By Nick Shepkowski–
It remains very early in the 2010-11 NHL season but to many Blackhawks fans the defending Stanley Cup Champions have been a disappointment through the teams first 17 games. Sure they sit in third place in the central with 17 points but when you factor in the extra games they have played in comparison to the rest of the western conference things aren’t so pretty.
Through the first 17 games the Hawks have accumulated a total of 17 points, an average of one per game. At this pace they would finish with exactly 82 which would have been good enough for third worst in the western conference a year ago. As it sits now, their 1 point per game average ranks ahead of only Phoenix (0.93), Calgary (0.92), and Edmonton (0.83) in the western conference while Nashville and Anaheim are both averaging exactly one point per game as well. That average puts the Hawks in 10th overall in the west which would keep them from the playoffs at this point.
Why the low point total so far for the champs? The Blackhawks haven’t taken care of business at the United Center. Through their first ten games on home ice the Hawks have just a 4-6-0 record and have accumulated only 8 of 20 possible points (40%). Looking at the best in the west so far this number is unacceptable as St. Louis, Detroit, Vancouver, and Los Angeles have combined to go 23-1-2 in home games, earning a combined 92.3% of their possible home points.
Much was made about losing Antti Niemi entering the season and having to go with free agent and former Dallas Star Marty Turco in net. Hawks goaltending has actually been better this year than it was a year ago. Turco and Corey Crawford Hawks netminders turned away a year ago. Unfortunately, the goaltenders are seeing significantly amount more shots.
After leading the league a year ago by allowing only 25.1 shots per game the Hawks are currently giving up 31.4, 12th most in the league. Part of the reason falls on the injury of Brian Campbell which held him out of the first 13 games of the season. As a result his usual defensive pairing mate Niklas Hjalmarsson has accumulated a -8 after playing a lot with Nick Leddy and Nick Boynton. Duncan Keith also hasn’t seemingly been himself as he sits at -5 despite remaining paired with Brent Seabrook.
With 65 games remaining there is obviously enough time to turn things around better position themselves for a run at the central division crown but the numbers to this point at least show why there is a real reason for concern.