Blackhawks Meet Low Expectations In Brutal November: Part I

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Blackhawks Meet Low Expectations In Brutal November: Part I

Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks had a BRUTAL month of November.

They limped to a 2-9-2 record for the month, with injuries hammering an already offensively challenged roster. Tyler Johnson didn’t appear in a game in the month and Chicago missed Sam Lafferty for the final three games as well. The forward group had its limitations when at full strength, and their November pushed them right back into the conversation for the top odds in the 2023 NHL Draft Lottery.

When I handed out grades to the forwards at the end of a surprisingly successful October, I was able to be a bit more generous. There were lots of As and Bs. After November, my curve has adjusted for performance while keeping in mind the roles each player was asked/expected to play on this team.

The only “players” who get an A for the month are the mustaches of Chris Vosters and Max Domi. Their Movember lip sweaters came in like champions and, unlike the Blackhawks’ offense, looked better at the end of the month than I expected. I respect a good piece of lip lettuce and these two showed well.

Jonathan Toews — B+

His offense slowed down a bit to six points (three goals and assists) in 13 games in the month. But where Toews really stood out was in the faceoff circle. In his 13 games in November, Chicago’s captain won 65.2 percent of his draws, which was by far the best in the NHL. Among players who took at least 200 faceoffs in the month, Toronto’s John Tavares was second in the league at 60.3 percent. Boston’s Patrice Bergeron was third at 58.3 percent. More impressively, Toews won 68.9 percent of his defensive zone draws.

Max Domi — B+

He might have been “bumped” to the second line against Edmonton, but Domi had the best offensive month on the roster. He scored three goals (two of which game in the month’s final game) and had six assists for nine points in 13 games. He slid to 48.2 percent at the dot but he was one of few skaters to drive offense during the month. Domi led all Chicago skaters with 10 takeaways in November.

Andreas Athanasiou — B-

Athanasiou tied for the team lead with three goals in the month and was tied for third on the team with 29 shots on net in the 13 games in November. He was credited with eight takeaways, which ranked third on the team behind Domi and Dickinson. His minus-seven on-ice even strength goal differential was second-best among the Blackhawks’ top six behind Domi. That stat doesn’t look good for the Blackhawks after a rough month.

Philipp Kurashev — B-

Kurashev scored once and added four assists in November; his five points in the month ranked fourth among Blackhawks forwards behind Domi, Toews and Patrick Kane. When Tyler Johnson left the lineup, Kurashev was the forward who jumped into the top six and he performed admirably. I would argue he has assumed the role that Brandon Hagel played well last year as a physical, energy forward who can easily slide around the top nine and make an impact.

Patrick Kane — C-

Kaner continues to fight it when trying to score goals, but he has still found ways to produce points and help the offense. His assist on Domi’s second goal in the loss to Edmonton to close the month was a special play that reminded us of how special Kane is. He led the team with 42 shots on net in the month but his shooting percentage (2.4) was ridiculously low. Kane led Chicago with seven assists in the month, three of which came on the power play.

Taylor Raddysh — C

Raddysh scored three goals in November, which tied for the team lead. Two of those three came on the power play, where he’s found a nice role with Chicago’s top unit. Many of us viewed the two first-round picks the Blackhawks acquired from Tampa as the “win” in the Hagel trade, but Raddysh has taken advantage of his opportunity to get regular ice time in the NHL.

Jujhar Khaira — B+

Relative to what we expected to get from Khaira this season, his month of November was arguably the most impressive. He’s on pace to have perhaps the best offensive season of his career. Four of his five points this season came in November, and the surprising contributions came on special teams. Khaira had one power play goal and added a power play assist for two of his four points. He might be playing himself into intriguing trade value, and a return to Edmonton where he still knows many of the players might make sense for both sides.

Jason Dickinson — B

Dickinson has assumed the role of the team’s third-line center, skating against other teams’ best offensive lines most night (including getting to chase McDavid/Draisaitl around the ice last night). He ranked third on the team with 105 total faceoffs taken in November and won 50.5 percent of them. Importantly, he won 57.7 percent of his defensive zone draws in November, which is a great number for a player in his role. Dickinson led Blackhawks forwards with 13 blocked shots and was credited with nine takeaways in the month. He had three points in 11 games in November and continues to be a fantastic trade add by Kyle Davidson.

Colin Blackwell — D

Averaging 12:51 and skating mostly between the third and fourth lines, Blackwell had one assist and generated 12 shots on net in 10 games in the month. The Blackhawks gave him a two-year deal before this season and he’s struggled to find a solid niche on the team thus far. After scoring 10 goals with 10 assists in 58 games between Toronto and Seattle last year, he has just three assists to show for 19 appearances thus far.

MacKenzie Entwistle — C

Entwistle finally got on the board in the final game of the month, scoring his first goal of the season. He also had one assist in the month. He’s on this team to be a fourth line grinder and he did that; he was credited with 24 hits in the month, which ranked second among Blackhawks forwards. It was good to see him finally get a goal.

Reese Johnson — C

Reese led Chicago forwards with 36 hits in 12 appearances in the month while averaging only 10:08 per game. With injuries hitting the forward group, taking Lafferty out of the rotation late in the month, Reese stepped in and took 33 faceoffs and won 54.6 percent of them. Is he going to win the Blackhawks games? Not by himself. But his assist on Entwistle’s goal against Edmonton was a big step forward for the Hawks’ bottom line.

Boris Katchouk — F

Katchouk appeared in 10 games in the month and averaged the lowest ice time on the roster (9:01). He was credited with six shots on net and 20 hits. His one goal was a Jack Johnson shot last night that barely made contact with his shorts; he stole one. If the Blackhawks had a fully healthy compliment of forwards, I struggle to see how Katchouk dresses most nights.

Sam Lafferty — D

Lafferty missed the final three games of the month with a back issue and his play before that might indicate he was fighting it before leaving the lineup. He failed to produce a point in 10 games in the month (9.5 if we’re honest), but part of that has come as a function of his role changing and him moving from a third-line wing down to being the primary fourth-line center. In October, the line of Lafferty-Dickinson-Kurashev was a revelation; they haven’t skated together much/at all since Tyler Johnson left the lineup and the entire offensive dynamic has been impacted.

Author: Tab Bamford

Tab is the Lead Blackhawks voice for BN. He is the author of two books about the Blackhawks, most recently "Chicago Blackhawks: An Illustrated Timeline" (Reedy Press, 2021). Find him on Twitter at @The1Tab