After a brief hiatus due to a special night for this hockey fan, it’s back to business with your weekly updates. The Chicago Blackhawks just finished their eleventh week of the season and their 33rd game. It also marked their fifth win in a row! Up until now, the Hawks haven’t strung together more than two consecutive wins all season.
The Hawks visited the Florida Panthers last Tuesday, putting together a 3-2 victory after beating both the Buffalo Sabres and the Arizona Coyotes the previous week. Things only got better from there, as they defeated the Winnipeg Jets 5-1 on Thursday. This past Sunday, they hosted the Minnesota Wild for a 4-1 win. Let’s take a closer look at the highlights from this winning week.
Related – Blackhawks Weekly: Coming up Short
Winner of the Week: Patrick Kane
While the Hawks as a whole have been streaking, Kaner has been on a roll individually as well. He recently had a four-game skid with no points, but has bounced back with four goals and three assists in the last four games.
Kane provided two assists against the Coyotes last week. This week, he added a goal against the Panthers, a score and an assist against the Jets, and two goals versus the Wild. These last two tallies were his thirteenth and fourteenth of the season, making him the Hawks’ leader in goals scored. His contributions earned him the honor of being named the NHL’s No. 1 star of the week.
Kane has also now accumulated 299 goals in his NHL career. This puts him as the fifth-highest goal scorer in the history of the franchise. At this current rate, number 300 should be right around the corner.
Let’s not forget the role linemate Nick Schmaltz has played in Kane’s success. Kane and Schmaltz have developed some excellent chemistry, especially in these last three games. Of Kane’s four recent goals, Schmaltz assisted on two of them, and Kane returned the favor when Schmaltz scored in Winnipeg.
The highlight of the week has to be this no-look pass by Schmaltz for Kane’s goal against the Winnipeg Jets.
Loser of the Week: Richard Panik
After going 18 straight games without a goal, Panik was finally demoted from the top line to the fourth line. He wallowed there for another four games, and has been a healthy scratch for the last three games. Things are not looking good for the winger.
Since he’s been out of the lineup, the fourth line of Lance Bouma, Tommy Wingels, and John Hayden have been reunited. This “energy” line, as Coach Q likes to call them, has been a positive factor all season. Wingels is on a bit of a streak of his own. He has four goals in the last five games. With this continuing, and the team winning, Panik’s future could involve a lot of time in the press box.
What Went Right for the Blackhawks: Coming Together
The Blackhawks are starting to put it all together.
They’re scoring goals, and not giving up as many goals against. Last week, the Hawks scored eight goals and gave up nine. This week, they’ve scored 12 goals and only given up four.
They’re getting contributions from all across the board. Of their 12 goals scored, the first line was accountable twice. The second line can be given credit for five goals. The third and fourth lines both added two tallies. Defense (Michal Kempny) provided the twelfth goal, and defensemen were involved with assists three other times. Yes, the second line is responsible for a lot of production right now, but it’s not just them. It’s a well-rounded effort.
They’re playing solid defense. The Hawks finally had three solid defensive pairings, and then Cody Franson and Jan Rutta both went out with injuries. But Kempny and Jordan Oesterle have stepped up admirably in their absence. Kempny contributed a goal against the Jets, and Oesterle has looked especially good alongside Duncan Keith on the top pairing. It was Oesterle’s head’s up stretch pass that resulted in Kane’s second goal Sunday night.
Goaltending has been stellar. Corey Crawford continues to be one of the most consistent players for the Hawks. Since returning from injury, he’s posted a .956 save percentage in the last five games.
— Eric Lear (@BHTVeric) December 18, 2017
The penalty kill is still strong. The Hawks have only allowed one power play goal against six tries the last three games. They are currently seventh in the league on the penalty kill, with a 83.48 percentage.
What Went Wrong for the Blackhawks: The Power Play
Yep, you might have noticed I left the power play out of the above section. That’s because the Hawks have only scored two power-play goals of 39 attempts in the last ten games. They haven’t scored any goals on the man advantage in the last three games.
The good news is the Hawks’ power play looked substantially better Sunday night against the Wild. They were moving the puck and creating chances. The first power play unit especially was making things happen. When this unit was on the ice, the Wild weren’t able to clear the puck, so they never had a chance to change to the second unit. According to Scott Power’s of The Athletic, “The Blackhawks finished their six power plays with 14 shots on goal. They also hit one post. It was a step in the right direction.” (from ‘Game analysis: Patrick Kane is rolling again, which means the Blackhawks are too’, The AthleticCHI-12/18/17)
Wrapping it Up
All this winning has moved the Blackhawks up in the standings. Their record of 17-11-5 is currently good for 39 points and the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference. Their division rivals, the Dallas Stars (whom they play this Thursday), and the Minnesota Wild (whom they defeated last Sunday), have 38 and 37 points, respectively. Needless to say, the race is tight. Every win, every point, is needed.
Thursday’s contest against Dallas begins the first of six games on the road for the Blackhawks. They also meet the New Jersey Devils this Saturday before the Christmas break. Hopefully, they can start off their road trip in the right direction.