Friday, December 6, 2013
A look at positives, negatives for Hawks
By Scott Powers
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks were on a roll for much of their recent seven-game road trip, but the past week hasn’t been kind to them. They dropped back-to-back games in regulation and fell in a shootout to the Anaheim Ducks on Friday.
Here’s a look at the positives and negatives for the Blackhawks right now:
Perhaps the biggest plus the Blackhawks have going for them is the superior play of Patrick Kane.
1. Patrick Kane is now one of the best offensive players in the game. He’s tied for third in the league with 34 points through 31 games. He’s recorded points in 15 of the past 16 games. He contributed an assist on Ben Smith’s goal on Friday.
2. The Blackhawks can afford a small lull. Despite going 0-2-1 in their past three games, the Blackhawks still lead the NHL with 45 points. They have a 20-6-5 record and a four-point lead on the St. Louis Blues in the Central. The Blues have played four fewer games than the Blackhawks.
3. Rookie netminder Antti Raanta has established himself as a reliable backup and allowed the Blackhawks to rest Corey Crawford. Raanta stopped 23 of 25 shots on Friday. He’s 2-0-1 with a 2.08 goals-against average and .918 save percentage in four games.
4. The Blackhawks’ power play has produced steadily. They couldn’t keep their power play going at a consistent rate last season. The Blackhawks have scored a power-play goal in their past three games and have scored on the power play in 19 of 31 games this season. They have scored 21 power-play goals this season through 31 games; Chicago scored 25 in 48 games past season.
1. The Blackhawks’ biggest problem this season has been their penalty kill, and it hasn’t improved much over time. The Blackhawks have allowed 24 power-play goals on 85 chances for a 71.8 percentage. Last season, they allowed 18 goals on 141 chances for an 87.2 percentage. They have given up a power-play goal in each of their past four games.
2. Crawford is struggling. He allowed eight goals on 41 shots in the past two games. He’s allowed four or more goals seven times in 27 games this season. He did that three times in 30 games last season. His 2.49 goals-against average and .906 save percentage puts him in the bottom half of goaltenders in the league.
3. The Blackhawks haven’t been able to play a consistent lineup for some time. They have been without Bryan Bickell for nine games. Michal Handzus has played only in 14 games. Andrew Shaw has missed the past two games with an upper-body injury. Marian Hossa missed five games. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville also hasn’t been happy with the prospects that have come up and hasn’t given them consistent minutes.
4. The Blackhawks are a tired team. They have traveled, practiced or been on the road for 18 of the past 19 days. They get Saturday off completely.