Blackhawks look to get on a roll to close out 2021
With a lot of optimism coming into the season and after many solid offseason trades and signings, the Hawks looked like a legit playoff contender but have not lived up to the hype surrounding them. The additions of defensemen Seth Jones and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury highlighted the new faces in the Hawks locker room. Seth Jones has been finding his stride as of late, leading the team in points and Marc-Andre Fleury has also found his stride under new coach Derek King. Fleury has looked like a whole new goalie after he had a slow start to the season.
Starting with the offense: Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat, and Seth Jones have been positives and the American trio is expected to be playing together in the upcoming winter Olympics. DeBrincat has established himself as one of the best goal scorers in the entire league after coming in third among all skaters in goals last year. Of course when Patrick Kane is on the same line as you, your goal production will most likely be very good. While these two guys have been outstanding, the offense as a whole and their production has been pretty lackluster. Their power play and goals per game are among the bottom 5 teams in the NHL and Derek King still has not found an answer for the offense. After a hot start to the season on the power play, the Hawks have gone stone cold.
Some other negatives have been the lack of production from Jonathan Toews, Dominik Kubalik and Kirby Dach. As we all know captain Jonathan Toews is coming off a season where he did not play a single game because of a chronic illness that kept him off the ice and it is great to see him back on the ice. However, Toews does not have a single goal yet this season. He has hit the post countless times but luck is just not on his side this season. Dominik Kubalik is one of the more underrated goal scorers in the league but production is just not there for him yet this year but after being a Calder trophy finalist and a 30 goal scorer just two years ago, Kubalik has shown that he is an elite sniper with a powerful slap shot. Kirby Dach, after being drafted third overall a few seasons ago, suffered a broken wrist at the world juniors tournament last year and missed almost the whole season but is now back in the lineup hoping to get himself going. The offense as a whole looks to get it going to make a possible playoff push going into 2022.
Now the defense has improved greatly under new coach Derek King. With Jeremy Colliton the defense and goaltending was atrocious even with the addition of Vezina trophy winner Fleury. It looked like this would be a fundamentally sound defensive team but after some early season struggles the defense really put this team in a hole. The penalty kill has been nowhere near the issue as its been top 5 in the league since the season started. Derek King has done something to fix this defense and its shown with Fleury being in the top 3 in save percentage since the coaching change. After an off-season that saw Duncan Keith and Adam Boqvist leave, Seth Jones, his brother Caleb Jones, and Jake McCabe have been stepping up as the new defensive core for the Hawks this season. Connor Murphy, who just signed a four-year contract, has not been there offensively as he usually is, but his defensive production has been great while being paired up with Jake McCabe for most of the year.
The Blackhawks have found their stride under their new coaching staff and hope to continue their momentum throughout the rest of the season. They have to overcome some off the ice issues with the sexual assault case coming out but they are now 8-4-0 since the coaching change and look to keep the wins coming if they want to make a mid-season playoff push.
-Jack P. (IG: @jackpolkow/Twitter: @polkowjack)