Chicago Blackhawks Are Struggling To Stay Competitive

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CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 11: David Pastrnak #88 of the Boston Bruins tries to konck the puck away from Jan Rutta #44 of the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on March 11, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The Chicago Blackhawks are struggling as a team through the first 24 games this season. They are currently 9-10-5 sitting 10 points behind Central Division-leading Nashville Predators. The most amazing thing is that the Blackhawks are only three points out of a wildcard spot in the Western Conference. Despite all of their shortcomings, they “still have a chance” for a good season. In order to turn their season around, they will have to improve several areas as a team for this “chance” to become a reality. Their goaltending has been better with Corey Crawford back in net. Unfortunately, their defence and special teams have been letting down the team.

Chicago Blackhawks Are Struggling

Goaltending

The return of Corey Crawford was a big boost to the Blackhawks this season. Statistically, Crawford has outperformed backup Cam Ward by a large margin:

  • Corey Crawford – 5-8-1  2.68 goals-against-average and .914 save percentage
  • Cam Ward – 4-2-4  3.83 goals-against-average and .892 save percentage

If the Blackhawks have any hope of staying in the playoff picture they will need even more from their star goalie. Crawford’s season has seen its ups and downs due to the play of the team in front of him every night. Earlier in November, Corey Crawford was named the NHL’s second star of the week by going 2-0-1. The vintage Crawford performance that week as described by Paul Roumeliotis of NBCsports.com : “Prior to Wednesday, the Blackhawks had been on an eight-game losing streak. In the last three games, the team recorded five out of a possible six points, and Crawford is a big reason why.”

“In 12 games this season, Crawford is 5-6-1 with a 2.44 goals-against-average, .922 save percentage, and a shutout.”

Unfortunately, the two games that followed Crawford being the NHL’s second star saw his team get sorely outplayed against the Washington Capitals and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Crawford was left to fend for himself in the back-to-back 4-2 losses against two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Which leads us to the other two areas that drastically need to be improved.

Defence And Special Teams

The Blackhawks defence has been an issue for a couple of seasons. They have been very inconsistent with the defensive zone coverage all year. As a team, the Blackhawks are also giving up 33 shots a game, many from the prime scoring areas. The defence corps has turned the puck over way too much too. Their top four defencemen Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Henri Jokiharju, and Erik Gustafsson have combined for 70 turnovers this season. They need to limit both shots against and turnovers so that their goalies can catch their breath once in a while.

The Blackhawks special teams have been anything but special. Their penalty killing is fourth worst in the NHL at 75 percent. The Blackhawks have given up 17 power plays while being shorthanded only 68 times. Their power play is the absolute worst in the NHL at 12.7 percent. They have managed to score only nine goals out of 71 chances. The offensive talent of the Blackhawks has got to score more power play goals for the team to compete. The Blackhawks biggest problem has been finding someone to get their hands dirty in front of the net. All of the action is on the perimeter with no net front presence or rebound opportunities. Puck possession stats are great but do not score goals unless the puck gets to the net.

Blackhawks Struggles Reach All The Way To The Top

The Chicago Blackhawks team struggles have been well documented over the last few seasons. They have an ageing core with difficult to move contracts courtesy of general manager Stan Bowman. They have also drafted terribly on defence since Bowman took over for Dale Tallon in 2010. In addition, the past two off-seasons saw moves by Bowman that have been less than stellar. The past summers free agent signings is another prime example of Bowman’s struggles to put a winning roster on the ice.

As a result of the Blackhawks struggling this season, the Blackhawks brass recently decided to fire three-time Stanley Cup-winning coach Joel Quenneville. This move was met with outrage from the fan-base who hate the idea that the team is rebuilding without Coach Q. New coach Jeremy Colliton has his work cut out for him the rest of the season. Only time will tell if he is the right man to lead the Blackhawks through another difficult year into playoff relevance in the near future.

 

Main Photo: CHICAGO, IL – MARCH 11: David Pastrnak #88 of the Boston Bruins tries to konck the puck away from Jan Rutta #44 of the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on March 11, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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