2019-20 Chicago Blackhawks Mid-Season Review

2019-20 Chicago Blackhawks
VANCOUVER, BC - JANUARY 02: Chicago Blackhawks Goalie Robin Lehner (40) looks up ice during their NHL game against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on January 2, 2020 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The 2019-20 Chicago Blackhawks Mid-Season Review will look at the current state of the Chicago Blackhawks compared to recent seasons. We will look at statistical comparisons as well as aspects of the team that are their strengths and also their weaknesses.

2019-20 Chicago Blackhawks Mid-Season Review

Here are the recent Blackhawks Mid-Season records:

  • 2015-16 Blackhawks: 25-13-4 (54 points)
  • 2016-17 Blackhawks  25-12-5 (55 points)
  • 2017-18 Blackhawks  21-15-6 (48 points)
  • 2018-19 Blackhawks  15-21-6 (36 points)
  • 2019-20 Blackhawks  18-18-6 (42 points)

Currently, the Blackhawks record is 18-18-6 after playing 42 games. They find themselves five points out of the last Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. A year ago the 2018-19 Chicago Blackhawks record of 15-21-6 had them sitting nine points out of the final Wild Card spot. The season before that the 2017-18 Blackhawks were dead last in the Western Conference after 42 games.

The Blackhawks mid-season records over the past five seasons do reveal a downward trend for the team. During the last two seasons, both squads did not make the playoffs while the 2015-16 and 2016-17 teams made playoff appearances but were eliminated in the first round.

Of all of the seasons, the 2019-20 Blackhawks mid-season record is the most disappointing. During the off-season, General Manager Stan Bowman made numerous roster moves intending to reverse the downward spiral the team was suffering under his management since 2009. While being a .500 team compared to last season is an improvement, the team is still searching for consistency. Up next we will review the current team’s strengths and weaknesses.

2019-20 Chicago Blackhawks Strengths

The most improved part of the Blackhawks this season is their goaltending. Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner have done their best to help their team win each game. They face the most shots (36.3) per game in the NHL which has not improved since game one.

They also face a large number of “High Danger” shots against compared to the other goalies in the NHL. Crawford has faced 172 High Danger shots while saving 148 per naturalstattrick.com and Lehner has faced 167 while saving 138. That is a combined 339 high danger shots in 42 games which is the most in the NHL this season. Despite playing behind a defence corps that has been inconsistent they have both done extremely well statistically.

Here are the two goalies records up to now:

  • Robin Lehner: Record, 12-7-4; Goals Against Average, 2.92; Save Percentage, .922
  • Corey Crawford: Record, 6-11-2; Goals Against Average, 3.20; Save Percentage, .905

After a four-game losing streak in December, the Blackhawks went 5-2-1 to finish out the month. They rode Lehner as he got hot and won the final three games of the month. Unfortunately, he was injured in his last game against the Vancouver Canucks on January 2nd. He is considered day-to-day and will hopefully return quickly.

The unfortunate injury will give the net back to Corey Crawford with Kevin Lankinen backing him up until Lehner can return. It will be Crawford’s time to shine while he gets a chance to play again. The Blackhawks faithful are hoping the Lenher injury is minor and they get back the goaltending tandem that has provided much-needed consistency in net. This is also a chance for the Blackhawks to rally as a team and improve their play in their own zone. Crawford cannot be expected to carry the team all by himself while facing so many quality chances every game.

Special Teams

At this Blackhawks mid-season point, we find the team with a reversal of last season when their penalty-killing unit was the worst in the NHL. They struggled early on in the 2019-20 season but have been extremely successful recently. Their penalty killing has improved so much that they are now ninth in the NHL at 81.7%. This drastic turnabout has helped them win some close games over the last month.

Unfortunately, their power-play success has gone in the other direction. The team has continued to not learn from their past mistakes with the man advantage. They have consistently played to the outside and refused to get greasy in the slot. They cycle the puck relentlessly around the zone and prefer to look for the back door one-timers instead of getting the puck to the net. This recent drop off in success has them now at a 15.7% power-play conversion rate putting them 24th in the NHL. This team has too much talent to be that inept on the power play. This is one area that will have to improve dramatically if they expect to compete for a playoff spot.

Blackhawks Weaknesses

It would be easy to start off with the defence as the biggest Blackhawks mid-season weakness. Playing defence however is a team responsibility, especially playing under coach Jeremy Colliton‘s man-on-man scheme. The forwards and the defence pair must act as a cohesive unit of five working together to cover the zone.

This challenging coverage scheme has not had much success since Colliton took over despite some minor tweaks. As shown above, this coverage gives up way too many quality chances against the overwhelmed goalies. Colliton’s refusal to adapt or change to the more traditional defence coverage places him as one of the Blackhawks’ weaknesses.

It is not his fault that he was promoted to the head coaching job replacing the three-time Cup-winning coach Joel Quenneville. With zero head coaching experience in the NHL, he never should have been put in this no-win situation. That choice falls on Stan Bowman who chose to fire Coach Q without a solid replacement.

Speaking of replacements, you can be sure that the hiring of Marc Crawford this past summer was done as a backup plan in case the team struggled again. Sadly, Bowman would have no idea that Crawford’s coaching past would come back to haunt him. He was placed on leave due to an investigation into his abusive behavior as a coach in the past. The timing of his 30-day leave came exactly at the same time the Blackhawks were struggling terribly. Without the leave, it would be safe to say that Crawford would have assumed control of the bench replacing the inexperienced Colliton. Now that Crawford has returned he will be next in line if the team falters.

2019-20 Chicago Blackhawks Mid-Season Wrap Up

The Blackhawks have proven that they can beat any team in the NHL. They truly have nowhere to go but up. If they can get through the injuries, improve their power play, and defence coverage they have a shot to push back into the playoff picture.

They will be trying to do that with many injuries to key players that have forced several rookies into the lineup. The youngsters will be forced to “learn as they burn” at the professional level instead of the AHL level. Whether they survive or not will depend on their character and heart. Luckily the team has several veterans that will show them the way. Yep, nowhere to go but up.

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