The Blackhawks are back to their old winning ways and there’s a special group of hard-working athletes fans should be thanking for it.
Chicago’s defense has been nothing less than what fans were used to seeing back in their 2009-’10 Stanley Cup season. In Chicago’s recent four-game winning streak each defensive pairing has been playing to the skill that fans had missed seeing in their nine losses before that.
The first defense pairing of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook is what opponents look at to beat in order to claim victory. He’s not large in the point category but at 6’3” Brent Seabrook knows how to use his size to intimidate and attack his opponents knocking them off the puck. When an opponent is swinging behind the net to try setting a play up in front of the goal Seabrook will bat away at his opponent’s stick causing them to lose puck control. Then he’ll finish them off with a good clean hit making sure to clear the puck out of the zone.
Now Duncan Keith on the other hand is a big reason for the Blackhawks finding the twine and raising the score. Keith has one less goal than Seabrook, but has 30 assists and some of the most playing time out of any defenseman in the league. He is third in the league in average time on ice per game losing to former teammate Brian Campbell by only one second and New York Rangers Dan Girardi by almost 10.
If opponents are able to beat the Blackhawks first d-line then the rest of the game might come a lot easier for them.
Now the Blackhawks second defense pairing is an interesting one. On left defense there is Niklas Hjalmarsson who’s first full NHL season came when the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup two seasons ago. Hjalmarsson is a large asset to this team. He is more defensive driven and helps out his goaltender with his strong shot-blocking ability. He’ll take a slap shot to the foot or ankle, finish off his shift in pain, and then come out ready to do it all over again.
Then on right defense is 20-year old Nick Leddy. Leddy is critiqued at times for mistakes costing the team a goal like being out of position, turning over the puck, or leaving a man open by the net, but these are rookie mistakes which happen. But in Leddy’s first full season he is the only defenseman to not miss a game and he has 24 assists.
People were critical of Hjalmarsson at first in the beginning of his career in Chicago, but that’s why Leddy and Hjalmarsson are such a good line pairing. The communication and the talent is there and it will show even stronger over time. Who knows, this pairing could be one of the top reasons Chicago returns to Stanley Cup.
Then there is the d-line that has what neither the first two have. Sean O’Donnell and Steve Montador have at least 10 years each of NHL experience and knowledge of the game. Montador and O’Donnell are also first year players in the Blackhawks organization and have a plus-minus rating of zero as a pair.
Though these two may not be the quickest on the team their experience in the game leads to smart plays, good passes and a very physical defensive style.
In their last four games Chicago has a total of only five goals scored against them and each of those games resulted in victory. This is even better after their nine-game winless streak in which they allowed 38 goals against and weren’t playing defensive enough hockey. Four of those games Chicago allowed five or more goals per game including when Edmonton scored eight.
The Blackhawks next game is at home Thursday February 23rd against the Dallas Stars.