The Blackhawks are winning, but what needs work?
Does anybody else find it odd that Daniel Carcillo is leading the team with +/-, at +5? Carcillo has been a pleasant surprise so far, playing - dare we say it - smart.
Last year, the main word that was used to describe the Chicago Blackhawks all season long was "consistency". The team didn't have it; couldn't get any major winning streaks going; and most of the time, couldn't put together a third period to finish off opponents, leaving points on the table strewn across the league.
This year, the Blackhawks have come out of the gate hot. There's a lot to be thrilled about as a fan - a lot of production; team chemistry on the ice clearly there from opening night; and a 4-1-2 start, which is good enough for 10 points and a second-place Central standing and fifth in the West.
But it's not good enough.
Last night's game had some positives about it - the Hawks took zero penalties against the best PP team in the league; the team came from behind late in the third to take the lead; the Hawks won 56% of the faceoffs. They outshot the Avalanche 38-24. The Avs outhit them 42-26, not uncommon this season when Chicago has begun finding its puck-possession game again.
But with just 1:48 left in the game, the team gave up the tying goal. They survived OT and lost the game in the shootout. As coach Joel Quenneville stated in the post-game interviews, however, the 4 Avalanche goals were all a result of bad plays. Quenneville called them "cardinal sins", ripping not only into his defense squad but the team as a whole.
A few items the team needs to fix going forward:
- The defense needs to work on its communication. Many of the goals against this season have clearly been a result of miscommunication on the ice.
- While the fans appreciate a "show", they prefer a win more. Keep it simple and leave the attempts at cute or fancy for when you've got a solid lead and the clock is ticking out.
- Duncan Keith is looking a lot better this year than last; but he's been making some questionable mistakes. Here's hoping he pulls things together sooner rather than later.
- Shake up the shootout - other teams expect and prepare for the top guns, so throw them a curveball. Patrick Kane is incredibly creative with the puck, but he almost always goes to the same deke/fake move, and goalies are waiting for it. Jonathan Toews seems to be favoring an attempt to go five-hole lately. Patrick Sharp, despite being a sniper mid-game, struggles in the SO. Put in Marian Hossa, who always seems to do well in SOs. Put in the guys with something to prove and an underestimated skill with the puck - Michael Frolik, Viktor Stalberg; or unexpected guys with a missle of a shot - Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Bryan Bickell.
- It's been good to see strong third periods this season; but there needs to be consistent effort across the whole game. In a couple games, it has already seemed like Corey Crawford is being left to bolster up the front end of the game while the rest of the team finds their feet. Fortunately, Crawford isn't showing any sign of a sophomore slump.
- OT losses are better than leaving points on the table; but it's better to get the win in regulation. Too many OT points may come back to haunt the team when the playoffs standings draw near.
- The power play continues to need help. It's improved to 14.8%, but that's still 18th in the league, and lackluster when you consider how dominant Chicago has been with the puck so far. The team also spends a lot of time cycling on the PP as well, but that may be a result of the fact that Chicago has allowed some PP turnovers to directly turn into breakaway attempts by the opposition.
There's a lot that Chicago has going their way this season - now they need to lock down the lose ends and shake up a few predictable pieces to elevate their game.