37 games into the season, the Chicago Blackhawks are still searching for answers. There are many factors affecting their level of play so far, the biggest of all was the roster turnover during the off-season. General manager Stan Bowman made several moves during the summer trying to get salary cap compliant. Many of these moves are not paying off as well as he hoped.
Fan Favorites Return
The return of Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp has not brought the offensive production that was expected. Saad has 17 points with 11 goals and 6 assists this season. When Chicago re-acquired Saad in the trade of Artemi Panarin, the hope was that Saad could bring offence while providing better two-way play. Panarin now stands at 34 points with 10 goals and 24 assists. Unless Saad can increase his scoring, Columbus Blue Jackets will clearly win that deal.
Meanwhile, the Patrick Sharp free agent signing has not worked out as well as hoped. Sharp has only nine points with three goals and six assists, and is -8 on the year. He is a shadow of the player who left Chicago for Dallas a couple of years ago.
From the beginning of the season, the Chicago Blackhawks have carried eight defensemen on the roster. While this has helped during the recent injuries to Cody Franson and Michal Kempny, the Blackhawks defence has struggled all season. Their defensive coverage during their recent three-game losing streak was abysmal. On many occasions they left opponents uncovered in the slot, hanging their goalies out to dry. They were losing board battles, turning the puck over way too much, and at times looked lost. Coach Joel Quenneville has changed his defensive pairings up relentlessly but is still looking for more consistent play. Hopefully, Franson’s return from injured reserve can help stabilize the defence going forward.
Special Teams Not so Special
The Blackhawks have had one of the better penalty killing units all season. Over the last few weeks, their penalty killing success has dropped to 82.2%. After being in the top five, they are now 12th in the league. This has to improve in order for the Blackhawks to compete for a playoff spot.
This season the Blackhawks power play should not be called a “power” play. Their lack of production on the power play has been maddening. The talent on this team should have them in the upper level of the NHL. Instead, they are third worst in the league at just 15.2%. Their power play units have plenty of opportunities since the Blackhawks are second in the NHL at drawing penalties. They did score two power play goals Friday night against the Edmonton Oilers. Could this be a sign of better things to come for the power play?
Bright Spot Anyone?
Friday night in Edmonton, goaltender Jeff Glass made his NHL debut at the age of 32. Drafted in 2004, Glass then spent years in the minors and KHL. Friday night, the Blackhawks turned the net over to Jeff Glass. Glass was called upon in the second of the Blackhawks back to back games Thursday and Friday. This Cinderella story was made even better by the way Glass responded. Glass was besieged in the first period, facing 19 shots and giving up only one goal. Glass made 42 saves on the night and gave the Blackhawks a much-needed stop to their three-game losing streak. For more on the Jeff Glass rookie debut, check out this from Satchel Price with Second City Hockey:
“Jeff Glass is not Corey Crawford. They were drafted a year apart, but their careers quickly diverged from there. Crawford went on to become a two-time Stanley Cup winner and one of the best goalies in the NHL. Glass went on to become a journeyman who spent most of his career in Russia.”
“He stopped 42 of 45 shots in a road win against a team with one of the best talents in league history. (Only seven goalies have recorded more saves in a debut since 1987, per Play Index.) He took on McDavid for an entire game and didn’t allow him to record a point. He had Patrick Kane praising his ‘amazing, amazing performance’ after Kane himself made an absurd play to win the game. And he did it all with his family in attendance.”
The Blackhawks play the Calgary Flames Sunday night. 32-year-old rookie Jeff Glass deserves the start in his hometown. The obvious emotional lift he gave his team Friday earned him the chance to play Sunday Night. Hopefully, his Blackhawk teammates respond for the rookie.
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