The Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus answers fan questions and begins by looking at the Jonathan Toews–Patrick Kane pairing. After a shaky start, the Blackhawks have been on fire since, rocketing to the top of the Western Conference thanks to Vezina-like goaltending from Corey Crawford and timely goal scoring. Something fans wanted for a long time, a line featuring Toews and Kane together, was successful in boosting the Hawks to an 8-2-1 record since its construction. The downside? It hasn’t been as dominant as some fans want it to be. Lazerus points out that Toews has four goals and six assists in 11 games with Kane while the latter has four goals and seven assists. While it hasn’t been a “dumpster fire,” as Lazerus put it, it hasn’t been as successful as fans would have thought–or wished.
With that said, Lazerus believes it to be foolish separating the lines, especially since Marian Hossa has experienced a resurgence and is playing exceptionally well with Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin.
- Lazerus also answers questions about the expansion draft and who the Hawks are likely to protect come this summer. Aside from Toews, Kane, Hossa, and Anisimov, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson who all have non-movement clauses, the younger players are also exempt. Lazerus predicts that Trevor van Riemsdyk, Marcus Kruger, or even Richard Panik (should his contract be extended) will be taken by Las Vegas.
- Meanwhile, Scott Powers looks at a number of statistical measures for the Blackhawks that ranges from Corsi to the impressive dominance of the Blackhawks over the season. From Powers:
- 50.29: The Blackhawks are 12th in the NHL with a 50.29 Corsi percentage in 5-on-5 play. They’re 24th with an average of 52.82 Corsi for per 60 minutes and seventh at 52.22 Corsi against per 60. They’re 26th with 27.5 shots on goal for per 60 minutes and 21st at 30.58 shots on goal against per 60.
- 96.00: Corey Crawford is fourth in the NHL with 96.00 save percentage in 5-on-5 play this season. He’s allowed 13 goals on 325 shots. Only two other goalies have faced more 5-on-5 shots than Crawford this season. He’s also fifth with 90.14 high-danger save percentage and leads the league with 13.55 goals saved above average.
The piece about Crawford is valuable because his play has paced Chicago through their torrid run since the end of October. Often believed to be the beneficiary of a great defense, Crawford has been a rock between the pipes and the advanced stats bear that out. Many are taking notice.
Though he was snubbed last season by not even being listed as a Vezina candidate, Crawford should find his name on the ballot this year if his dominant play continues.