Blog Entry

Pucks & Numbers: Blackhawks' D and goaltending

Posted on: January 31, 2012 4:28 pm
Edited on: January 31, 2012 4:30 pm
Does Chicago need a backup goalie upgrade? (Getty Images)

Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at how the NHL's have top scorers have been used this season.

By: Adam Gretz

As the Chicago Blackhawks prepare to enter the second half of the regular season they find themselves in the bottom-third of the league when it comes to preventing goals.

Entering Tuesday's game in Vancouver, a rematch of last year's Western Conference Quarterfinal series, which the Canucks won in seven games, the Blackhawks are giving up just a little over 2.8 goals per game, which puts them 20th in the NHL. The only teams that are currently occupying a playoff spot that are surrendering more goals on a nightly basis are the Philadelphia Flyers (2.90) and Ottawa Senators (3.04).

So what is the biggest problem at this point? The goaltending of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery, or the defense in front of them?

Actually, it's probably a little bit of both.

When the the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup two years ago it was easy to point to what their biggest weakness was -- goaltending.

It was supposed to be the position that held them back on their playoff run, and there was even a bit of concern (a lot, actually) when the trade deadline passed and the team was prepared to go into the postseason with a duo of then-rookie Antti Niemi and veteran Cristobal Huet. It raised a few eyebrows, resulted in a lot of questions, and then they went on and won the ultimate prize, ending a lengthy championship drought for the franchise.

Niemi was definitely solid in net, and he made some big saves for them in the playoffs, but he wasn't exactly Tim Thomas or Dominik Hasek back there, either.

Statistically, the Blackhawks finished the regular season, as a team, near the bottom of the NHL in most of the key goaltending areas. Their overall save percentage of .901 was 23rd in the league. Their 5-on-5 save percentage of .902 was 29th, ahead of only the Ottawa Senators.

Through their first 50 games this season the Blackhawks new goaltending duo is playing at a slightly higher level, especially when it comes to even strength play. At 5-on-5 the pairing of Crawford and emery is 22nd in the NHL with a .911 mark, and at a comparable .901 mark (23rd) overall. But they're giving up nearly a half-goal more per game.

How is that possible? The team in front of the goalies isn't anywhere near as good at limiting the goaltendes workload.

The Stanley Cup team in '09-10 had ridiculous depth at forward and defense and consistently steamrolled over their opponents, controlling the puck better than any team in the league. They limited their opponents to just 25 shots per game and out-shot them by an average of nine shots per game, the third-best mark of any team over the past 10 years. A team that controls the puck like that is capable of overcoming what might be a weakness in goal.

While they're still a really strong possession team this year, they're simply not an all-time great one like the Cup team was, due in large part to the decreased depth, especially on the blue line. (Just as a quick example: Even though he has a contract that was the butt of many jokes, Brian Campbell, now a member of the Florida Panthers, was a really, really good player for the Blackhawks. And while they needed to find a taker for his contract, they do miss his play on the blue line). That decreased depth puts the below-average goaltending (and let's face it, that's what it's been for a couple of years now in Chicago) under an even larger microscope.

I'm not sure Chicago can find an upgrade over Crawford on the trade market leading up to the deadline, and even though his play has regressed a bit from last season, he can probably play a little better over the second half of the season. Their best bet leading up to the deadline would be to focus on adding some depth to their blue line, or at the very least, looking to find an upgrade over Emery to help take some of the pressure off of their second-year starter.

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Since: Jun 7, 2011
Posted on: February 3, 2012 11:48 pm

Pucks & Numbers: Blackhawks' D and goaltending

We can't win the cup with this current roster. Especially if the forwards continue to play defence too... Don't they realize that they shouldn't try to cheat up the ice every time? I mean serriously I know the defence is to blame for a huge part (Crawfords not exactly helping...) but next game you watch, watch the backcheck/effort of the offensive players without the puck. Its scary how few people actually help out sadly KANE and Hossa are the only ones who help out every time. KANE yes KANE...

Since: Apr 7, 2011
Posted on: February 2, 2012 11:27 pm

Pucks & Numbers: Blackhawks' D and goaltending

Personally Duncan Keith seems to get a free pass far too often. Possibly the worst thing to happen was his Norris trophy, not that he wasn't worthy of it two years back but he hasn't played the same since. He is turnover prone, weak decision maker on the PP (before the Norris yr. he was not a top PP guy. He was more of a second unit guy.) He also seems to get his shot blocked far to often, leading to chances the other way. All in all Keith is a very good defenseman but Seabrook really is the top man, he handles all the big forwards in the division (Nash, Franzen, Backes...) Keith always seems to get the publicity but he is very average some nights and needs to be called out occasionally. In no way can the Hawks afford to lose him ( or Seabrook) but he needs to get back to 2010 form.

Since: Sep 6, 2006
Posted on: February 2, 2012 5:02 pm

Pucks & Numbers: Blackhawks' D and goaltending

The Hawks A#1 problem this year is the Red Wings! They'll never beat them in a best of 7 so they better hope they can dodge them yet again but I see Detroit making some good moves (as usual) and contending for yet another cup! (again as usual!)

Since: Dec 29, 2006
Posted on: February 2, 2012 3:14 pm

Pucks & Numbers: Blackhawks' D and goaltending

The All Star game and the Blackhawks cup run a couple of years ago should tell you all you need to know. The goalie is only as good as the guys in front of him. The best goalies in the NHL gave up 21 goals last weekend because there was NO defense being played. You can do the math backwards to figure out the rest. Some of the greatest playoff goalies of the past few years, did NOT win the cup. They simply carried their teams a bit farther than anyone thought they would.

The Blackhawks miss Brian Campbell's ability to carry the puck but BC was a mistake waiting to happen when in his own end. Leddy is more solid defensively and is showing a growing ability to carry the puck. Be patient w/ Leddy.

When Niemi was in goal for the cup championship, Duncan Keith was the Norris winner (for best D-man.) Keith is currently experiencing amnesia and cannot remember how to play defense. Maybe Coach Q is playing him too much? That would be my theory.

The BHawks have problems turning the puck over in their own end and they do not help clear the rebounds like they once did. How many saves does a goalie have to make on one rush?

All that said, the BHawks seem to be a better team when Emery is in net. Crawford does his best after he's sat for a few games. Their roles need to be switched. Coach Q will play the hot hand come playoff time anyway.

The Hawks biggest needs are a center (not named Toews) that can win faceoffs, a big body to stand in front of the opponenets net and a "Top 3" type defenseman.

Since: Jan 29, 2012
Posted on: February 2, 2012 7:14 am

Pucks & Numbers: Blackhawks' D and goaltending

I couldn't agree more with what is said about the Hawks "D". In 2010 the Hawks don't get past Nashville if Campbell doesn't come back. The current set of defensemen are not as deep as in 2010 and coach "Q" can't keep giving the minutes to our top 4 like he is now. Leddy is still young and Hjamarlsson has his moments. The Hawks easiest solution to improve is in puck possession. They need three solid offensive lines to control the puck in the opponent's end and they must go after Nash before Detroit acquires him. Offer Colombus Stalberg (doesn't have soft hands), Pirri and a draft pick. See you in the playoffs.

Since: Aug 16, 2006
Posted on: February 1, 2012 9:14 pm

Pucks & Numbers: Blackhawks' D and goaltending

Bob is right in talking about the team defense...not just the defensmen though.  The defensive play of the forwards is nowhere near what it was two years ago.  They sorely miss guys like John Madden, Andrew Ladd, and Big Buff.  Not only were they better "defensive" forwards, but they weren't afraid to hit people.  The Hawk announcers last night stated that the Hawks have only outhit their opponents 6 times this year?  I think 6 was the number.  That is pathetic and it will cost them in the playoffs. 

Since: Dec 22, 2006
Posted on: February 1, 2012 3:33 pm

Pucks & Numbers: Blackhawks' D and goaltending

Garth send Nabby to Chicago...........

Since: Jul 11, 2011
Posted on: February 1, 2012 1:44 pm

Pucks & Numbers: Blackhawks' D and goaltending

trade ya conklin for seabrook straight up bwahaha

Since: Aug 16, 2006
Posted on: February 1, 2012 12:06 pm

Pucks & Numbers: Blackhawks' D and goaltending

This is all true and we need work defensively.  With that beign said, keep in mind the division they are in is one of the toughest in history.  Right now seven teams have 65 or more points.  Four of those seven are in the Blackhawk's division.  We are going ot struggle more against better teams.  This is natural.  I am confident that we will get to the playoffs and pretty confident that we will never make it past the Red Wings, even if we were to upgrade at the defensive position. 

Since: Sep 5, 2007
Posted on: February 1, 2012 9:45 am

Pucks & Numbers: Blackhawks' D and goaltending

I agree with you in that both the defense outside of the top pairing has been bad. But, hard to correct the PK, when your defense is bad. I do agree with the article, I miss Soupy, I don't miss his contract. But the Hawks fix their 2nd line C problem, now with some time left see if they can aquire a D or 2, CUT John Scott, I think they would be in better shape. But IMO Leddy and Hjarmy, should be your 3rd pairing not 2nd. I like Leddy allot, just don't know if he is ready to be a 2 line D.. YET. But at the same time, don't bet the farm on this year.. If they trade to get one extra D man, make it to the CONF Finals, and lose, I'm okay with that. I still think they are a year away from winning another Cup.

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