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Gail Kauchak The Hockey Writers

Published on Monday, February 19, 2018





Blackhawks Weekly: A Spark in a Spiraling Season

The Chicago Blackhawks snapped an eight-game losing streak with a 7-1 victory over the Washington Capitals Saturday night. That’s right! They decided if they were going to win, they might as well do it in style. Seven goals against one of the top teams in the league is nothing to scoff at, but let’s not say the Hawks are miraculously making the playoffs after just one victory.

Still, things did get decidedly better as this past week progressed. Falling 6-1 to the bottom-feeding Arizona Coyotes Monday night was arguably the lowest point to date in this disappointing 2017-18 campaign. A 5-2 loss to the red-hot Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday was not surprising. What was pleasantly surprising was watching the Hawks hang with one of the fastest teams in the league for the better part of two periods.

Thursday’s 3-2 defeat to the Anaheim Ducks was typical of the Hawks’ play of late; they take the lead but then are unable to sustain it. Looking at this past week as a whole, we can at least say things are trending in the right direction. Here’s a breakdown of the last four games.

Winner of the Week: Alex DeBrincat

This young rookie is the only member of the Blackhawks to earn at least a point in each of the past four games. He notched the lone goal for the team on the power play against Arizona and contributed a goal and an assist the next night against the Golden Knights. He assisted on Duncan Keith’s first goal of the season versus the Ducks and then added another goal against the Capitals.

Alex DeBrincat Blackhawks

Alex DeBrincat is having a very successful rookie season with the Blackhawks. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

DeBrincat continues to be a bright spot for this flailing team. He’s taking advantage of his time on the power play, as he earned three of these five points on the man-advantage. But he also generated two goals during five-on-five play on the third line with Patrick Sharp and Ryan Hartman. Just think what he could do if deployed on the second line with Patrick Kane! He’s now tied with Kane for first place on the team with 22 goals for the season.

Loser of the Week: Goaltender Jeff Glass

Glass replaced Anton Forsberg in net in Arizona after Forsberg allowed three goals, the last of which was especially soft. But Glass didn’t fare any better, as he allowed three more goals on nine shots for a save percentage of .667. Needless to say, he still got the start the next night against the Golden Knights. He let in four goals on 36 shots for a .889 save percentage. The very next day, the Blackhawks put Glass on waivers.

Glass cleared waivers and was re-assigned to the Rockford IceHogs last Thursday. Jean-Francois Berube, who has been injured most of the season, will now get his chance to play for the Blackhawks.

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Jeff Glass

Journeyman goalie Jeff Glass was recently sent back down to the minors. (Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)

It looks like the Glass experiment is finally over. He was quite the underdog story, being a 32-year-old NHL rookie for the Blackhawks 14 years after being drafted in 2004. But there was a reason he spent so much time in more minor leagues: he wasn’t very good. He made the most of his NHL time and put up a valiant effort, but I’m pretty sure we’ve seen the last of Glass in a Blackhawks sweater. Rightfully so.

Related – Blackhawks Weekly: Is There a Fix for the Future?

Play of the Week: Ryan Hartman Shines

In keeping with the Hawks’ blowout win over the Washington Capitals, Hartman scored a big goal against them Saturday night. He was due, as this broke a 15-game goalless streak for the 23-year-old. The Hawks were up 4-1 late in the second period at the time, so the goal didn’t matter too much toward the outcome of the game. But Hartman certainly showcased some talent and speed on this play.

Blackhawks’ Center Saga

Coach Quenneville made a few interesting changes this week regarding the center position. He’s been going back and forth between playing Nick Schmaltz and Artem Anisimov as the second-line center. He moved Tommy Wingels to the right wing of the first line, and Hartman has centered the third line for the past three games. With the exception of deploying Anisimov to center the fourth line against the Ducks, Jonathan Toews and David Kampf have pretty much been the constants on the first and fourth lines, respectively.

How did everyone fare in their roles? While many might complain Toews hasn’t been doing his job this season, that certainly isn’t the case in the faceoff circle. He consistently takes around 20 draws a night and has averaged a 60-percent success rate in the past four games. Not too shabby.

Jonathan Toews Blackhawks

Jonathan Toews continues to be one of the best players in the league at winning draws. (Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

Anisimov did exceptionally well, averaging 64 percent. For a man who is averaging 46.5 percent for the season, that’s a really good week! Schmaltz’s numbers are interesting. When he was just taking a faceoff here and there (the first two matchups of the week), he averaged an abysmal 18 percent. When he was the legitimate second-line center (the third and fourth games of the week), he went 50 percent. Go figure.

Related – Schmaltz’s Future With the Blackhawks

Could Hartman be the everyday third-line man in the middle? Well, in the faceoff circle he doesn’t make the strongest case. In the three games he played this position, he registered 33 percent, 43 percent, and 55 percent respectively, based on an average of a little over seven draws per game. At least it’s getting better each game. It could be worth continuing to see how this plays out. Finally, Kampf did his job, averaging 47 percent.

Based on this small sample size, the Hawks had a good week at the center position. It certainly looks better than a larger sample size taken in January. With his constant shuffling, Coach Q appears to be making the most out of a position where the team hasn’t had the greatest depth. The question is whether these guys can keep up this up consistently to help drive possession. If they could find a legitimate center for the right price either at the trade deadline or in the offseason, it could help the team immensely.

Blackhawks’ Special Teams Tallies

It’s worth noting that the Hawks scored a power-play goal in all four games they played this week, coming from four different team members. Mentioned above was DeBrincat’s score against the Coyotes, and Keith’s tally versus the Ducks. It was a bit of a milestone for Duncs, as this was his first goal on 139 shots for the season. It’s about time one went in for him!

Wingels scored on the man-advantage against the Knights, and it was Arty that put one in on Saturday against the Capitals. Kane earned a helper on Arty’s goal, which marked his 500th NHL assist.

The Hawks are also continuing their solid play on the penalty kill. In these past four games, they’ve only allowed two goals on 14 tries while down a man. They rank seventh overall in the league in this department, with an 82.9-percent kill rate.

Wrapping it Up

The Blackhawks only gained two out of a possible eight points this past week. Yes, their one big win was fun and exciting, and it gave everyone a much-needed boost. But it doesn’t change the fact that their current record of 25-26-8 (58 points) still has them 11 points outside of the second wild-card spot in the West. Perhaps the realization that the playoffs are a pipe dream takes some of the pressure off and will allow the Hawks to play loose, have fun, and get some more wins moving forward.

This coming week is another busy one, with four games on tap. The Hawks continue their home stretch by hosting the Los Angeles Kings Monday, the Ottawa Senators Wednesday, and the San Jose Sharks Friday. They wrap things up with a visit to Nationwide Arena to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets Saturday. Never a dull moment with the Chicago Blackhawks! Stay tuned.


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