Blackhawks

NHL Power Rankings: Lightning starting to click

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NHL Power Rankings: Lightning starting to click

The Lightning stretched their winning streak to seven games before having it snapped on Saturday, and quickly find themselves challenging their cross-state rival Panthers for the No. 1 seed in Atlantic Division.

Meanwhile in the West, the Sharks have registered at least a point in nine consecutive games and have emerged as the No. 2 seed in the wide-open Pacific Division, aside from Los Angeles.

Check in with CSNChicago.com for updated rankings every Monday throughout the 2015-16 campaign. Here's where we're at so far: Preseason rankings | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13 | Week 14 | Week 15

 

Rank Team
Last Week Record/Comment
1 1

35-8-3, 73 points: The Capitals had two games postponed last week due to inclement weather, but not before grabbing another win, a 6-3 drubbing in Columbus.

2  

33-15-4, 70 points: There's a high possibility that Corey Crawford, who leads the league with seven shutouts, could win the Vezina Trophy while not being named an All-Star in the same season.

3

30-15-3, 63 points: Vincent Lecavalier has given the Kings an extra shot in the arm, potting four goals in nine games, including a game-tying goal with 12 seconds left against the Sharks on Sunday night that ended in a 3-2 overtime win.

4
 
5

28-15-5, 61 points: Aaron Ekblad returned to the lineup after missing four games with a concussion as the Panthers crushed the reigning Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks 4-0 and the defending Eastern Conference champion Lightning 5-2 on back-to-back nights.

5
 

26-18-4, 56 points: The Lightning's winning streak reached seven games before losing to Florida on Saturday, and they looked good doing it. Jon Cooper's group is starting to click on all cylinders despite off-ice distractions.

6  

28-16-8, 64 points: The Blues suffered a 2-0 loss to Chicago in their final game before the All-Star break, but previously picked up at least a point in nine of their last 10 games.

7  

25-15-6, 56 points: A three-goal third period to break a 2-2 tie in a 5-2 win over Ottawa on Friday has the Islanders heading into the All-Star break with some confidence.

8  

23-17-7, 53 points: Trevor Daley and Carl Hagelin have been perfect additions for a Penguins team that needed a boost offensively. Evgeni Malkin continued his fine season with his 10th career regular-season hat trick in Saturday's win over Vancouver.

9  

24-16-8, 56 points: The Red Wings are 11-2-2 when Dylan Larkin scores a goal this season. He recorded his fourth multi-point game of the year in Friday's 3-0 win over Buffalo.

10   10 

30-14-5, 65 points: The Stars recorded an astounding 106 shot attempts in a 3-1 loss to the Avalanche, who had just 32 total shot attempts. Combination of soft goals allowed and bad luck.

11   13

25-17-5, 55 points: On Nov. 17, the Bruins owned the league's worst penalty kill unit with a 70.8 percentage (46-for-65). Since then, they've killed off 89 of 94 penalties (94.7 percent) and now own the league's fifth-best PK unit at 84.9 percent. Incredible turnaround.

12   15

25-18-4, 54 points: The Sharks are 7-0-2 in their last nine games, and own a plus-14 goal differential during that span. Joe Pavelski is on a roll with two goals, including his league-leading eighth game-winner of the season, and three assists in his last three games.

13   11

21-18-7, 49 points: The Ducks have outshot their opponent in 13 consecutive games, which has led to a 9-3-1 record. Ryan Kesler scored two goals in a game for the second time this month.

14

 
 12

26-17-5, 57 points: The All-Star break couldn't come at a better time for the Rangers, who are 10-14-3 in their last 27 games after starting the season 16-3-2. Hit the reset button.

15
 
 11

23-17-8, 54 points: Here's another team that could use a break. The Wild have just three wins in 2016, due in large part to a lack of scoring, which has always been the primary problem in Minnesota.

16   14 

24-20-4, 52 points: After GM Marc Bergevin reiterated the coaching staff's job security, the Canadiens pulled out a much-needed shootout win over the lowly Maple Leafs on Saturday. Bad news: Carey Price will be sidelined longer than expected.

17   17 

22-20-8, 52 points: The Hurricanes are sitting three points out of the final wild-card spot in the East, and aren't making things easy for GM Ron Francis, who has to decide whether or not to trade captain Eric Staal, an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

18    18

22-18-8, 52 points: The Predators are 11-14-5 in games they outshoot their opponent and own a shot differential of plus-332 in those games. They're 11-4-3 in games they're outshot with a shot differential of minus-114. How bizarre is that?

19
 
21 

25-19-5, 55 points: Despite being outshot in each of the last four games, the Devils have rolled off four consecutive wins. Because Cory Schneider.

20
 
22 

26-21-3, 55 points: The Avalanche, who allow an average of 2.66 goals per game, have given up just four goals during their four-game winning streak. Semyon Varlamov is a large reason for that.

21
 
20 

23-19-5, 51 points: The Coyotes improved their record to 11-2-2 against Pacific Division teams this season, a crucial mark in a wide open division below Los Angeles.

22   23  20-18-11, 51 points: According to Elias, Saturday's dueling hat tricks by Jannik Hansen and Evgeni Malkin marked the first time players on opposing teams have each netted three goals in a game since March 8, 2015 when Elias Lindholm and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins did the same in a 7-4 Carolina win over Edmonton.
23   24  23-20-6, 52 points: Bobby Ryan scored his 17th goal of the season — and his fourth in five games — in Sunday's win over the Rangers, and, by doing so, helped a family get a puppy, which will be named after him.
24   16 

20-17-8, 48 points: The Flyers have been on a surprisingly good run, but came back down to earth after squandering a two-goal lead to Pittsburgh on Thursday, allowing three answered goals in a 4-3 loss.

25    26

21-22-3, 45 points: In 23 home games this season, Johnny Gaudreau has 33 points (17 goals and 16 assists) and a plus-16 rating. In 23 road games, he has just 13 points (three goals and 10 assists) and a minus-13 rating.

26   27 

19-25-4, 42 points: No wins to show for it, but Robin Lehner has been terrific in his first three starts back from injury, posting a 2.37 goals against average and .936 save percentage.

27   28

19-26-5, 43 points: Connor McDavid, who suffered a broken collarbone on Nov. 3, has been cleared for contact, and is targeting to return on the first game back after the All-Star break. Great news.

28   30 

17-20-9, 43 points: The Maple Leafs are on a three-game point streak, but have just one win in their last nine games. To make things more difficult, eight of their next nine games are on the road.

29   25 

21-24-3, 45 points: The Jets have scored just one goal in each of their last four games, and are now tied for the second-worst record in the West. This is the team to watch at the trade deadline, as they hold two players who could fetch a big return in Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd.

30   29

17-27-5, 39 points: If John Tortorella fracturing two ribs in a collision with his own player during a practice doesn't define how this Blue Jackets season has gone, what does?

*Advanced stats courtesy of war-on-ice.com

How Blackhawks physicality is adding new dimension to style of play

How Blackhawks physicality is adding new dimension to style of play

The Blackhawks turned in their best 60-minute effort of the young season in Monday’s 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers. They controlled the pace of play, got terrific goaltending from Corey Crawford and tightened up defensively.

But they also showed that they added a new layer to their team game this season.

The Blackhawks registered 36 hits against the Oilers, one of which was thunderously delivered by Andrew Shaw, sparking a scrum. Brent Seabrook led the team with six hits, Calvin de Haan had five and Drake Caggiula and Olli Maatta each had four. Heck, even Alex DeBrincat (three) and Patrick Kane (one) got in on the action.

It’s an element of their game that’s been missing the last few seasons and something they feel is important to their overall team success because it keeps other teams honest.

"I don't know if it's because of the personnel we have or the way we want to be strong and competitive and win battles, but obviously the other night we had a lot of finished hits and a lot of physicality that brings up the morale on the bench, which is a good thing," Kane said. "You look at Shawzy's hit, the stuff he's been doing early in the season — whether it's scoring big goals or sticking up for guys after they get hit — it's been awesome for the team. That's something that can really help us. We also need to play a little bit more with the puck, but it's a way we can get the puck back."

The Blackhawks don’t necessarily want to lead the NHL in the hits category, but they do want to establish an identity centered around being a difficult team to play against and adding that dimension is part of it. So is team unity.

"I don't think it's going to be our go-to in the way we're going to beat teams," Jonathan Toews said. "There's no doubt we've got guys that can mix it in. We saw last game with Shawzy and Murph, and [Ryan Carpenter] and [Zack Smith] and go down the list of guys. Even [Caggiula] and [DeBrincat] were throwing the weight around a couple days ago. It's definitely part of our game — we can play with energy and I think it's going to be there when we're ready to go. But our game is puck possession and keeping teams in their end and outplaying them in that sense.”

Through four games this season, the Blackhawks are averaging 33.0 hits per game. The previous two seasons they averaged 16.5 and 16.8, respectively, which ranked 30th.

While it's still early, there's clearly an uptick in the physicality department and it's exactly what the organization was hoping for after bringing in players like Shaw and Smith to add some bite to the roster. The Blackhawks are focused on becoming a team that can win in several different ways and play any kind of style.

"There’s a difference between running around just trying to get a tick on the stat sheet," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "But we definitely want to be physical when we have the chance and force the opposition to make plays before they're ready, and we can create turnovers and transition and offense and get out of D zone. We have some guys who like to play that way and I think it helps our team." 

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Behind the Numbers: Blackhawks third line driving possession against top competition

Behind the Numbers: Blackhawks third line driving possession against top competition

During the Blackhawks' training camp festival on Sept. 15, coach Jeremy Colliton discovered a combination he's grown to like in David Kampf, Dominik Kubalik and Brandon Saad. And it's the only trio that's stuck together through training camp and into the regular season.

On paper, it's not a sexy line. But they all bring different elements and it's translating to on-ice success.

When the three of them are on the ice together at even strength, the Blackhawks are controlling 59.7 percent of the shot attempts, 68.6 of the scoring chances and 76.9 percent of the high-danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. 

When they aren't on the ice at even strength? The Blackhawks are controlling 47.6 percent of the shot attempts, 46.2 percent of the scoring chances and 41.7 percent of the high-danger chances. 

Those are ridiculous numbers for a third line, and they're doing it against top competition, too.

On Saturday against Winnipeg, the Saad-Kampf-Kubalik line was tasked with going up against the Jets' Big Three of Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler and held them to three shots on goal for and three against in 14:06 of 5-on-5 ice time together. And on Monday against Edmonton, it kept one of the best lines in hockey in check, with Leon Draisaitl, Zack Kassian and Connor McDavid recording a minus-6 shot attempt differential in 15:25 of 5-on-5 ice time together.

The biggest mistake Colliton has made this season was separating the trio in the home opener after Kubalik scored a goal and recorded five shots on goal in the first period. He wanted to get the first line going and provide a spark by rewarding Kubalik, but the third line was dominant in the opening 20 minutes — it generated 10 scoring chances at 5-on-5 in only 4:30 together — and moving Kubalik away from Kampf and Saad really affected both lines in a negative way.

But don't expect Colliton to make that same mistake anytime soon. He learned his lesson and that's the last line he's going to touch if he's looking for a shakeup.

"They all just got real big motors, big engine," Colliton said. "They work and compete and they all bring a little bit different ingredient. Obviously like Saad is an accomplished, proven performer. He takes the puck to the net. He's a horse there. He's really hard to get the puck off, he transports it from D zone to the offensive zone, he can make those plays.

"I think Kampy is a workhorse. He takes a lot of responsibility defensively and can transport the puck from one end to another. Then you got Kubby, he's got a bomb. I've been very impressed with his play away from the puck. That's been a surprise for me. So now he can play on that line because he does so many responsible things. He wins a lot of races, he's a great forechecker. So, pleased with that line."

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