Jack Skille, who had been mocked and taunted by fans throughout the NHL for his inability to get a puck into the net through 17 games (18 for the team), beat Pekka Rinne twice on Saturday night.
And yet the Blackhawks lost.
The Blackhawks managed five shots on four power play opportunities, including 1:22 of five-on-three play. They failed to score on any of their power play chances.
Looking at the stat sheet, two numbers jump off the page as a pretty good cause for concern when looking at those power play numbers, and they’re the time on ice with a man advantage on Saturday night:
- Marian Hossa – 3:09
- Tomas Kopecky – 3:31
WHAT? Kopecky had more ice time on the power play than Hossa? Certainly that can’t be correct… right?
Let’s take it one step further. Skille had two goals and Viktor Stalberg the third goal for the Hawks on Saturday night. They must have seen decent ice time, right?
- Skille – 11:46 total (0:00 PP)
- Stalberg – 8:41 total (0:00 PP)
- Kopecky – 13:58 total (3:31 PP)
Ok… something’s just not adding up now. Was Kopecky having a great night? He must have had good numbers if he got that much ice time, no?
- Tomas Kopecky: 13:58 TOI, 0 goals, 0 assists, -1, 0 hits, 0 blocked shots, 0 faceoffs, 0 takeaways
So basically the only guys in white sweaters that scored on Saturday night couldn’t get off the bench with a man advantage, couldn’t get on the ice in overtime, and didn’t merit as much ice time as a guy that gave the team… nothing?
At this point I’m lost.
There are a number of really good things the Blackhawks can take away from Saturday night’s effort. Marty Turco was very good for 35 minutes, allowing three goals on 33 shots. He was fooled by a couple shots in the shootout that cost the Hawks a second point on the night, but he didn’t receive a single decent shot on net on the other end.
Led by Niklas Hjalmarsson’s nine (yes, I said nine) blocked shots, the Blackhawks defensive effort was much improved. The penalty kill in overtime was one of the best efforts of the season by the Blackhawks, and they avoided the quick turn around goals that have plagued them in recent losses.
In fact, the Blackhawks busted a number of disturbing trends on Saturday night. It was Skille, not the opponent, scoring late in the first period. Less than two minutes after Nashville took the lead, Stalberg answered and tied the game. And, for the first time this year, the Blackhawks were fully healthy.
The lack of health on his roster has kept coach Joel Quenneville from being able to skate a regular rotation yet this year, but that changed in Nashville. Quenneville had a full compliment of players available, and skated his top players heavy minutes. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp skated over 24 minutes each, and Patrick Kane was given 22:50 on the ice. Marian Hossa was over 19 minutes, and Dave Bolland was over 17 in his return from IR.
From that list, only Sharp contributed a point.
Meanwhile, Bryan Bickell had his best game of the season while only receiving 11:12 in ice time. He was plus-two with a team-leading three hits, one assist and the biggest hit of the night on Patric Hornqvist. Troy Brouwer tied Bickell for the team high with three hits and received 13:37 in ice time, starting on the top line with Toews and Sharp but being replaced for a number of shifts in the second period by Stalberg.
Stalberg scored his goal while on the ice with Toews and Sharp.
The superstars aren’t giving the Blackhawks what they need. Hossa and Sharp have both gone seven games between goals, which doesn’t include the games Hossa missed because of injury. While Toews has been winning faceoffs at a remarkable rate, he now has as many goals (five) as Stalberg. Skille, who couldn’t score to save his life for 17 games, jumped past Brouwer, Bolland, Duncan Keith and Brian Campbell with his two tallies on Saturday night.
And yet the players that are producing continue to find themselves on the bench in crucial situations.
Like a five-on-three power play.
The Nashville Predators are the only team in the Central Division with fewer points than the Hawks, and just gave them a dogfight for 65 minutes before earning the second point. What can the Blackhawks expect on Sunday night, when the Anaheim Ducks bring a six-game winning streak to the United Center?
Quenneville has settled down the blue line by playing his defensemen equal minutes whether it’s Keith or Campbell or Nick Boynton or Jassen Cullimore. It might be time for him to consider levelling off the minutes up front as well, and giving the players that are actually producing the opportunity to impact the game in a bigger way.