The Chicago Blackhawks have won five of six games since firing head coach Jeremy Colliton. Seemingly, a huge weight has been lifted from this team. The players look happier and they appear to be playing much harder for new coach Derek King. From a fan perspective, what once looked like a battle for the first pick has turned to thoughts of a playoff push.
It’s easy to bask in this success, but a quick look at some key stats shows a tenuous hold on success that could be fleeting without some attention to detail. The Blackhawks have played well enough to win, but have benefitted from a friendly schedule. During these five games, Blackhawks opponents have a combined record of 31-49-10. Not exactly the whose who of great teams. Their only loss came to Edmonton who has a record of 13-4.
It is indeed a tenuous hold on success because, although they won, they struggled in shooting stats often. Excluding the Oilers game, the Blackhawks were outshot 136-161, and they gave up over 40 shots in two games. High danger chances against the Hawks told a similar story with the Blackhawks losing this battle in three of those games. The defense does tend to surround and support the goalie in better position, but still struggle to get the puck cleanly out of the defensive zone.
Lucky for the Blackhawks, Marc Andre Fleury has returned to his legendary status. Fleury played in four of the five wins. He posted save percentages of .955, .957, .939 and 1.000. He recorded a shutout against Vancouver on 40 saves. While it’s fun to watch and marvel at his greatness, it’s not logical to think he can keep this up. At some point, giving up 40 shots on goal and turning the puck over in front of the net will cost the Blackhawks.
Finally, the Blackhawks are lacking scoring power right now. In the six games since King took over, Chicago has only managed 14 goals. Alex DeBrincat has 11 goals so far and Patrick Kane has 6. Brandon Hagel has surprisingly notched five goals, but it goes south from there. If the Blackhawks are to keep winning, they will have to find some more goals because the bottom half of the lineup isn’t getting much done.
Perhaps Lukas Reichel is the answer; he is doing very well in Rockford. Reece Johnson has no points in ten games. Mike Hardman has one point in 12 games. Jujhar Khaira has one point in 12 games. MacKenzie Entwistle has looked good at times, but only has three points in 12 games. Of course, some of these players offer more than points, but the Hawks are going to need players to chip in a little bit if they want to sustain this winning.
While it is encouraging to see the Blackhawks winning, it must come with a measure of caution. This team is a bit of puck luck here or there to losing some games. The Hawks can’t count on winning overtime games, can’t give up 40 shots on goal, and can’t expect Marc Andre Fleury to bail them out every game. It’s fun to learn lessons in wins, so hopefully as King gets more time with this team, he can tighten the D a little more and increase offensive zone time and scoring chances. They will need it as they face the first place Calgary Flames next.