Getting markers from Duncan Keith and Nick Leddy the other night in Columbus are more than welcome sights, they're necessities.
Goal-production from the back-end has been in short supply this year. Heading into the six-game road trip, Blackhawks defensemen scored only 12 goals, collectively. Only the Leafs, Islanders and Devils had fewer.
The engine that drives this team and the group that is essentially intact from last year are the blueliners. Their ability to wheel with the puck and make plays sets this team apart from others in the National Hockey League.
For some reason (maybe the defensive issues they were having forced them to be more conservative) we haven't seen the speed and skill on display the way we have in seasons past. Hence, Head Coach Joel Quenneville's call to play with more pace.
This issue isn't offense; the Blackhawks rank fifth in goals-per-game. The defensemen have to be more involved as a group -- be the "fourth" forward in the cycle or the guy coming late to create an odd-man chance -- to be the championship-caliber team they're built to be.