Blackhawks

An improbable streak for the Blackhawks

An improbable streak for the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks have gone on a six-game winning streak; a most unexpected development.

Consider that:

Six wins is equal to 37.5% of their season win total (16 – out of 49 games) entering the streak.
The winning streak comes on the heels of a fivegame losing streak.
Their previous long winning streak this season had been three games (Dec 1821)

Regardless, here we are. And not surprisingly, the six game streak is the longest current winning streak in the NHL. They now stand at 53 points, tied with the Oilers & Avalanche, though those teams have played one and two games fewer, respectively. Here are the current Wild Card standings.

 

Current Western Conference Wild Card Standings

                                                GP            Pts

Wild                         54            57
Blues                        52            55
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Canucks                    55            55
Avalanche                 53            53
Oilers                       54            53
BLACKHAWKS           55            53
Coyotes                    54            51
Ducks                       55            51
Kings                        54            50
 

The top two teams get in. However, while they’re two points away from the second Wild Card spot, they’re three points away from last in the conference. It’s a log jam. But consider how much ground they have made up. Look at how the Conference has done during the Blackhawks streak:

Western Conference

January 20-present

                                GP            W-L-OTL   Pts

Blackhawks               6              6-0-0        12

Predators                 6              5-1-0        10

Stars                         5              4-0-1        9

Kings                        5              4-1-0        8

Sharks                      5              4-1-0        8

Blues                        5              4-1-0        8

Jets                          6              3-2-1        7

Wild                         6              2-2-2        6

Coyotes                    7              2-4-1        5

Canucks                    6              2-3-1        5

Flames                     4              2-2-0        4

Oilers                       6              1-3-2        4

Golden Knights        6              2-4-0        4

Avalanche                 5              0-4-1        1

Ducks                       6              0-6-0        0

How have they done it? Two things come to mind.

Power play

During the duration of this winning streak, they have scored 31 goals. Nine of them have come with the man advantage, with the power play converting at a 42.9% clip, which is surprisingly not first in the NHL over that span (the Flyers are 7 for 16 -  43.8% - just a bit better), but excellent regardless. How good has the power play been compared to earlier this season? They have nine power play goals over the last six games. They had nine power play goals through the first 27 games of the season.

The stars have come to play

Over the course of the winning streak (January 20-present), Only 11 players have scored at least 10 points. Only five players have scored at least 11 points. Four of those five wear Blackhawks sweaters.

Most points in NHL (January 20-present)                 GP            G              A              Pts

Patrick Kane                             BLACKHAWKS           6              5              9              14

Jonathan Toews                       BLACKHAWKS           6              6              6              12

Sebastian Aho                          Hurricanes                7              3              8              11

Alex DeBrincat                         BLACKHAWKS           6              4              7              11

Dylan Strome                           BLACKHAWKS           6              3              8              11

OK, now how exactly have they done it? If you knew these things, you wouldn’t think they could possibly be on a streak like this:

Penalty kill

The excellence of the power play has even overshadowed the fact that their penalty kill hasn’t been very good. Over the six-game win streak they have only killed off 75% of penalties, which is tied for 20th in the league over that span. They have allowed at least one power play goal in each of the last 4 games.

So many shots against!

The Blackhawks have allowed 36.5 shots per game during this 6-game win streak… and that’s even higher than their 34.9 average this season entering the streak. However, they are getting off 33.2 per game, compared to 31.2 entering the streak. A much improved save percentage certainly hasn’t hurt - .918 over the past six games, compared to .894 over the first 49 games of the season.

Regardless, the Blackhawks are indeed on a six-game winning streak and making a late push for the playoffs. And this despite two separate winless streaks of eight games earlier this season. Has a team ever made the playoffs despite a pair of eight-game winless streaks during the season? The answer is yes, and the last teams to do it were the Oilers & Coyotes. They each had a 10-game and an 8-game winless streak in 1997-98 (thanks to the Elias Sports Bureau for this note). With the Blackhawks stars doing what they’re capable of, it’s tough to count them out.

Blackhawks mailbag: Could more trades be coming before 2019-20 season opener?

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AP

Blackhawks mailbag: Could more trades be coming before 2019-20 season opener?

Charlie Roumeliotis answers your Blackhawks and hockey-related questions. Be sure to chime in using the hashtag #HawksMailbag on Twitter for a chance to have your question answered in the next edition. 

Is there any chance we see the Hawks make a trade before the season starts?

The Blackhawks had as active a summer as any team, revamping their roster and filling out their depth through trades and free agency. And because of that, it's going to be an extremely competitive training camp.

While the organization acknowledged that it's important to be 26, 27 players deep throughout the course of an 82-game season, the Blackhawks have a handful of players fighting for the same spot or two: Drake Caggiula, Dominik Kubalik, Alex Nylander, Brendan Perlini, Dylan Sikura and Anton Wedin. Heck, even Kirby Dach.

August is always the dead period around the NHL. But come September, it wouldn't be surprising to see some movement around the league when teams figure out what they have on the ice. Training camp and preseason games are a time for GMs to evaluate who may be getting squeezed out, whether there's a breakout prospect emerging and it's also when the pressure point of having to be compliant with the cap.

The Blackhawks could be one of those teams looking to make a tweak or two before Opening Night, but don't expect anything significant.

Do you think Nylander makes the team this year or does he spend another season in the AHL? If he does makes the team, who do you see him fitting on a line with?

Alex Nylander is going to be given a fair shot to make the Blackhawks out of training camp, and it would be a disappointment if he didn’t. He was taken No. 8 overall in 2016 and simply hasn’t taken that next step in his development yet.

Perhaps the situation in Buffalo played a role in that, but it will truly be up to Nylander whether he does unlock his true potential in Chicago. There isn’t a reason for him not to. It’s a much healthier situation and the spotlight isn’t on him.

If Nylander does make the team, expect him to play with offensively-gifted players — guys who can help bring out the best in his abilities and think the game at the same level. But playing with those types of players also means you're drawing top competition on a nightly basis, so he will have to earn it.

Do you think all the additions this summer may be a strategic move to help prepare the Hawks for the expansion draft? (Keeping the prospects off the team till midseason or something so they remain draft protected/ineligible?)

Good question. The summer of 2020 is going to be a fascinating one for the Blackhawks because that's when teams are going to start making some moves ahead of the 2021 expansion draft. And as of right now, the Blackhawks are going to expose a really good player, whether they pick the seven forwards and three defensemen option or the eight skater one.

Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews all have no-movement clauses, so they must be protected (unless the player approves of being exposed, which is highly unlikely). Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome are two others who must be protected, so that's six right there. Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw are two others who are eligible. Same with Calvin de Haan, Olli Maatta and Connor Murphy. And if Erik Gustafsson signs an extension, he must be protected also.

Again, the list is deep. But to answer your original question, the primary focus this summer was to fill needs across the roster (physicality and defensive-minded players) and doing so through trades was the best possible option because they were able to get guys with term and a reasonable cap hit. Free agency is where the overpayment happens. The goalie situation for the Blackhawks is one to watch ahead of the 2021 expansion draft. 

As far as prospects go, Adam Boqvist and Kirby Dach will not be eligible for the expansion draft no matter how many games they play in this season and next because the draft happens before the 2021-22 calendar season. So that will not play a role in the organization's decision regarding when they play in the NHL.

What are your expectations for the goaltending tandem in Rockford? Delia appears to be the current starter, but Lankinen was really impressive this summer for Finland. Small-ish sample size, but he was phenomenal. Do you think it will end up being an even split at some point?

Collin Delia may have signed a three-year extension with the Blackhawks, but that doesn’t mean the organization doesn’t want to give Kevin Lankinen a strong look also. Delia has earned the right to be the starter, but the split between he and Lankinen will likely be closer to 50-50 if both goalies are performing.

Lankinen was sensational between the pipes for Finland at the 2019 IIHF World Championship, helping lead his country to a gold medal. But Delia is also taking significant steps in his development and doing so at a rapid pace. It should be a healthy competition in Rockford.

With so much prospect talk focused on Dach, Boqvist, & Delia (and rightfully so) is there a dark horse prospect (I'm talking about that under the radar grinder) fans should keep their eyes on & where are they expected to be playing this year so we can follow?

Two prospects come to mind when discussing potential dark horses: MacKenzie Entwistle and Philipp Kurashev. Both of them will be playing in Rockford this season.

Entwistle and Kurashev took significant steps in their development this past season, with Entwistle playing a key role in the Guelph Storm winning the OHL championship and Kurashev leading the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championships in scoring with six goals in seven games.

Entwistle is a player who knows exactly what his role will be in the NHL and has already embraced it: a bottom-six forward, reliable penalty killer and a leader on and off the ice. And that’s something the Blackhawks value about him.

Kurashev is more offensively skilled and has some sneaky upside to be a potential breakout player as a fourth-round pick. Keep an eye on him.

Is it October yet?

This really has felt like a long summer, hasn’t it? We’re almost there, Zane. 

A few checkpoints are coming up on the schedule though that may help speed up the process: Traverse City prospects tournament from Sept. 6-11, training camp festival on Sept. 15 and the first preseason game on Sept. 16. We're getting closer.

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SportingNews Top 50 NHL Prospects lists Boqvist at 10 and Kirby Dach at 13

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USA Today

SportingNews Top 50 NHL Prospects lists Boqvist at 10 and Kirby Dach at 13

NHL draft analyst Steve Kournianos released his list for Top 50 players in NHL pipelines for the upcoming 2019-20 season. To the delight of Blackhawks fans everywhere, Adam Boqvist and Kirby Dach were ranked at number 10 and 13 respectively.

Kournianos described 19-year-old defender Boqvist as a dominant rookie with 40 assists and 20 goals during his tenure with the London Knights. Fans speculate whether the Blackhawks will keep Boqvist on his junior squad for another year or pull him up to play with the American Hockey League Rockford Ice Hogs.

Kournianos said Dach was one of Team Canada’s top players at the World Junior Summer Showcase. The 18-year-old center is sure to be one of Canada’s main forwards during World Juniors and Dach has the flexibility to play anywhere in the Blackhawks lineup. Dach’s entry-level contract allows him up to nine NHL games this season, giving him the chance to return to the AHL or NHL after his junior season in the Western Hockey League is finished.

Both Boqvist and Dach are key player for the future of this team and it will interesting to watch the Hawks develop these younger players.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.