The Blackhawks made it a priority over the summer to shore up their defensive issues and it was reflected in the moves GM Stan Bowman made, particularly on the blue line.
Calvin de Haan was acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes to play a top-four role and two-time Stanley Cup champion Olli Maatta was brought in to be a defensive specialist and provide some experience on the back end. De Haan had become a key piece to the puzzle before reinjuring his right shoulder while Maatta has struggled to make an impact but is relied upon in defensive situations.
Inconsistency, like the entire team, has been an issue. And it hasn’t helped that many of their defensemen have missed time due to injuries.
The Blackhawks’ No. 1 defenseman Duncan Keith was out nine games because of a groin injury, Connor Murphy was sidelined for 12 because of multiple groin injuries, an illness kept Maatta out for four, de Haan has missed nine and counting and could be done for the season depending on the severity of his shoulder injury and Brent Seabrook could also be out long term with some nagging injuries.
Because of that, the Blackhawks were forced to speed up top defenseman prospect Adam Boqvist’s path to the NHL, where he’s seen his ice time increase during his second stint in Chicago. Even Dennis Gilbert has gotten a long look and has provided physicality on the back end, an element that’s been lacking on the Blackhawks.
On the offensive side of things, the Blackhawks weren’t getting many contributions from their defensemen. They received only three goals from their blue liners in the first 17 games and have since gotten 11 in the past 21 for a total of 14 goals through 38 games. But two of them have been empty netters. Overall, it’s not enough.
It's difficult to evaluate the defensemen as a unit for goals against situations because the forwards are just as responsible, but when it's all said and done, keeping the puck out of the net is what this defensemen group will be judged on. And the Blackhawks have given up 3.18 goals per game, which is tied for 24th.
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