Robin Alam/Icon SMI)
To say that the Chicago Blackhawks are in need of some secondary scoring would be an understatement.
No other team relies on four players to score their goals more than the Blackhawks rely on Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane.
Heading into last night’s game against St. Louis, those four players had combined to score 100 of the club’s 209 total goals, resulting in 48% of their total offense this season.
The fact that Chicago remains sixth in the West is a testament to how good the likes of Toews, Hossa, Sharp and Kane continue to be and how determinant they are to any of the success that the team has had and will hope to have the rest of the season.
Despite missing 11 games this year, the captain Toews still leads the Blackhawks with 29 goals and is followed by Hossa (27), Sharp (26) and Kane with 18. After that comes a considerable drop-off with only three other players totaling double-digits in goals. Dave Bolland and Viktor Stalberg have produced in spurts with each now having 17 goals respectively, but they have had far too many inconsistent stretches in terms of their offensive contributions.
After Bolland and Stalberg there isn’t much. Chicago’s next three highest goal totals come from veteran winger Andrew Brunette with 11, diminutive rookie Marcus Kruger with nine, and grinding winger Bryan Bickell with seven. It also hasn’t helped that the talented but underachieving Michael Frolik has had a hugely disappointing season and has just five goals in 55 games.
Injuries to Toews and Sharp at different points of the season have made getting some secondary scoring that much more of a necessity, but the Blackhawks have not been receiving much of it in the last month.
Surprisingly, it is Marcus Kruger who has lately been the next most productive forward after the “big four” as he has potted six goals in his last 16 games. David Bolland continues to be a solid player in all areas but has just two goals in his last 20 games while the speedy Stalberg has scored twice in his last 20 games. Bickell has three in his last 30 and the 38-year-old Brunette has struggled mightily and has just two goals in the teams past 30 contests.
The last two years have proven how vital secondary scoring is for a team like the Blackhawks that features some elite talent but is short on depth. Their Stanley Cup team in 2010 perfectly exemplified how the need to have scoring up and down the line-up is a must for playoff success, while last year’s team proved that not having it is a recipe for failure.
With the Big Four and defensemen like Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, the Blackhawks are certainly a playoff caliber team. But if they hope to avoid the same fate they suffered last year, then they will certainly need some of the less relied upon players to step up and make a greater impact.
Central Division Notes
Chicago Blackhawks – The Blackhawks got exactly what they were looking for in terms of secondary scoring in Tuesday night’s game against St. Louis. Andrew Brunette, Viktor Stalberg and Brent Seabrook scored in the 4-3 shootout win over the league-leading Blues. Chicago also continues to be one of the NHL’s top home teams, picking up their 24th win at the United Center.
Columbus Blue Jackets – The Blue Jackets weren’t in action Tuesday night but found themselves in the news nonetheless. Marc Antoine Godin, who covers the Montreal Canadiens for La Presse, tweeted that three different NHL executives told him that Columbus is expected to trade their first round pick in this year’s draft. With the Blue Jackets likely to obtain the first-overall selection, it would be a rarity if they did indeed trade it away, but this can only be considered a rumor at this point.
Detroit Red Wings – The Red Wings returned Jimmy Howard to the crease but saw their road woes continue in a 5-2 loss to Los Angeles last night. The club has now lost six of their past seven road games and now have a record of 16-19-1 on the road this season. A positive in the loss was the line of Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula and Jiri Hudler continuing their red-hot play. Hudler scored his 21st goal of the year with Zetterberg and Filppula each collecting an assist.
St. Louis Blues – Last night’s loss saw the club’s five-game win streak come to an end but the Blues still managed to grab a point in the hard fought shootout loss to the Blackhawks. Jamie Langenbrunner scored in his second game back from injury while Andy McDonald continued his impressive play with a goal and assist.