Can Marcus Kruger Fix The Blackhawks?

Before Tuesday night’s gongshow performance at the United Center, coach Joel Quenneville said center Marcus Kruger might return for the Hawks’ next game on Saturday night in Calgary. Is Kruger, who had only one point in 33 games before getting hurt, really the answer to everything ailing the Blackhawks?

The Blackhawks won’t admit it, but they’re a tired team. Over the last couple weeks they’ve been dominated by other Western Conference playoff teams.

Could one player change everything?

Faceoffs

Since January 1, the Blackhawks have sucked at the dot. Period. Blackhawks not-named-Toews have won 44.5 percent of their faceoffs since the beginning of the 2016 calendar year, leading to Quenneville rolling Toews out there for more draws as the season progresses. Toews has taken 33 percent of the Blackhawks faceoffs in 2016, but is up to nearly 37 percent in March. To his credit, Toews has won 57.6 percent of his faceoffs this year.

Kruger has been out since mid-December, but still ranks third on the Blackhawks in faceoffs taken this year behind Toews and Artem Anisomov. He was essentially a 50 percent player at the dot this season (he has won two fewer than he’s lost in nearly 400 attempts). In his absence, the likes of Phillip Danault, Vince Hinostroza and Dennis Rasmussen have been asked to take regular faceoffs and all three rookies have struggled.

Penalty Kill

Since January 1, the Blackhawks have allowed 24 power play goals in 35 games. Unfortunately, that includes a good January; the Hawks have allowed 20 power play goals in their last 25 games. Overall, the Blackhawks are killing only 76.2 percent of their penalties this calendar year.

The Blackhawks penalty kill unit wasn’t having a great season before Kruger got hurt, but it hadn’t reached dumpster fire status yet. Chicago killed 81.1 percent of their short-handed situations from the start of the regular season through December. More importantly, they had allowed only 21 power play goals in 39 games before the new year.

As you can see from this chart, however, Kruger was playing a more important role than just “fourth line center” for the Hawks.

Kruger’s absence has been amplified since the Blackhawks traded Phillip Danault to Montreal for Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann. Though Danault had won only 44 percent of his faceoffs in January and February, we can see from this chart that the Hawks were using him in a role that compared favorably to Kruger.

Kruger, who was a restricted free agent last summer, waited until the late in the summer to take a very team-friendly one-year deal from the Hawks. He was rewarded, however. After the Danault deal, the Blackhawks signed Kruger to a three-year extension. His value has been painfully evident in his absence, and his return might be a desperately needed spark for the Hawks.

17 thoughts on “Can Marcus Kruger Fix The Blackhawks?

  1. Will he fix it on his own? No…

    if the top 2 lines dont play like the top 2 lines we can lose every game 3-1, 2-1, 3-2, etc….

    but if they start rolling in the next 2 weeks, Krugs can be a big difference maker…

    and maybe his return can be the spark to get it all going…

    ***crosses fingers.

  2. Kruger should provide the spark this team needs to turn its lackluster play around. Desi/Kruger/Shaw and Panik in and out… right now that looks like pure gold.
    Think the 3rd and 4th lines will step up to produce-they were much needed last year during the Cup run and especially in the SCF itself. The new guys (AV, AD, TT) stepped up their games and we would not have won without them. Hoping it will be that way this year.
    But “the core” need to lead by example for these new guys-they need to step it up!

  3. He will definitely help the penalty kill. Right now 15, 16, 19, and 81 do the heavy lifting on the PK. If the #1 unit goes back to 22 and 11, then those top 6 guys don’t have as many of those really grueling PK minutes. That will keep them a little fresher hopefully. I think that is the main problem right now. Fatigue.

  4. Tab is this a trick Question?

    From the couch and trying to see thru my BlackHawks Slippers and jiffyPop I could see him not even cracking this current line up!

    Marcus was very good at the DOT but his injury my slow him down at the dot.

    He will move Shaw over and take that center spot BUT to be honest if this was day one it would be a dog fight for him to get back. BUT Coach Q has his pets, like TVR and Marcus but Marcus has earned the line up for sure! Btu he wont change anything the problem is not bottom two lines it’s top two! period.

    Is Marcus good, HELL YA . . . I for one see the bottom two lines as totally re-built to perfection, I could not be happier! This is the most skill we have ever had on the bottom two lines and it was all late season glue gun! They get better night in night out and as i said months ago Mash and Moooose would not be in the playoffs.

    this was a trick question right?

  5. “to be honest if this was day one it would be a dog fight for him to get back” actually made me laugh out loud. Thanks for that.

    The trickle-up of Kruger being in the lineup is where is value resides, not in his one assist. He’s an excellent defensive center in the Western Conference (not Toews/Kopitar but not many more better) who will take pressure off Toews to be the only guy on the roster who can survive at the dot. No more Anisimov taking defensive zone faceoffs. No more Shaw at center. No more Panik or Mashinter or Rasmussen. And, as we clearly illustrated in the piece, the penalty kill has been awful since he got hurt. Mediocre would be an improvement on PK, and he should help that.

    Is he going to make everyone around him better? No. But will he help other guys on the roster slide into more appropriate roles more consistently? Yes.

  6. Start giving core players off days for heck sake! Seriously do the Hawks need Seabrook against Calgary? Or Toews against Vancouver? They arent winning the Conf, diversion or likely playing for home ice so start resting guys.

  7. The trickle effect will. Krugs is a key player. Faceoffs couldn’t be worse anyways. With a full roster, this allows every guys to be in their most ideal positions/roles.

    Its like the difference we got when 16 and 81 came back, 65 made 4th & 3rd line strong/er.

    “The pain you have been feeling cannot compare to the joy that is coming.”

  8. Kruger is recovering from a serious/major “wrist” injury… I don’t expect him to have much impact on face-off wins.

    That being said, the Hawks need to up their compete level & desire for the puck when they don’t cleanly win the face-off…

    During this funk they are clearly getting outworked…

    JMHO

  9. Once Krugs is back I would like to see 65 with 86&12 to give TT a break at the dot. Shaw isnt great but he has his games where he wins half his draws, more than TT has done. Honestly I would like to see Hossa on the 3rd line with Shaw and TT to take some pressure off Hoss by playing against less skilled opponents. 12 could play with 19&16 to give them some scoring punch. And please keep Panik in the lineup on the 4th line.

  10. Hey we have a HOF coach that will figure this all out for the playoffs, I’m not worried. We have been here before and come out on top!

  11. 16 / 19 / 12 Need a bit more speed at the top
    72 / 15 / 88 Why mess with this?
    65 / 86 / 81 Grit, speed and possession
    14 or 25 / 70 then 22 / 11 A balanced line that can skate 11-12 minutes

    2 / 4
    7 / 55
    57 / 32 boy the third pairing is tough

  12. He will definitely help. Marcus is a proven commodity and an invaluable piece come playoff time. Remember, we have many players who are not used to playing into late June. The more guys we dress who have the Cup pedigree, the better off we are. I’m confident 22 can improve our draw numbers even after his injury. Marcus is a proud guy, he wants to contribute and he surely will …

    This time of year things are hard to evaluate. None of it will mean a damn thing after the Playoffs start. Let’s let it play out, get Crawford where he is playing/feeling good and hit the reset button on April 10. Marcus will be back doing what he does, and he will have fresh legs for another run at the Cup. That’s a win-win if there ever was one.

  13. Anyone else think that Krugs coming back and matching-up against top lines again will lower the QoC for the top 2 lines (at least in cases where we can have last change)? That alone may help jump start the higher groups.

    As for his injury affecting his FO work, no one knows but the fact that he is coming back before the playoffs tells me the thing is fully rehabbed. Otherwise, why bother for a handful of games with that risk.

    Love Gus, but like how you can notice many players based on their stickhandling/stride, I noticed him because he continually followed guys deep in the D-zone to keep them from taking the outside on him, but when they pull-up, he was too slow to react and basically went to the end boards. The other guy then had waaay too much wide-open ice to take his time/find a trail pass for a decent opportunity. Seems like he was playing to not make a big mistake too often right now.

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