At 5-2-2 the Chicago Blackhawks head to Las Vegas to play the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday. The Hawks sit in 2nd place in the Central Division. However, despite their strong play overall, a lack of consistency has plagued the team. One issue is penalties. The Blackhawks are averaging over four power plays against per game to their opponents. This cannot continue. Their game against the Knights on Tuesday will be another tough matchup for the Hawks.
Chicago Blackhawks Head to Las Vegas Seeking Consistency
After a positive start to the season, the Chicago Blackhawks are in 2nd place in the Central Division. They are 1 point behind the St. Louis Blues and 1 point ahead of the 3rd place Dallas Stars. The Hawks at times have looked unbeatable, and at other times they have looked disorganized and lost. After a major overhaul this last summer, it isn’t surprising that they lack consistency. It may take several weeks before the team can develop the level of play that the Chicago Blackhawk fans expect and demand.
Their game against the 6-1-0 Knights on Tuesday night will pit two teams tied for 2nd in the Western Conference against each other. The Knights are 4-1 at home this year and have beaten some good teams including the St. Louis Blues.
There are several areas of play that need recognition. Some are good, and some are not so good.
Goaltenders Have Been Solid
Corey Crawford and Anton Forsberg have been lights out so far this season. They are one of the reasons the Hawks are 5-2-2. Crawford’s goals-against average (1.86) and save percentage (.949) are second best in the NHL. Forsberg has started two games and lost both in O.T. His save percentage sits at .929 after the two O.T. losses. Both goalies have had to stand on their heads at times to keep their team in the game. They have faced 320 shots against which is #1 in the NHL. If the Blackhawks want to succeed this season, they going to have to reduce the shots against each game.
4th Line Shines
The Blackhawks 4th line of Tommy Wingels, Lance Bouma, and John Hayden have been on a roll lately. They have been the most consistent line for Coach Quenneville and he has rewarded them with more ice time. Hayden and Wingels average over 10 minutes of ice time each game. Bouma isn’t far behind with just under 9 minutes. They have brought energy and physical play when they’re on the ice. In last night’s game against the Arizona Coyotes, their line had two goals and two assists, 5 shots on goal, four blocked shots, and eight hits. Also, rookie John Hayden is currently second in the NHL with 32 hits.
Special Teams Play
The Blackhawks special teams are another area that needs some improvement, especially the power play unit. The Hawks power play has had limited success this season and sits at 17.1% which is 19th in the NHL. With the amount of talent on the Hawks, there is no reason they should not be in the top ten. The penalty killing unit has been productive this season and sits at 85.7%, which is 6th best in the league. One way to make that better is to take fewer penalties. Last evening in Arizona, they had to defend against two 5-3 situations in the first period alone.
Turnovers Have Been Brutal
After a major overhaul in the defense this summer, the Blackhawks went into the season carrying 8 defensemen. Coach Joel Quenneville has worked several D pairings into his lineup while getting every player time on the ice. The Hawks D has at times looked great and at other times brutal. Their defensive zone coverage has been very predictable and they have struggled to break out of their zone. One huge problem is turnovers. The Hawks defensemen have given the puck up way too much. Brent Seabrook leads the team in turnovers with 11, followed by Duncan Keith and Michal Kempny with 9. The turnovers have to improve if the Hawks want to challenge for the Stanley Cup.
With the talent of the Blackhawks core and productive new players, they have the potential to win the Western Conference again. Whether they go far in the playoffs will depend on how much they can improve between now and then.