Breaking Down the Chicago Blackhawks’ New Systems

Jeremy Colliton, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jeremy Colliton, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Jeremy Colliton, Chicago Blackhawks
Jeremy Colliton, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Blackhawks coaching staff have gone to the drawing board early in the season to fix many of their problems.

They definitely found a few things that work much better than their old ideas did.

The Chicago Blackhawks possessed one of the most passive forechecks I have watched in recent history in the first four games. I think the reasoning is because they didn’t have a stud goaltender at the time, so they had to get back to defend immediately and not take risks.

This changed drastically when Kevin Lankinen proved to be able to stop almost every shot at him. This opened up the Blackhawks to try new things to take advantage of this to be the “track-meet”, relentless team they wanted to be. By “track-meet” I mean that they want to skate up and down the ice, applying relentless pressure on the forecheck but still be quick to be back to defend the rush.

2-1-2 Forecheck

The 2-1-2 forecheck the Blackhawks use has two forwards attempting to trap the puck on one side, with the third forward preparing to help the defense on the backcheck or jump up on the play if the two forwards force a turnover.

In their second game of their homestand vs the Columbus Blue Jackets, the forecheck caused multiple turnovers, (though the misplays by the goaltender helped). Pius Suter would first crash the puck carrier, in this case it was Merzlinkins, and forced a pass. He instead took the puck away from a misplay by the goalie and quickly shot it on net as Merzlinkins attempted to scramble back into position. Suter scored on the play, the reward to his effort.

The second time this game was again pressure by Philipp Kurashev, causing a turnover from Merzlinkins, his second of the game. He would find Patrick Kane, the second forechecker, at the goal line who would shoot the puck into the net at a tough angle for their second goal. Again, offense followed the relentless forecheck, but Mattias Janmark was still prepared to help the defense defend the rush, staying high in the zone close to the blueline.

They ran a conservative forecheck before, with a variation of a 1-2-2: A forward enters the zone, trying to get in the passing zone, two forwards back near center ice, and the defensemen at the blue line trying to read the play. This wouldn’t do much as the opposition would get past them with a breakout pass, and set up in the offensive zone if they couldn’t capitalize on an odd-man rush. It was an easy, predictable defense and the league tore them apart.

Because of this new-found system, they generated chances for, and a couple goals for as well against Columbus where the forechecking forward would cause a turnover and the others would jump on it, trying to get a shot on net. But, again, this is only a thing the Blackhawks can do because they know they have a goaltender they can trust who is a brick wall back on their end.