THE DEFENSE NEVER RESTS: Keys to Hawks' Success

The Chicago Blackhawks are heading into tomorrow night's tilt with Anaheim sporting an absolutely gaudy 24-2-3 record. They've colelcted 51 of a possible 58 points. That is, by the way, only two points less than the 1995 Chicago Blackhawks got in that year's 48-game season...and they made the playoffs. Hell, the current Hawks have more points right now than 15 teams had that entire truncated year - although to be fair, the Bettman Point for Overtime Losses (BPOL) didn't exist then.

How are the Hawks so damn good this year, with essentially the same bunch of dudes as last year?


The Blackhawks have, for the most part, been a healthy bunch this season. While we don't yet know the extent of Marian Hossa's apparent arm/shoulder injury from last night, the only prolonged loss of any core player is the current shoulder injury to Patrick Sharp - who, incidentally, set a new NHL record for Handsomest Shoulder MRI. In fact, the lockout helped the Hawks out here - Jonathan Toews didn't feel 100% until he went to a chiropractor/shaman in Atlanta. Marian Hossa was able to recover from Raffi Turdtunnel's projectile elbow to the head from last season. Dave Bolland's eggs became unscrambled. Steve Montador looks like he's on the road to recovery from his concussion quinella from last year, and Rosty Olesz is doing whatever it is that he does.


Patrick Kane deserves his own category. He has 3 three-point games out of the last 4 played by the Blackhawks. He's backchecking (more on that in a bit), he's gotten pretty damn crafty at poking the puck away from opponents. To say he's the engine making the Blackhawks roll isn't exactly accurate. He's the supercharger that makes the engine burn hotter. He probably won't overtake Sidney Crosby to take the Art Ross Trophy, but he damn well should win the Hart.


This isn't my first love letter to Stephane Waite, but he's done nothing short but Benny Hihn shit with the Hawks' goaltending tandem. He's made both Corey Crawford and Ray Emery play the best goaltending of their lives, by merely simplifying their games. Last season, Crawford overcame his early-season wanderlust and started keeping his net more, once Emery took several starts in a row so Waite could help Crawford sort his game out. This year, he owns his crease, even more than Antti Niemi did in 2010. Emery and his bionic hip have been nothing short of spectacular. The Blackhawks are averaging 2.30 goals per game, second-best in the league behind the Ottawa Senators. Crawford will watch Ottawa (and former Blackhawk) goalie Craig Anderson take home the Vezina Trophy, but at least Craw will get to throw on the tux and be at the show.


Sure, Patrick Kane has been incredible. But you know what? So have Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. They're all in double digits in goals, and Toews and Hossa are on the top line, and Kane's on the second line. In fact, the Hawks currently have 9 skaters with 5 or more goals. Hell, the Hawks' third line has Andrew Shaw with 7 goals, and Viktor Stalberg and Bryan Bickell with 6 each. I don't know about you, but I sure as Hell didn't see that coming. This enables QStache to roll all his lines - even though the fourth line of Marcus Kruger, Michael Frolik and now Brandon Bollig haven't scored much, they still have managed to put some nice pressure on in the offensive zone. Which brings us to...


Right here is the game changer. Michael Roszival has been nothing short of outstanding in the games he's played, amassing a CORSI rating of 23.06. The Hawks' "second pair" of Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya have CORSI ratings of 9.68 and 8.17, respectively. Nick Leddy has responded well to being moved to the third pair, racking up 12 points and having a CORSI of 14.83. Strangely, the two guys who haven't really been up to snuff have been the two with the big paychecks - Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. Seabrook has 5 goals, but they just haven't looked like themselves this year, aside from some occasional bursts of greatness.
But the other big key is the forwards. This is what was missing last year. The commitment to backchecking and shot blocking has been incredible, by everyone from Selke candidate Toews to much-maligned Kane. The Hawks have a league-leading 5.1 shots/game advantage, and a 1.28 goals/game differential, both good for best in the NHL.

This is a very special group playing very special hockey. Enjoy it, you'll never see this ever again.


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  • 3/19/2013 5:38 PM pstumba wrote:
    but the BPOL doesnt really affect the hawks THAT much, they would have 4 points less due to wins in the shootout which didnt exist before BPOL, but anything that didnt happen in OT would have just been a tie and 1 point to each. the 3 OTL's were all actually in SO's so they would have been "ties." If you go way back to 1983, before any OT, there would be 7 less points(Hawks 3 OT wins, 4 SO wins would all be ties) Since 1983 is before I was born, I refuse to acknowledge its existance
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  • 3/20/2013 8:21 AM Rich L wrote:
    I saw the 65/29/25 from the very begginning as being the hawks dominant line. We got a gig guy who likes to shoot three pointers, a sppedster with no hands and an overachiever who just won't listen to people telling him he doesn't belong. - Truly, how could you not see the sheer genious of Q assembling this incongruous line.

    One of the things that worried me the most about moving Leddy to the third line is that he wouldn't get enough playing time - seems like he's consistently over 15 minutes/game.

    The only thing that can stop this team is the refs.
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    1. 3/20/2013 2:03 PM Craig wrote:
      The refs... from totally unfathomable faceoff crap to phantom hooking calls to not calling interference to a nightly inability to get the hell out of the way of the pass/play they reflect the quality that marks Bettman as a product of the NBA.
      Reply to this

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