It's as if someone turned off the switch on the Chicago Blackhawks' offense to start the new year. What was once the most feared offense in the NHL has turned into an offense struggling to stay in games. An offense that normally put up four, five or six goals in a game is now barely scoring two. So what's the problem? Is there a cause for concern?
Prior to January 1, the Blackhawks led the NHL with 3.66 goals per game. Since then they have played five games, scoring a total of 12 goals (they scored five in one game). With their recent slump, they have fallen to second in the league, now averaging 3.53 goals per game. With the lack of offense they have lost some games and are 1-1-3 in their last five.
Every team goes through slumps, it's just a matter of how long those slumps last. One problem the Blackhawks are facing is that the majority of the lineup is not contributing at all on the score sheet. Forwards Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw, Kris Versteeg, Ben Smith, and Michal Handzus have combined for zero points over their last four games and only two points combined over their last five. Brandon Bollig has only contributed one point over his last 13 games
Coach Joel Quenneville has tried to tinker with the lines over the last week, but has had no luck in resparking a struggling offense. Despite still being tied for second in the NHL in points, Patrick Kane has failed to record a point in five of his last six games. Second year forward Brandon Saad has also been struggling, recording just one point over his last five.
While most of the team is failing to contribute, there is some positivity coming from the Blackhawks' top line.
Let's take a look at their production over the last five games:
Jonathan Toews: 1 G, 5 A, 6 P
Patrick Sharp: 3 G, 4 A, 7 P
Marian Hossa: 2 G, 0 A, 2 P
That is 50% of the scoring coming from the top line in the last five games. That number is unacceptable and the team is lucky that these three are carrying the team. Now there is certainly a lot of talent on this roster and they will probably turn it around soon, but it begs the question: what if this happens in the playoffs? Despite a spectacular outing from Corey Crawford Saturday night, which saw him stop 36 of 38 shots, the Blackhawks still fell to the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 in overtime. The Blackhawks don't have the best goaltending in the league and they can't put forth that type of performance every night. However when they do, the Blackhawks have to take advantage of it and come out with the win.
When they are in an offensive battle, there is no doubt the Blackhawks will come out on top, no matter how many goals they have to score. But in a low-scoring affair, they seem to struggle and rarely find a way to pull out the victory. This is definitely a cause for concern and they need to learn how to win these low-scoring games come April.
They are a smart group of players and the defending Stanley Cup champions. Let's hope they can figure it out and put themselves in the driver's seat for another championship.
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