rumors started, Erik Gustafsson has been a work horse for the blue-line (despite his defensive decencies).
Henri Jokiharju was sent down to Rockford shortly after winning Gold with Finland in the World Juniors. Since then, Gustafsson has taken more 1st line shifts and produced more offensively. Like Perlini, he is putting up career high numbers. His defensive metrics have doubled this year, and he has double digit goals for the first time (14) with 37 points on the season.
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The Chicago Blackhawks have many defensive prospects in the pipeline that will be vying for a roster spot this summer. Meanwhile, ‘Gus still has one more year left on his deal with Chicago. Among the impending new comers on the blue-line, Erik Gustafsson’s production next year will be even more vital. Assuming he stays in Chicago, Gustafsson looks to be a big part of the future moving forward.