The NHL put its 2019-20 season on pause March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but remains hopeful to award the Stanley Cup at some point. Although it's unclear if or when it could return, NBC Sports Chicago will recap the season of each Blackhawks player to date in our "season in review" series. Next up is Ryan Carpenter.
The Blackhawks used last offseason to check off the boxes that really plagued them during the 2018-19 campaign. They signed Robin Lehner to provide a strong 1-2 punch in goal, acquired Calvin de Haan and Olli Maatta to shore up the defense, brought back Andrew Shaw for grit and landed Zack Smith for depth.
Perhaps the quietest move of them all turned out to be their most effective and it was the signing of Ryan Carpenter to a three-year deal at a $1 million cap hit.
The Blackhawks ranked 31st in the penalty kill department last season and heavily relied on Jonathan Toews for defensive zone situations. Toews led all forwards in penalty kill ice time at 143:43 total minutes through 82 games and took 600 faceoffs in the defensive zone; no other Blackhawks had more than 250.
This season, Carpenter led all Blackhawk forwards in penalty kill ice time (167:43) and took 309 defensive zone faceoffs compared to Toews' 461. Carpenter absorbed significant defensive responsibility, which allowed the Blackhawks to be more balanced and have players in specialized roles.
While he scored only two goals at 5-on-5 this season, Carpenter was one of the most snake bitten players in the NHL this season. According to Money Puck, his expected goals at 5-on-5 was 9.1 but his actual goal total was two, meaning he didn't get much puck luck. Only Jack Hughes (minus-7.5) had an "unluckier" rate than Carpenter (minus-7.1).
Still, the Blackhawks were pleasantly surprised with Carpenter's contributions in Year 1.
"I would say that he's probably outperformed our expectations," head coach Jeremy Colliton said of Carpenter in February. "We've been able to use him in a lot of different ways, stretched him a little bit and played him in more offensive situations than maybe we expected to begin with, but ultimately his play away from the puck and play in the defensive zone, just a smart player.
"And he's made plays too, so he's a guy that we've been able to slot up and down the lineup and that's nice to have because you want centers, you want guys who are comfortable in defensive situations and he's done a great job on the penalty kill for us as well."