Parlaying Special Teams Success, Colliton Still Safe, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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Parlaying Special Teams Success, Colliton Still Safe, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are off today, so at least they can’t lose.

Of course, that benefit ends tomorrow when Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs come to town in the final game of the current four-game homestand for the Blackhawks. Granted, the Leafs aren’t off to a great start themselves (2-4-1), but that hasn’t seemed to matter much for Chicago this season. They’ve made a habit of being a pretty good rebound for their foes.

After all, the Red Wings got crushed 6-1 by the Canadiens on Saturday night, and then came into the United Center and made a mockery of the Blackhawks, so despite the Leafs losing their last four games by a combined score of 18-6, the Blackhawks aren’t getting any benefit of the doubt here.

•   We start with some positive news this morning; Wyatt Kalynuk and Caleb Jones were spotted practicing together on the second rink at the Fifth Third Area this morning.

•   Aside from defensive blunders and a frequent lack of intensity, the Blackhawks Achilles heel has been generating five-on-five offense this season. They have, however, been pretty good on both ends of the ice when it comes to special teams.

•   The Blackhawks rank 10th in the NHL on the power play, where they have converted 27.3 percent of their opportunities (six goals in 22 chances). They’ve been even better when it comes to killing off opposition man advantages, two areas where they struggled last season. They’re currently killing opponent power plays at a 90.9 percent clip (20-for-22) which ranks fourth in the NHL.

•   The issue here is that the Blackhawks have lived and (mostly) died with their reliance on scoring with a man advantage, and they’ll need to begin parlaying the pressure they create on the power play to the even-strength game. Here’s an excerpt from Ben Pope’s story from Monday’s practice that offers some insight into how Jeremy Colliton plans to try to do this:

Before practice, Monday, Colliton and his (temporarily decimated) coaching staff reflected on that strange disparity and talked to the team about trying to carry over the special teams’ effectiveness to non-special scenarios.

“We’re really focused when we’re out there,” Colliton said of the “PP” and “PK” units. “We understand exactly what we’re trying to do, and the players are taking a lot of pride in the little details that make a difference.

“During five-on-five [play], it’s no different. There are details that matter, and you’ve got to do it every time. When you don’t do them, you pay the price. When you do them, you have a chance to be rewarded. [The special-teams results are] a perfect example that I believe we have good enough players here to have success as a team. We have to really bear down and be sharp with those little things.”

The Hawks shouldn’t try to transfer identical tactics — a “PK” strategy at even strength would cripple the offense; a “PP” strategy would cripple the defense — but they can learn lessons from their focus, confidence and adherence to the game plan on special teams.

•   The Blackhawks are off to their worst start since the late 90s, and Sunday night signaled the end of a 535-game sell-out streak at the United Center, which signals a much more profound issue than the fact that the attendance on Sunday.

•   The fanbase has made it crystal clear that they want Jeremy Colliton gone, but as I wrote yesterday, Colliton is as guilty as anyone in this disastrous start to the season; Stan Bowman is the bigger problem here, and if Colliton goes, Bowman should be done in Chicago too.

•   Here’s the thing; the calls for Jeremy Colliton’s job are falling on deaf ears, at least if the decision is left to Stan Bowman. According to Emily Kaplan on the most recent episode of ‘In the Crease’ with Kaplan and fellow ESPN-er Linda Cohn, Kaplan opines that Stan Bowman likely won’t fire Jeremy Colliton.

•   Kaplan said that in past conversations that she has had with people within the organization, and even Stan Bowman himself, that there’s not much of a likelihood that Bowman gets to hire another coach, and that Stan Bowman doesn’t believe that this team is ready for a veteran head coach like a Mike Babcock. This tracks with Kaplan’s report last week that the Blackhawks don’t believe they’ve deviated from their rebuilding plan, despite the external view of the team being starkly different thanks to their aggressive summer roster re-shape.

• Joe Brand made a solid observation last night regarding the Blackhawks’ now record-setting duration without a lead to open the season. In four of their six losses, they’ve watched their opponent light the lamp in staggering chunks.

•   I’m sure that treating world-class hockey players like high schoolers will surely fix all of the Blackhawks’ problems. 🙄

•   Hey, at least we’ve got the Bulls. DeMar DeRozan showed us all why the Bulls delivered him the bag this summer with some fourth-quarter heroics that helped the Bulls secure their first 4-0 start since the 1996-97 season. This is the Bulls’ best start to a season since I was six years old. SIX!

•   The Bears and Blackhawks are in very similar situations right now.

•   No Winter Meetings, AGAIN?

That’s it for today!


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Author: Patrick K. Flowers

Patrick is a Staff Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKFlowers.