Yesterday we graded the performances of the Blackhawks’ rookies through the first 50 games of the regular season. Today, in the second part of the series, we’ll evaluate the defensemen and goalies.
49 games played, 3 goals, 24 assists, 27 points, +14
It’s amazing to consider that, with a patch of awful games in November, Keith’s plus-minus is tied for 16th among all defensemen and his 27 points are tied for 13th among blue liners at the Break. He’s also blocked 72 shots and has been credited with 34 takeaways. There have absolutely been moments where he needs to be better defensively, but the lack of a legitimate number three d-man has impacted the entire group of defensemen on the roster. Overall, Keith has been pretty good this year. Norris candidate? Probably not. But still good.
49 GP, 3 G, 15 A, 18 Pts, +13
Seabrook has been the Hawks’ most consistent defenseman all year, and has elevated his game in spite of the workload he’s been given. There are only 20 defensemen in the NHL with more than 100 blocked shots so far this year, and only six of those also have more than 100 hits. Seabrook is one of them. He might not ever be a 50-60 point guy, but he’s been the Hawks’ best defenseman when it comes to being in position, clearing the crease, and saving the goaltenders’ backside. His play this year may have saved the team 10-12 goals already.
50 GP, 2 G, 23 A, 25 Pts, -6
Leddy, who most of us forget is still only 20, has had his ups and downs this year. He’s tied for 18th in point among NHL defensemen, and has been credited with 50 hits and 45 blocked shots. But what we have seen, especially in January, is that his first full NHL season and an exponentially increased work load may be catching up with him; his ice time average of 22:26 is up 8:09 from last year, and he only had 46 regular season games at the NHL level on his resume before this season. As we’ve pointed out before, the Blackhawks are 5-0-0 when he skates under 20 minutes in January, and 0-5-2 when he’s over that mark.
50 GP, 1 G, 9 A, 10 Pts, +7
Hjalmarsson has been one of the frustrating reasons the Hawks are in the market for a number three defenseman. To his credit, he’s already registered as many points this season as he did all of last year, and is on pace to have a career-year from an offensive standpoint, but his positioning has left a lot to be desired too often. His 36 giveaways are the most on the Hawks’ roster, and he hasn’t developed chemistry with Leddy on the second pair yet. His 116 blocked shots are tied for fifth in among defensemen.
47 GP, 5 G, 8 A, 13 Pts, +2
Montador has been puzzling this year. His best work has come on the power play, where he’s been slotted at a forward and has contributed two goals and four assists, but one has to wonder how his four-year deal from this past summer impacts the plans of the organization over the next 2-3 seasons. He is a bottom pair defenseman, but with kids like Dylan Olsen getting close to being NHL-ready, it’s hard to see how the Hawks will work with both Montador and Hjalmarsson locked-up for the next couple years. Montador has been credited with 47 hits and 44 blocked shots while averaging 15:09 this year, his lowest ice time average since the 2006-07 season.
35 GP, 0 G, 7 A, 7 Pts, -3
The old man on the roster has been exactly what the Hawks need in the role of a seventh defenseman this year. He’s been credited with 34 hits and 33 blocked shots in a limited role, and has been solid in penalty killing work. The problem with the Hawks roster, as we’ve said time after time, is that he’s been asked to play more often than he should have been because of the lack of a true number three d-man.
John Scott & Sami Lepisto
31 GP, 0 G, 1 A, +4 combined
We’re combining these two because neither should be on the NHL roster at this point. They have posted 36 hits and 11 blocked shots in their limited action this year, and Scott’s role as the would-be “enforcer” is a joke now because nobody in their right mind will fight the guy. Lepisto would be a third pair guy in Rockford at this point, and should have been on waivers around Thanksgiving. Again, with what we saw from Olsen in his two games, he’s a better asset on the NHL roster today than either of these guys, and, unlike Lepisto and Scott, has a future with the organization.
36 GP, 18-12-4, 2.86, .902
As we recently pointed out, Crawford has not been good at the United Center this year and the Blackhawks need to see more of the guy that was so impressive in Vancouver in April than the guy that was smashing his stick on Tuesday night. Certainly all of the Blackhawks’ problems this year haven’t been Crawford’s fault, but he needs to be better. He’s allowed only one goal in six games this year, but has allowed four or more in ten games.
18 GP, 11-3-2, 2.57, .907
If we circle back to the argument made in the article linked above re: Crawford, Emery has been very good at home this year and he was exceptional when unofficially handed the starting job earlier this season. In fact, if you take the Nov. 20 debacle in Edmonton off his record this year, Emery has a .918 save percentage. Before the season started, we were critical of Emery getting the second goaltender spot on the roster this season, but he’s proved us to be completely wrong in that assessment. If Crawford doesn’t improve, Emery should see his work load increase down the stretch.