Analysis

Chicago Blackhawks: Notes on where the team needs to improve

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Jan 26, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Andrew Shaw (65) complains about a penalty call during the third period against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 26, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Andrew Shaw (65) complains about a penalty call during the third period against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /
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Let’s pretend for a moment that the Blackhawks are as good as the growing hype around them says they are. (They probably aren’t.)

There are only 40 games left in the season, but Chicago is currently in fourth place, just edging out Columbus for a spot. They’re allegedly going to the playoffs and are going to surprise everyone, but is this true?  Assuming it is, here are a few things the Chicago Blackhawks needs to work on, and quickly.

The Chicago Blackhawks have a few glaring problems that need to be addressed. Even if the team is (improbably) winning games, there are issues.

These issues, by the way, aren’t necessarily the fault of the new guys. To get a better idea of where Chicago stands, I looked at the team’s stats, and game logs.

First and foremost, the team’s defense is a bit shaky. In 17 games, Chicago has allowed their opponents to have 30 or more Shots in all but three games. (Two of those games were against Detroit and the third was against Columbus.)

This isn’t good enough, and Chicago will need to start shutting down their opponents more consistently. It’s understood that this year is about developing younger players, but Chicago’s goalies are being forced into action more than they should be.
Maybe a porous defense was how the team decided it wanted to develop their goalies? It’s a theory, but probably not the actual plan. The team needs to start figuring out how they can tighten up defensively if they’re going to be a true contender.

Second, faceoffs have been a bit rough. Chicago is more often than not losing their faceoffs. In fact, Chicago has only been at 50% or more in seven of their games this year. The obvious problem here is that Chicago then has to go and get the puck back so time is being wasted trying to regain possession. This is an area where not having Toews really hurts the team, but other guys need to step up (I’m looking at you and your 45% at the dot, Dylan Strome!).

Third, penalties. Chicago is committing far too many penalties. For a team that is so thin on talent, The Blackhawks are taking risks due to all the time they spend in the box. Chicago is averaging about 7 minutes* in the box per game (fights skew these numbers a bit), but the team currently has a penalty-kill (81.13%) that ranks at only slightly over the league average (79.02%). This is going to cost them games, and they need to show a bit more discipline.

*I added all of the PIM, including fights, for Chicago, and divided it by the number of games.

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Despite all this, Chicago is still doing what they can to scrap for points in the standings. Their 3-2 overtime victory against Detroit is a good example of the team’s current mentality. Consistent effort, above-average goaltending, and timely special teams have kept Chicago in just about every game. Their ability to play tenaciously game after game is what is getting hopes up for some of Chicago’s fans. There is clearly work to do, but some of their biggest issues are things that can be improved quickly. Will it be in time for the postseason? We’ll have to wait and see!

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