Are the Blackhawks weaker defensively or do they simply have the puck less?
“One of our big strengths is puck-possession. You look at some of the forwards that can hang onto the puck, even the D that can move the puck up, it should be better. Why it’s not? There’s really no answer for it,” said Patrick Kane. “We talk about defense, defense, defense. Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. And the way we (can) handle the puck, we keep it away from the other team.”
But they’ve done that less and less the past few years.
During the 2009-10 Stanley Cup season, the Blackhawks allowed a league-low 25 shots-against per game and ranked 6th defensively.
In 2010-11,the Blackhawks allowed 28.7 shots-against per game and ranked 12th defensively.
This season, the Blackhawks allow 29.5 shots-against per game and rank 26th defensively.
So what’s different?
The Blackhawks spend less time in the offensive zone. They jettisoned skilled forwards (e.g Kris Versteeg, Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien) following the Stanley Cup for salary cap reasons, making it harder to roll four lines.
Before this season started, they sent All-Star defenseman Brian Campbell — one of the league’s best puck-carriers — to Florida. That’s caused the Blackhawks to spend more time in their own end.
The goalies are being asked to make more saves, especially on Grade-A scoring chances. They haven’t made those stops consistently, which falls largely on Corey Crawford because he’s made the bulk of the starts.