The Chicago Blackhawks are in pursuit of their third Stanley Cup title in the last five years, and the effort is going well as last year’s champs prepare to come out of the Olympic break. Chicago has accumulated 84 points in 60 games. The Blackhawks are tied for first in the Central Division with the St. Louis Blues (albeit having played three fewer games), and have the look of a team that can again run through the NHL postseason.
It starts with an offense that keeps attacking. That’s how Chicago won an epic Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals in Boston, and it’s what the Blackhawks do game-in, game-out. This team is second in the league at generating shots on goal.
Any team that gets that many shots is going to light the lamp, but especially a team with as many quality scorers as Chicago has. Jonathan Toews has 23 goals and 25 assists from his center spot, while Marian Hossa (17 goals) and Patrick Kane work the right side. The left side of the offense hasn’t been productive so far, but Patrick Sharp is more than capable of turning it up a notch now that the season is getting serious.
Duncan Keith leads up the defensemen, with 24 assists from the back line. Keith and his mates also lead the way in making Chicago a top-five team at preventing shots. Corey Crawford has been a bit of a disappointment in net this year. A 91.6% save rate is more than a full percentage point away from the best goalies in the NHL and over sixty games that adds up to a lot.
The result is Chicago is only 13th in the bottom line of allowing goals. Furthermore, the defense on the power play, where the goalie often has to bail his team out, has been very poor. Chicago is a bottom-five team in the penalty kill, and that’s something that has to improve if they were to win another Stanley Cup.
Chicago’s strengths far outshine its weaknesses though. Their execution on their own power play is stellar, and they rank high in standard 5-on-5 play. The latter is often a key indicator of playoff success, as it means a team won’t be dependent on getting power plays to generate any offense.
Crawford needs to step up his game, but at the end of the day, Chicago has a lot of talent and they generate a lot more shots on goal than their opponents. It doesn’t take a detailed analytical system to figure out you’ll win a lot of hockey games with that formula.