Pros and cons: Putting Blackhawks 2-0-1 start into perspective

Pros and cons: Putting Blackhawks 2-0-1 start into perspective

Opening the 2018-19 season with three games in four days, the Blackhawks have jumped out to a 2-0-1 start and sit atop the NHL standings through the first week. But it hasn't been all sunshine and rainbows.

Let's run through some of the pros and cons to put it all into perspective:

Pro: No team has scored more goals through three games than the Blackhawks (15).

Con: No team has allowed more goals through three games than the Blackhawks (14).

Pro: Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have each scored a goal in three straight.

Con: The bottom six forwards have combined for only four of the team's 40 individual points.

Pro: The Blackhawks have generated 83 scoring chances at even strength, which ranks third-best.

Con: The Blackhawks have given up 74 scoring chances at even strength, which ranks second-worst.

Pro: The Blackhawks have scored all 15 of their goals at even strength.

Con: The power play is 0-for-10.

Bonus special teams con: The penalty kill isn't much better — 7-for-11 (66.7 percent).

Now let's look at it from an optimistic standpoint:

Con: The Blackhawks have yet to score a power play goal.

Pro: They still lead the league in offense.

Con: The Blackhawks aren't getting any depth scoring.

Pro: But the top stars are playing like it.

Con: The Blackhawks have trailed in every game this season.

Pro: The Blackhawks have come back to force overtime in every game this season.

Con: Cam Ward has allowed 14 goals in three games for a goals against average of 4.63 and save percentage of .843.

Pro: The Blackhawks are still 2-0-1 and Corey Crawford has yet to appear in a game.

There are certainly reasons to be excited about how the first three games have unfolded and the resiliency they've showed early on. At the same time, there are just as many reasons to know there's still a lot of work to be done, which includes tightening things up defensively and ironing out special teams.

Four of the top six teams in the NHL standings reside in the Central Division. Every point is crucial and that can't be understated. In that respect, the Blackhawks will take it.

"Getting five out of six [points] is probably a win for us," Patrick Kane said after the Blackhawks' 7-6 overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday night. "Doesn't feel that great right now because we lost tonight. But if we get five out of six every three games, we'd be pretty happy with that."

That pace is unsustainable over the course of an 82-game season, but if the Blackhawks want to hover around the playoff pack all year long, they need to address those flaws mentioned above as quickly as possible before water eventually finds its own level and the high scoring rate comes back down to earth.

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

Anton Forsberg cleared waivers on Tuesday morning and was assigned to the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League.

That's good news for the Blackhawks organizational depth chart, with Forsberg as the No. 3 in goal. But it also complicates things in Rockford, where Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen have been sharing the duties.

Delia is 3-1-0 with a 3.26 goals against average and .910 save percentage while Lankinen is 0-1-1 with a 3.39 GAA and .825 save percentage. Perhaps the most likely scenario is Lankinen gets sent to the ECHL with the Indy Fuel while Delia and Forsberg split the load in Rockford.

It's certainly a good problem to have, but it's still unclear how that dynamic will play out.

"We haven’t talked about that," coach Joel Quenneville said. "But we expect [Forsberg] to play."

Luke Johnson recalled

With a spot opening up on the 23-man roster, Johnson is being brought back up after he was squeezed out by Corey Crawford's return. He had a goal and an assist in two games with Rockford.

Brandon Saad returns to top-six role

After turning in arguably his best performance of the season on Sunday, Saad is back playing on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane. He had seven shot attempts (three on goal) against Tampa Bay and led the team in 5-on-5 possession numbers.

"[Saad] is coming off a game where we liked what we saw," Quenneville said. "Playing with Kaner can help him get going."

Nick Schmaltz to play right side for first time in NHL career

Eight games into the season and Schmaltz has spent time at both center and left wing. Now he'll get a look on the right side with Alexandre Fortin on the left and David Kampf centering the third line.

Part of the reason for Schmaltz’s move to the right side was because Quenneville said they like Fortin on the left. It's not unfamiliar territory for Schmaltz, but could take some time getting used to.

"I played a little while back, not sure when," Schmaltz said "Just a little bit different. Catching pucks on your forehand now instead of your backhand. It's not a huge adjustment, just play with speed and compete hard and hopefully the skill on our line will take over."

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers


Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

The Blackhawks have said all along that they don't plan on carrying three goaltenders, but wanted to do so during the three games in four days stretch just in case, with Corey Crawford coming back from a 10-month layoff because of a concussion.

After being encouraged by how Crawford has responded to his return, the Blackhawks placed goaltender Anton Forsberg on waivers Monday morning. Teams have 24 hours to put in a claim for the 25-year-old goaltender and would have to keep him on their NHL roster for 10 games and/or 30 days before he's eligible to go through the waiver process again.

His chances of getting claimed by any of the other 30 teams essentially depends on which teams believe Forsberg would be an immediate upgrade over their current backup — or starter, for that matter — or whether there's an injury to one of the team's two goaltenders that requires a placeholder, like we saw the Carolina Hurricanes do by claiming Curtis McElhinney from the Toronto Maple Leafs after Scott Darling's injury in the preseason.

If Forsberg goes unclaimed, the Blackhawks can assign him to the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs. With Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen sharing the goaltending duties in Rockford, it's possible Lankinen gets sent to the Indy Fuel in the ECHL to get consistent starts under his belt.

A third option, one that isn't very common but we've seen in the past as recently as last October with Maple Leafs goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, is that Forsberg can be loaned to any AHL team while still being a part of the Blackhawks organization. This would allow the Blackhawks to keep Delia and Lankinen in Rockford while Forsberg gets his starts in the AHL, too.

Or, the Blackhawks could simply trade Forsberg to another NHL team that could stash him in the AHL, as long as he clears waivers. They did it last season with Chris DiDomenico, who cleared waivers as a member of the Ottawa Senators but was then traded to Chicago for Ville Pokka days later. Had DiDomenico been claimed by the Blackhawks, he would have had to stay on the NHL roster as noted above.

Forsberg was 10-16-4 with a 2.97 goals against average and .908 save percentage in 35 appearances last season but has not appeared in a game yet this year. He was acquired as part of the Brandon Saad package for Artemi Panarin in June 2017.