NHL

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hawks riding stifling D to success

  • Print

BEFORE a Sunday assembly of the healthy sector of the Blackhawks roster, Corey Crawford took a few spins around the United Center ice. The team's primary goaltender is "not that far away" in his recovery from injury, in the words of his coach, but it remains fairly clear what Crawford will see when he does get back.

Not that much.

Once again this season, the team's system and style may represent the most effective goalie pads on the ice. The Hawks are on pace for a sixth straight season in the top 10 for fewest shots allowed per game, a figure that fuses an aggressive-but-responsible system with an emphasis on puck possession that makes every game a game of keep-away.

"It's because we have the puck most of the time," defenseman Johnny Oduya said. "It's tough for the other team to shoot if we have the puck. It's the old cliche, attacking is the best defense. That's kind of what it is."

As of Sunday, with a game against the offensively middling Devils on tap for Monday, the Hawks ranked fifth in the league with 27.2 shots on goal allowed per game.

They finished in the top 10 in that category in 2008-09 and haven't slipped out since. In the two seasons that produced Stanley Cups -- 2009-10 and 2012-13 -- the Hawks ranked first and fourth in shots on goal permitted per night. That their 480 blocked shots rank just 21st in the NHL this season suggests a more overall buy-in, front to back.

"That's a credit to team defense," winger Patrick Sharp said. "Not just the six defenseman that play the position, but everybody on the ice committed to coming back hard and protecting the net, forcing people to the outside."

At the end of his evaluation, Sharp pointed out that the puck-possession emphasis may skew the figure a bit. Nearby, Kris Versteeg understood the implications of hogging the puck all too well, having enjoyed it as a member of the Hawks and having endured the frustration of chasing the Hawks around as a member of the opposition.

"This team has a lot of skill guys," said Versteeg, who rejoined the Hawks after an early November trade.

"I know playing against them, they had the puck most of the game. When I was in Florida, we'd play against the Blackhawks, we knew they were a team that could hold on to the puck and make plays. Now seeing that, it doesn't really shock you, those stats."

Cutting down on shots, in the long run, bodes well. From game to game, top-notch scoring chances concern the Hawks more than sheer volume of shots.

Ranking 14th in the league with 2.66 goals allowed per game, the Hawks emphasize eliminating the best opportunities, if not eliminating every opportunity.

"Even if you don't have too many shots against you but you give up two, three breakaways or two-on-ones or things like that, it's going to be tough," Oduya said.

-- Chicago Tribune

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 23, 2013 C2

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Paul Maurice addresses media at end of 13/14 season

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press.  Local/Weather Standup- Catching rays. Prairie Dog stretches out at Fort Whyte Centre. Fort Whyte has a Prairie Dog enclosure with aprox. 20 dogs young and old. 060607.
  • Challenges of Life- Goose Goslings jump over railway tracks to catch up to their parents at the Canadian Pacific Railway terminalon Keewatin St in Winnipeg Thursday morning. The young goslings seem to normally hatch in the truck yard a few weeks before others in town- Standup photo- ( Day 4 of Bryksa’s 30 day goose project) - Apr 30, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What Western Conference teams will emerge from the first round of the NHL playoffs?

View Results

Ads by Google