The Hawks clearly aren’t having a season fit to their standards as they sit 7 points back from a Wild Card spot. Chicago is on a playoff streak of 9 years and is looking to continue that for another year. Although the Hawks have had their ups and downs, I’ve picked out 4 bright spots in the Hawks lineup.
Kane isn’t having a spectacular season but it still well above a point per game and has been the clear leader of this Blackhawks team. He clearly misses his former linemate, Artemi Panarin, but has begun to find great chemistry with 21 year old, Nick Schmaltz. Kane has been relying heavily on fast breaks as well as slow offensive possession. Many of his goals have come off of plays set up by passing and moving the puck around, largely coming from Schmaltz. He’s really heated up his past 13 games or so and just hit the 20 goal mark for the 11th time in his career. He also recently hit the 800 career point mark with a nice goal against Jaroslav Halak of the Islanders. Kane’s ability to control the game in the offensive zone allows for him to dominate the game and he’s been proving this all year.
Schmaltz, a former 1st round pick out of North Dakota, spent much of his short college career lining with Calder Front Runner, Brock Boeser. The chemistry those 2 had in college is beginning to replicate with Kane and Schmaltz. Nick has been very flexible with his role on the team, switching from Center to Wing and vice versa. He started by filling Panarins role on the wing with Anismov and Kane but has been moved to the center to fill in for Anisimov while out. Schmaltz started his career off very slow with 26 games and only 4 points before being sent down to Rockford. His short stint in the AHL worked like a dream as he developed as more of a pass first player. Nick was called back up after just a month in the minors, totaling 6 goals and 3 assists in 12 games. He finished off his rookie year with 28 points in 61 games and has returned as a revitalized version of his (2nd half) rookie self. Schmaltz began the season with 3 points in an unbelievable 10-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Schmaltz has quickly developed as a speedy Two-Way performer and holds a +6 through 43 games while working the PP and PK. He also has racked up 12 goals, already surpassing his total from last year, and 21 assists, also surpassing his point total from the previous year. Schmaltz is having a breakout year and looking like a stud for the Hawks.
The former 2nd round pick has a lot of doubters due to his 5’7 frame, many saying his skills wouldn’t translate to the NHL. I think it’s safe to say that they we’re wrong. The former Erie Otter has gone from lining with former Top picks, Connor Mcdavid (2014-15) and Dylan Strome (2015-17), to playing on a line with Veteran Patrick Sharp and Undrafted Czech Forward David Kampf. He started his rookie year off right with an assist in his debut, even though it was given to him after the game by the NHL stat guys rather than the On-Ice Refs. He went into his 4th game against Montreal and Carey Price and fired a laser past the Elite goaltender for his first career goal, quite one to remember. He followed that milestone up with his first career hat-trick a month and a half later against Anaheim. ADB doesn’t have the most impressive stat line when you compare him to fellow Calder candidates, Brock Boeser and Mat Barzal, but his on ice performance speaks for itself. The Michigan native has great hands, is a good skater, has an elite shot, and has hockey IQ of a top player. He might not win the Calder but he’s certainly won the Harts of Blackhawks fans everywhere.
Not much to say about Crow considering he’s been placed on IR twice this season already. Luckily for him, the 2 goalies behind him have been absolutely terrific. Jeff Glass, a member of the greatest World Junior Roster ever in 2005 for Team Canada, is a native of Calgary and spent 6 years in the KHL before taking another shot at his dream of playing in the NHL. Now at the age of 32, the rookie goaltender has given the Hawks a Glass half full situation. He made his NHL debut on December 29th against the Edmonton Oilers. His first career win also came that night as he snagged a .933 Save% and made 42 saves. The former 3rd round pick has taken over as the primary goalie for the Hawks in Crow’s absence and looks to make a strong case to stay on as the backup upon Crawford’s return. The other goalie is Anton Forsberg. Forsberg was acquired as a part of the Brandon Saad - Artemi Panarin trade and has been a solid backup all year. Forsberg, a Swedish goalie, is only 25 and still has room to grow. He was selected with the 188th overall pick by the Columbus Blue Jackets and had a lackluster NHL career so far. The Swede had a NHL record of 1-8-0 thru 10 games with a .879 Save %. Forsberg has actually improved a lot while playing behind an average and inconsistent defensive lineup. So far in his short Hawks career, Forsberg has a .907 save % and a record of 3-7-3, however his statline really doesn’t do him justice as he is a lot better than it says. Lastly, you can’t forget the man in front, Corey Crawford. Crow was the 52nd pick in the stacked 2003 NHL entry draft and made his first career start on February 2, 2006. Corey had a career record of 214-115-43 with a .918 save % coming into the 2017-18 season and has started his first half off strong. So far, the Canadian netminder and 2 time Stanley Cup champion has a .929 save %, good for 2nd among full time starters. He also boasts a 16-9-2 record but has been on injured reserve since December 24th with vertigo-like symptoms (severe dizziness). According to Coach Q, Crawford has begun to feel a little better, although he may still be done for the year as there is no timetable for a return. On the bright side, Crow has dealt with this particular illness before and returned to his normal self.