Blackhawks in an unsustainable goal drought

130107_gq_trout_aThe Blackhawks are currently losers of their last two games, both by one goal, and find themselves with a mediocre record of 6-5-1 on the year. Tonight they’ll be going up against a very good Canadiens team at the Bell Centre in Montreal, one of the league’s toughest road venues. All signs are indicating that tonight could be another disappointment for an almost desperate Blackhawks team. While that may end up coming true, I’m going to do my best at explaining why any night now could be the Blackhawks’ breakthrough game.

There’s a whole lot about the Blackhawks that doesn’t make sense right now. They are fifth in the entire NHL in fewest goals against per game with a 1.92 average, third in the league on the penalty kill with a 91.9 kill percentage, and have allowed the sixth fewest shots per game in the NHL. Yet their record is 6-5-1, which makes you scratch your head. Then you look at their offensive numbers, and those don’t really compute to a 6-5-1 record either. The Blackhawks lead the NHL in shots per game with an average of 38.4, which is a ridiculous number, but they rank twenty-sixth in goals per game at an average of 2.25. How can a team lead the league in shots and score such a low number of goals?

Well, there’s somewhat of an answer to that question. You can average 50 shots per game, but if those are not real quality shots, you’re not going to score goals. That’s the problem with the Hawks right now. They are putting the puck on net better than anyone in the NHL, but the quality of their shots has not been great. Their net-front presence has been severely lacking for the most part, and it is imperative to have someone, or multiple guys, standing in the shooting lane screening the opposing goalie. Too often this year have the Hawks all been spaced around the outside of the shooting lanes and not in front of the goalie obstructing his vision. That is not a hard fix and something that they’ve never had too much trouble with in the past, so I’m expecting some improvement there real soon.

Another problem that the team has had, especially recently, is the fact that they keep running into hot goalies. Two games in a row at home now they have been shut out by a rookie. In Toronto this past weekend, the Hawks had over 25 shots in the third period (most were actually quality shots) and failed to get just one past James Reimer for the tying goal. Last month at home against Calgary, the Hawks registered 50 shots on goal, only to lose the game in overtime 2-1. It’s been that type of luck that the Hawks have faced this year. A team with as much talent as the Blackhawks will see that luck change sooner than later.

Here is why we should stay optimistic. This will most likely be the lowest point of the year for the Blackhawks, at least I would hope. They really aren’t playing bad hockey right now, although certain areas definitely need improvement. If they were playing awful hockey and losing these game, then yeah I’d be worried, but that’s not the case. They are one of the best teams in the NHL at keeping the puck out of their net at even strength and on the penalty kill, which is a must come playoff time. Sure they’re not scoring right now, but that’s bound to change. The numbers that the Blackhawks are putting up right now are unsustainable, in a good way. A team that generates as many shots as they do will not be kept from scoring like this for too much longer. It’s only a matter of time before the floodgates open and this team starts to look like the team we’ve become accustomed to over the past 5 years.

If you need anymore optimism, take this: last year’s Stanley Cup winner, the L.A. Kings, ranked twenty-sixth in goals per game and first in fewest goals against per game. In the 2011-12 season in which L.A. also won the Cup, the Kings ranked second to last in goals per game, and second in fewest goals against. I’m not saying that the Hawks’ offensive numbers will stay that low, but the point I’m making is that the good teams who are great defensively are the one’s who win Stanley Cups. Right now, the Hawks would fall into that category.

Their breakthrough performance should happen anytime now. Numbers don’t lie.

NHL jersey rankings

With the 2013-14 NHL season slated to begin in less than two months, I thought I’d rank all the NHL jerseys from best to worst. Here we go…

1. Chicago Blackhawks

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The reds are often regarded as the best jersey in sports, and the indianhead logo is also considered one of the best in all of sports. These jerseys speak for themselves. I only wish that they’d bring back their alternates from 2010.

2. Boston Bruins

the_toughest_athletes_ever_patrice_bergeron milan_lucic

Their logo has hardly changed over time, and their jerseys are one of the most classic in sports. Tough to not like these.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs

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Again, this logo has rarely been changed, and the jerseys are simple, yet great. True classics.

4. New York Rangers

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The diagonal lettering on the front of their jerseys has been the Rangers’ signature look forever. I love the stripes going across the front and back sides of the shoulders on their away jerseys. Their third jerseys are one of the best in the NHL.

5. Edmonton Oilers

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I was quite happy when they finally dropped their navy blue look and went back to their classic colors from the Gretzky days.

6. Detroit Red Wings

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This has to be one of the more recognizable logos in sports. The winged wheel has not really changed at all over time, nor have the jerseys themselves. The arched lettering/font used on the nameplates is truly unique.

7. Vancouver Canucks

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Much like the Oilers, the Canucks made a good move in ditching their navy blue look. The green and blue on these jerseys go together really well.

8. Montreal Canadiens

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The Canadiens’ logo has been pretty consistent throughout time, but their jerseys have changed a bit more frequently. Still, a real classic look.

9. Pittsburgh Penguins

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Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of their logo, but the jersey as a whole looks good. I’d be in favor of bringing back their old yellow and black look form the Mario Lemieux era.

10. Buffalo Sabres

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A couple years ago Buffalo decided to use their original logo and colors again. That was the best decision they have made in a long time, because the jerseys they had before these were horrendous.

11. Los Angeles Kings

DustinBrownDirtyHits Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown

I might actually like their whites better than the blacks. The logo isn’t very creative, but the overall look of these jerseys isn’t bad by any means.

12. Minnesota Wild

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They wore their green alternates at home in the playoffs this past spring, which make up for their pretty weak away jerseys. The home red unis are pretty nice in my opinion. If they could figure out a way to make their whites more interesting, I’d have the Wild higher on my list.

13. Washington Capitals

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In yet another instance of a team bringing back their classic look, the Capitals’ current uniforms are the best they’ve had.

14. St. Louis Blues

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These jerseys haven’t changed much over the past decade. The two shades of blue, black, and yellow/gold all go well together. Their alternates are some of the best third jerseys in hockey. 

15. New Jersey Devils

TravisZajacNJ adam-henrique

The Devils’ jerseys are rather simple and unchanged in a long time. I see no reason for them to change their look anytime soon.

16. New York Islanders

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Again, just another example of a team bringing back its classic colors. Even though I have the Islanders in the bottom half of my rankings, these jerseys are much better than what they were wearing just a few years ago.

17. Colorado Avalanche

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I don’t like the white/blue trim that cuts down the jersey from the shoulders to the waist. I hate when the “C” or “A” patches are placed over trimming. The logo is a bit weak as well.

18. Winnipeg Jets

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I’m not saying that these jerseys are bad by putting them at number 18. The reason they are this low is because they could have been better. When the Jets came back to Winnipeg 2 years ago, they could have modernized their original look instead of creating a whole new logo.

19. Columbus Blue Jackets

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I’ve seen enough of this look since the Jackets came into existence just over a decade ago. I really don’t like the red pants/white sweater look.

20. Phoenix Coyotes

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The Coyotes have tried multiple times to make their uniforms/logo look better, and this is probably the best look they’ve had. Still, there’s not much to it.

21. Carolina Hurricanes

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The Hurricanes will be wearing a new uniform set this year, as you can see in the pictures. These new jerseys just look too bland for me. I liked their unis from the past few years better.

22. Tampa Bay Lightning

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Tampa Bay decided to switch up their jerseys heading into the 2011-12 season, and that slightly strengthened their appearance. They’re still nowhere near the best in the league.

23. Calgary Flames

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Here’s another case of me liking their road uniforms better than their home uniforms. I think the Flames should just make their alternates their permanent home uniform.

24. Ottawa Senators

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The logo isn’t bad, but the rest of the jersey is pretty weak. It’s time they switch up their look in Ottawa.

25. Florida Panthers

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A pretty typical Florida uniform set. Really bright colors that don’t look very well on a sports jersey.

26. Philadelphia Flyers

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I’m going to assume I’m in the minority on this one, but I don’t like the Flyers’ uniforms. The different-colored nameplates just look bad, and the stripe going down the sleeves doesn’t look good.

27. Nashville Predators

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My first instinct when I saw their home jerseys for the first time was, “Are they serious?” I don’t know why anyone would ever consider making their jerseys yellow like Nashville did. Their whites aren’t bad, however.

28. San Jose Sharks

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These are the new jerseys that San Jose will be wearing this year. They’re awful. They look like practice jerseys. Why they decided to ditch their previous look confuses me. Even with those (and the new ones), I don’t understand why their primary logo needs to be present on the jerseys in 3 different spots: the chest and both shoulders. Couldn’t they develop a secondary logo by now?

29. Dallas Stars

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This is the third new set of uniforms that we’ll be seeing this season, and I have to ask, what was Dallas thinking? These look like they belong in the AHL or some junior league.

30. Anaheim Ducks

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Easily the worst jerseys in hockey. I’ve hated these since day one. Their third jersey should become their new home jersey, and they should design a white one based off of that look.