Blackhawks

Why Connor Murphy is the most valuable defenseman on the Blackhawks

Why Connor Murphy is the most valuable defenseman on the Blackhawks

Connor Murphy may not be the best defenseman on the Blackhawks, but he's certainly the most valuable.

The 26-year-old blue liner missed the first half of last season due to a back injury he suffered during an off-ice workout and has been sidelined for more than half of this season already because of a groin injury.

And you can't ignore the void he has left on the back end for the Blackhawks.

Since the start of the 2018-19 season, the Blackhawks are 29-20-9 with Murphy in the lineup and 12-21-6 without him. He isn't the flashiest player and won't light up the scoresheet — he's pointless in six games this season — but he's the most dependable defender the Blackhawks have, and they rely on him in many key defensive situations.

No defenseman on the Blackhawks has more defensive zone starts at even strength per 60 minutes (22.1) than Murphy, whose 66.7 percent defensive zone-start ratio on the penalty kill ranks second just behind Duncan Keith (66.9), according to Natural Stat Trick. Murphy was also among the NHL's defensemen leaders last season in quality of ice time against the opposition's top line, making his ice time average of 20:11 that ranks third on the team this season stand out even more because he's eating hard minutes.

The good news? Murphy has been skating on his own for the past few days and he's eligible to come off long-term injured reserve on Nov. 16 against the Nashville Predators.

The Blackhawks are hopeful that he'll be ready by then, and when Murphy does draw back into lineup, it should help provide some stability on defense in all situations.

"We hope so," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "He got a couple days of skating in, but we want to make sure that he's ready to go. We haven't had much of him this year. It's like five or six games, so he's a pretty big piece of our team and our D corps. I think our team performance is correlated to when he's in the lineup, so we want to get him in and we want to get him in for the rest of the year."

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

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.

How to watch Blackhawks vs. Hurricanes: Time, TV schedule and streaming info

blackhawks_rink_general_usa_today.png
USA Today

How to watch Blackhawks vs. Hurricanes: Time, TV schedule and streaming info

The Blackhawks host the Carolina Hurricanes in the second fame of a three-game homestand. The Blackhawks have been playing well as of late thanks to a schematic change made by head coach Jeremy Colliton.

And the Hawks are making a push up the standings in the process.

On Tuesday night, Patrick Kane will also look to celebrate his birthday in style by continuing his hot streak, which has been a vital part of the Hawks success this season.

Here's how you can watch and stream the game:

Date: Tuesday, November 19
Time: 7:30 p.m. CST
Location: United Center | Chicago, Ill.
TV: NBC Sports Chicago
Stream: MyTeams

NBC Sports Chicago Coverage

SportsTalk Live: 6:00 p.m. CST
Blackhawks Pregame: 7:00 p.m. CST
Blackhawks Postgame Live: 10:00 p.m. CST*

* - Immediately following conclusion of the game

Can't watch this game because your provider dropped NBC Sports Chicago?  Go to MYSPORTSCHICAGO.COM or Call 1-844-700-NBCS to get your Chicago sports back!

After facing early adversity, Blackhawks starting to believe they could be 'a dangerous team'

blackhawks_usa_today.jpg
AP

After facing early adversity, Blackhawks starting to believe they could be 'a dangerous team'

NASHVILLE — The Blackhawks were optimistic about their group going into the 2019-20 season because it was an offseason centered around changing the makeup of the roster. They were also on a 100-point pace from January-on to close out the 2018-19 campaign, and getting a full training camp under head coach Jeremy Colliton to build on that was supposed to pay off from the start of the season.

But after opening this season with a 3-6-2 record, the Blackhawks started to question themselves. They didn't have an identity and found themselves caught in the middle of wanting to be an offensive team but also stressing a defense-first mentality after they gave up the second-most goals last season.

Since making a schematic change on Nov. 7, the Blackhawks have earned nine out of a possible 10 points in their last five games and have scored 24 goals over that span for a goals-per-game average of 4.80. They had scored 33 goals total in the previous 14 games for an average of 2.36 per game.

The Blackhawks are starting to look like the hockey team Chicago was hoping they'd be this season, and the internal confidence is growing also.

"We got through a difficult time and being in the beginning of the year, it's magnified," Colliton said following a 7-2 win over the Predators on Saturday night. "If we would've went through that stretch in January, with 40 good games before, then maybe it's not as big of a deal. But when you come out of the gates like that, you put the team under pressure, everyone's under pressure. Happy that we were able to come out of it and stick together.

"Now there's definitely some belief that we're a dangerous team and we're going to be difficult to beat."

The first month of the season was difficult on everyone. The players, the coaches, the management group. Something needed to change, or the results wouldn't.

The Blackhawks are relieved that not only did they prevent things from spiraling out of control, but they're coming together as a team and stringing together wins. 

"It's more like urgency to get going in the right direction," Colliton said on whether he personally felt pressure after their slow start. "We like our team, we like our players, just wasn't working. So as a coach and our staff and the players too, we have a responsibility to turn over every rock. It doesn't mean going back and forth and zigzagging with what we want to do, but I think the guys have really done a good job of responding to adversity, and now we're on a run."

Having gone through the adversity this early in the season, the Blackhawks will be better for it in the long run knowing they can overcome whatever challenges are thrown at them along the way, as long as they continue playing the right way. Because if they do, the Blackhawks will give themselves a chance to win on a nightly basis, especially with the offense being unleashed and Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner serving as the last line of defense.

"We've had a great team, but we just had a little rough start at the beginning," Alex Nylander said. "We're coming together now and we're creating chances and we're shooting the puck more, so we've been doing a really good job the past couple games and we just need to keep going like this."

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

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.