Defense Holding Blackhawks Back From Serious Stanley Cup Contention

By Randy Holt

At this point in the season, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise when the Blackhawks experience a defensive letdown. It’s pretty much a certainty.

That’s why, as frustrating as it may have been, there weren’t too many people that were surprised when a defensive lapse cost the Hawks an extra point in overtime against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night.

In the extra frame, Daniel Sedin skated in all alone, with all four Blackhawks surrounding him, and slipped the puck past Corey Crawford. No one even uttered a word to Daniel, giving Crawford the loss on a night that he played what was probably his best game of the season.

There’s no doubt that the Blackhawks can score. With the returns of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp on Tuesday, the Hawks boast a completely healthy team and can score with the best of them.

Their 3.14 goals per game ranks fourth in the league, which is good for second in the Western Conference. And as miserable as their power play might seem at times, it’s still a top ten unit, at least statistically.

But turn it around on the defense and you can see why there are many that are saying that this is a Blackhawks team that isn’t quite up to par for an actual Stanley Cup run. A deep playoff run, yes, but not another hoisting of the Cup. Yet.

It’s an improved number of late, but the Hawks are 19th in the National Hockey League in goals against per, with 2.82. But the most telling statistic of all is their record when they do and don’t score at least three goals in a game. When the Hawks score at least three goals in a game, they are 28-2-3 on the season. When they score less, they are just 1-13-4.

That tells you all you need to know right there. The Blackhawks haven’t gotten that “goalie win”, as Joel Quenneville refers to it as, and some of that is because of the fact that neither Crawford or Ray Emery have a top notch defense playing in front of them on a nightly basis. The offense is capable of carrying them through stretches, but for an entire postseason, where the games get tougher and lower scoring, the defense will need to elevate its game.

Luckily for the Blackhawks this problem is a fixable one. We’ve heard all sorts of rumors about how the Hawks are in the market for another defenseman, likely to add to that second line. It’s a guarantee that they’ll make some sort of move to add some help on the blue line.

The Blackhawks don’t need to add any help on offense. If the team can survive with some sort of combination of Dave Bolland and Brendan Morrison on that second line, they’re fine as far as the forwards go. But the defense is a serious concern, which is obviously not any sort of secret.

Luckily, it’s a problem Stan Bowman looks ready to fix and will likely do so before the trade deadline later this month. The Hawks are among the elite teams in the league. But until they can shore up things on the defensive end, which will likely help out Corey Crawford as well, they might not be able to win the 16 needed in the playoffs to hoist the Stanley Cup again.

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