Blackhawks

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Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are, statistically, one of the worst defensive teams in the NHL. They've allowed the second-most shots on goal per game (34.9), the second-most scoring chances per game (30.9), most high-danger chances at even strength per game (14.1) and second-most goals per game (3.60).

But they've had their best stretch on the defensive side of things under Jeremy Colliton over the last week and a half.

In the last four games, the Blackhawks have given up only five goals at 5-on-5 and have limited the high quality scoring chances allowed during 5-on-5 play to 6.2 per game, according to naturalstattrick.com

On Sunday in a 2-1 overtime win against Colorado, they held the Avalanche to only 20 shots on goal. It's the second time this season the Blackhawks have held their opponent to fewer than 25 shots. And over the last three games they're giving up only 24.3 shots per game, which is 10.6 shots fewer than their season average.

"I think it's just managing the puck a little better, first of all," Duncan Keith said. "If we're playing in there and we're getting pucks deep to the neutral zone, we're going to have less chances against usually and less time in our zone. There's been lots of times in the last year and a bit where we're playing in our end a lot, so it's nice to play in the other team's end. When we're at our best, we're getting pucks behind their defense and making them turn even if it's not pretty hockey."

 

The most effective way of limiting scoring chances is by playing on the other end of the rink, right? Keith is spot on in his assessment, and the numbers back it up.

In the last four games, the Blackhawks have controlled 59.8 percent of the 5-on-5 shot attempts and 58.7 percent of the scoring chances. Their season percentage in the shot attempts department is 49.3 and scoring chances is 46.9. They haven't generated as many high quality scoring chances, but possessing the puck is a great way to keep opponents away from your own end and, in doing so, it limits the amount of scoring chances allowed.

"I just think we're getting better, we're improving as the year goes on," Colliton said. "Everyone is getting more comfortable with how we have to play, we're defending as five guys, a little more communication out there and recognizing we can create offense from doing well defensively. We're getting there, as far as the recipe for how we can win these types of games, and going forward, hopefully [in] the playoffs that's how we have to defend there. We have to be desperate defensively.

"The goals have kind of dried up in some ways, so it's made it hard on us to get wins. But it's still important for us to get comfortable defending the way we need to."

The only ingredient that's missing now is the offense to go along with it. It can't be one or the other. The Blackhawks have scored only nine goals in their last five games. If they can find a way to put them both together they can be a dangerous team. Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, they have just seven games to show it and zero margin for error.

At the very least, it's something the Blackhawks can feel good about going into the summer that the biggest hole in their game has finally started to come around.

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