The beginning to this Blackhawks season has been unexpected but thrilling. A team that many expected to be at the bottom of the NHL has now captured 6 of a possible 8 points to start their campaign. It would be easy to say that it has been a team effort—but it hasn’t. Team defense and goaltending have been suspect while Alex Debrincat, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have been carrying the team on their back.
The trio has accounted for 72% of Blackhawks goals with a combined 13 of the team’s 18 total while also assisting on 50% of the team’s goals. Toews is on pace to score 164 points with Debrincat and Kane chipping in with 147.
Let’s be serious though, those would end up being absurd numbers even if they were playing in the 80s.
Kane is the only one of three who has scored 100 points in a season and has only done so once in his 11 previous seasons. He accomplished the feat in 2015-2016 when he led the league with 106 points and won the Hart Trophy. A season where he had Artemi Panarin on the left wing and was centered by Artem Anisimov—a career year.
Kane is capable of scoring 90-100 every year but it’s going to be hard with the linemates he’s been dealt this season. Brandon Saad hasn’t cut it on the left wing and it looks like rookie Alexandre Fortin will be slotted in there for at least a night.
Nick Schmaltz was thought to be the guy to end the clown car of players centering Kane, but looks to be regressing. He has looked timid this season and has only won a pathetic 28% of faceoffs, which is down from a still awful 40% in 2017-2018. The Blackhawks just can’t find that guy to get Kane the puck more consistently and therefore develop chemistry.
It will be very interesting to see the trajectory of Toews’ season since he has never scored more than 76 points and that was way back in 2010-2011. Many measure his success in points but in reality he has never been a prolific scorer in the NHL. He is the ultimate team player and offers value in ways other than points.
That being said, Toews is the model of consistency when it comes to his goal scoring. He has tallied 20 or more goals in the first 11 years of his career and is on pace to eclipse that number once again. It may come as little surprise if he surpassed his career high in points after having been rumored to be working with skills coach guru Adam Oates. Fourteen of the hall of famer’s pupils registered NHL career highs in points during 2017-2018.
Another contributing factor to the renaissance of Toews just may be Debrincat being moved up to the first line to start this season. The wild card in this trio of Blackhawks goal scorers does not have the resume’, nor was he as highly touted coming out of amateur hockey as Kane and Toews were.
After a 28g 24a rookie season many assumed Debrincat would encounter the “sophomore slump.” Instead he has picked up right where he left off last season, with 4g and 3a through the first four games. He has one of the quickest shots in the league that he can snap off from anywhere on the ice. Pair that with a center like Toews who is one of the best at the dot, can get him the puck and you’ve got a dynamic top line.
Kane and Toews are paid to be the guys and they’re performing as would be expected. Debrincat is a confident player with skills, who is just sticking it to all the teams that passed on him two years ago. It’s fun to joke about the paces all three are currently on—but that’s not reality.
The reality is that these guys need support. Sketchy team defense and only three players scoring all of your goals is not a winning formula. Each of them have the ability to be in the 75-80 point range with Kane closer to 90, but they’re going to need consistent scoring from the bottom 6 if this team is going to contend for a spot in the playoffs.
It’s too early to tell if this team is a legitimate playoff contender yet, so I wouldn’t expect the organization to look into trades. I would expect more pressure to be put on players with more significant contracts such as Saad and Anisimov.
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