NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Los Angeles Kings at Chicago Blackhawks

Eyes On The Captain And Other Thoughts On This Nervous Night

Lately I’ve been expressing concern over Jonathan Toews, and as I normally do I ripped it off one of my blogmates because they’re smarter (and handsomer!). Fifth Feather was the first to raise a question about Toews’s condition, noticing that he was misplacing passes and losing board battles more often than we are accustomed to seeing (basically, at all). I thought I’d dig a little deeper.

I guess the most concerning number bouncing out at me is that over the past four games Toews only has four shots. That’s his lowest stretch of that length all season. If it wasn’t for Michal Neuvirth pretty much gifting him two goals against the Islanders, he wouldn’t have scored for nine games. His only points in the last four were the result of a blocked shot leading to Shaw’s empty-netter against Carolina.

Some other numbers look a little better. He’s had five scoring chances the past four games, though he didn’t have one against the Flyers. He’s had nine attempts over the past four games as well, which isn’t quite what he normally does but isn’t off a cliff either. He’s also lost more draws than he’s won in three of the past four games, which isn’t like him.

Possession-wise, there are some discouraging numbers. Toews has lost the possession battle in five of his last nine games, which we’re just not used to. Small sample size to be sure, but with Kane out the Hawks kind of need Toews to buckwheat opponents by himself and he hasn’t really done it. And Toews has lost out to some wonky opponents like the Canes and Oilers, and got totally housed by Logan Couture. Some of that was team-wide failures of course.

Usage is a component as well, of course. Q has gone to the old methods, which is Toews plays mine-sweeper against the other teams’ best and the other three lines are supposed to get the best of the rubble that’s left. However, the Hawks aren’t really set up to do that right now outside of Hossa and Sharp on the 2nd line, as currently constructed. You can’t count on your 4th line to score every game, as good as they’ve been. With Sharp, Bickell, Versteeg, Vermette, and Richards to a lesser extent all struggling to find the net lately, the Hawks can’t really afford to sacrifice what Toews could bring by having him combat #1 centers.

And the thing is, with Vermette and Kruger, Toews shouldn’t need to. While Vermette hasn’t done anything on the offensive end in the past four or five games, he’s still doing the work as a defensive center. Q could use those two to combat #1 lines and probably still come out with a draw, and freeing up Toews to score is something the Hawks need right now. It might be hard to do on the road, but let’s say Monday against the Kings who would you rather have him facing, Kopitar or Jarret Stoll?

Watching him, Toews just looks more labored than he has in the past. Everything is just taking more effort from him. His penalty last night was a result of not being able to keep up with Bellmare, and that shouldn’t be. It could be just fatigue, the dude has played a lot of hockey the past three seasons.

Something tells me that he’s carrying something, but due to Kane’s injury and the Hawks unstable place in the standings he’s gutting it out. He hasn’t skipped out on any practices like some of his teammates have, so I could just be talking out of my ass per usual. Just worth watching.

-Still, one would expect that eventually Toews is going to be Toews, and there are other things going on with this team that are encouraging. The highest of that being Johnny Oduya’s play. Once again last night, Oduya was way up in the Corsi-count, and that’s with starting almost every shift in the defensive zone. Oduya has been 55+% in four of his past five games, while taking 38 shifts starting in the d-zone vs. only 22 in the offensive. And he’s done this facing the other teams’ best as he and Hammer are wont to do.

This is vital. we’ve worried all season about Oduya and what he allows the Hawks to do when he’s on. While we gnash our teeth about Rozsival, in the playoffs Q has generally just gone with five d. If Oduya looks like he has the past two years, which he has of late, Q will almost certainly roll out the top four we know and love and then spot Timonen and Rozsival in from there, and maybe just Timonen. That is one of the bigger cogs into the Hawks going far in the playoffs.

  • mightyquinn

    agreed 100%, good breakdown on poss battle, usage…..its actually glaring but as you said : we are focused on other issues Rosie, Sharp/Richards slumps, etc….This is a true issue.

  • CoolTalk

    “I guess the most concerning number bouncing out at me is that over the past four games Toews only has four shots.”

    Hmmmmm….now what’s changed in the last 4 games….

    Hello #10 thanks for joining me up here…

    (and yes, I do recall the NYI game)

  • Aaeismacgychel

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I have no clue where this Richards is slumping viewpoint is coming from. I’ve seen it time and time again on this site and in the comments section, but I haven’t seen a single person explain where that idea is coming from. It just appears to be accepted fact on here, and while it possibly passes the stats test, it certainly doesn’t pass the eye test, as I think it would be tough to even argue that Richards hasn’t been one of our best six forwards this year. To me, I keep seeing this and all I can think of is that this is becoming a similar situation to the Corey Crawford haters argument. Can someone please throw out there how Richards is slumping and how he is performing under expectations both going into the season and contract expectations, because I’m sorry, but I don’t see what you’re seeing at all and I really don’t think that line of thought holds any water.

    • Aaeismacgychel

      Well, it doesn’t make any stats sense either: Richards is 6th in pts per 60, 3rd in Corsi/60, and 2nd in Fenwick/60 on the team. I guess he’s “only” 8th in close stats. And he’s a rel +1.3% on his linemates. Yeah, I have no idea where this is coming from. It’s gotta be the 35pts which still puts him as the 6th best forward on the team. *shrugs*

  • Matt

    I feel like maybe Oduya’s injury allowed him to heal/rest something else too. Too bad the Central is so tightly locked right now. Feels like the Hawks could really use resting a guy or two.

    • WookRN

      For our defensive woes, it’s nice to see Oduya back to solid form. He might not be what he was a year or two ago, but he’s WAY better than months ago. I’ll take it (agreed, I think he was in need of a break).

  • T.M.

    Wake up and smell the coffee. No way Rozsival sits in the playoffs.Q’s got too much invested in him, and he will never admit he was wrong.

    • TitanTransistor

      100% correct

  • To Saad be the glory

    Oduya has looked so good since coming back from injury its almost like the Hawks made another trade at the deadline. Get Timonen up to speed and bring back TVR even if his flipper is still wonky and we are good to go.

    #tvr watch

    • WookRN

      Yeah. Even if TVR or Runblad aren’t THE answer, at least rotate them in for Rosie. Hoping Timonen keeps improving, even if slowly. We only NEED him as a third pair guy, everything he does above that is just cream cheese.

      (We miss you TVR….)

  • Preacher

    Let’s think about this for a moment: Kane, who draws double teams and lots of attention whenever he’s on the ice, goes out and Versteeg’s game goes down the pooper. Hossa, who draws lots of double teams and attention whenever he’s on the ice, gets moved to another line, and Tazer’s game is suddenly not so dominant. (And remember, winning draws is on the wingers as much as on the center, especially after the center has been tied up at the dot.) Saad is taken off the top line and both Hoss’s and Tazer’s stats start to suffer. It would seem there is a domino effect from Kane’s injury. But it’s self-imposed. Q has tried to spread out the scoring but he’s pretty much emasculated his top line and messed with the chemistry of all the others. And where have we seen this before? Oh right–EVERY FREAKING SEASON UNDER Q!!! (Put Kane and Toews on the same line? Not a chance. At least not until we’re desperate.) But hey, at least Carcillo had a fight last night, so that helps.

    • To Saad be the glory

      I could get used to saying “Coach Dineen” next yr,I don’t know ’bout the rest of y’all.

  • Sopel the catfish

    Good news everyone (you read it in the Professor’s voice, ha!) Hawks got Baun and signed Paliotta to a two year deal

    • jordyhawk

      Yeah, the longer that went on the more nervous I was getting. Sounds like he really found his game this year. Keeper.

  • To Saad be the glory

    Pirri now has 17 goals in 22 games. Guess ya taught that mouthy kid a lesson Q, way to run his ass out of town. Atta boy!

    • TitanTransistor

      Clearly a worse option than Handzus.

    • ToucanStubbs

      Let’s not get too carried away. Getting rid of him was dumb but he wouldn’t be getting the same ice time in Chicago as he does in Florida.

  • chichicagochi

    The 10 million dollar question

    j/k oh captain my captain

    • CoolTalk

      BIckell + Sharp = $10M/yr too.

      You pick.