I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This Blackhawks team is -EADLY. Just needs D to be deadly.

The Blackhawks have now lost 4 of their last 5 games. This recent losing skid can be largely attributed to their lack of defense and embarrassing penalty kill unit. The Blackhawks are making bottom dwelling teams look great lately. They made the Los Angeles Kings — the 2nd worst team in the league — look like a competent playoff team on Saturday in a 5-3 loss in LA. Last night, the Blackhawks just lost to a San Jose Sharks team that is superior in all aspects of the game.

Blackhawks Need to Be Honest With Themselves

This Blackhawks team has a few glaring problems. Until these issues are properly addressed, they will continue to prevent them from making another playoff appearance and having future success. The most obvious and concerning problem is a talent deficiency on defense. I think StanBo & Co. need to admit that Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are no longer in their prime. The first step to fixing a problem is admitting there is one. Now, I’m not saying Keith and Seabrook deserve the “Old Yeller” treatment, but the end is near for both of them. They are no longer top guys on a defensemen corps and that’s okay.

Keith and Seabrook have been so good over the past decade that I don’t feel it’s fair to put the team’s recent struggles entirely on them, but they aren’t helping the cause. Last night, Duncan Keith had a mental lapse on defense and it wasn’t pretty.

Of course, the occasional mental lapse is a natural part of being an athlete. However, these lapses have been happening more and more frequently, and it’s becoming the new norm.

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Blackhawks’ Defense and Penalty Kill Is Killing the Team

For a while, the Blackhawks’ offense and power play has been able to overcome the team’s shortcomings on defense and on the penalty kill. Those two major issues have once again come to the forefront and are now actively holding this team back.

Like water in oil, a good offense and a bad defense, and penalty kill, doesn’t mix well. When you take a closer look at the Blackhawks’ 2018-19 team stats, you can really pinpoint the problem areas.

Provided by NHL.com

While the Blackhawks are averaging 3.32 goals for per game, they are also averaging 3.77 goals allowed per game. It’s really hard to win games when you give up more goals than you score. The power play has been firing on all cylinders and they are converting at a very respectable 21.9% rate (T-9th), but the penalty kill has been an entirely different story. The Blackhawks’ penalty kill currently ranks dead last (31st) with a 72.8% kill rate. Poor defense and an embarrassing penalty kill are essentially killing this team.

Of the Blackhawks’ Top 10 ± leaders, only 3 of them are defensemen. That is entirely inexcusable for an NHL team. StanBo & Co. are going to have to correct this ineptitude during free agency this upcoming offseason, since they wasted a perfectly good opportunity to improve the team at the Trade Deadline this season.

Provided by NHL.com

Blackhawks Are Self Sabotaging

The Blackhawks have a few defensemen on the NHL roster and in the system that deserve a bigger role. A few of these players are Henri Jokiharju, Connor Murphy, Slater Koekkoek. For whatever reason, the Blackhawks sent Henri Jokiharju, one of their best defenseman, to Rockford. I really don’t think dragging a 19-year-old kid around is the best thing for his professional development.

In addition, Jokiharju is not going to get better by playing against weaker competition in the AHL. It really would have been more beneficial to Jokiharju if he got some ice time in a playoff atmosphere during the past month.

I don’t understand the reasoning behind sending him down, other than to showcase other defensemen which was a waste, since they didn’t make any moves at the deadline.

Connor Murphy has quietly been one of the Blackhawks’ best defensemen this season. Murphy’s steady performance this season has helped solidify his position as a long term option on defense.

                            Scor Scor        Scor Shot  Ice                  Ice
Season    Age    Tm  Lg  GP    G    A PTS +/- PIM   S%  TOI  ATOI BLK HIT TK  GV
2013-14    20   PHX NHL  30    1    7   8   5  10  3.3  539 17:59  38  44 13  13
2014-15    21   ARI NHL  73    4    3   7 -27  42  5.6 1226 16:48 142 137  8  25
2015-16    22   ARI NHL  78    6   11  17   5  48  5.9 1599 20:30 139 175 21  29
2016-17    23   ARI NHL  77    2   15  17 -13  45  2.5 1477 19:11 119 201 13  31
2017-18    24   CHI NHL  76    2   12  14  -3  34  1.8 1244 16:22 101 138 15  33
2018-19    25   CHI NHL  35    3    6   9  12  38  5.6  684 19:32  53  80 11  31
3 yrs           ARI NHL 228   12   29  41 -35 135  4.7 4302 18:52 400 513 42  85
2 yrs           CHI NHL 111    5   18  23   9  72  3.1 1928 17:22 154 218 26  64
1 yr            PHX NHL  30    1    7   8   5  10  3.3  539 17:59  38  44 13  13
Career        6 yrs NHL 369   18   54  72 -21 217  4.0 6770 18:21 592 775 81 162

Provided by Hockey-Reference.com: View Original Table

I really believe Murphy will fit in nicely alongside the future core of Henri Jokiharju, Adam Boqvist, Nicolas Beaudin, Ian Mitchell, and possibly Erik Gustafsson, if StanBo decides to keep him around. Of course, you have to include Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook since it’s very unlikely that either of them will be traded due to their no-movement clauses.

Slater Koekkoek is also another interesting option moving forward. Koekkoek is a former 1st round pick with the Tampa Bay Lightning who hasn’t really found his footing in the NHL yet.

Koekkoek has the skillset to be a fixture on defense as a Top 6 guy. The thing that is really holding him back is the fact that Colliton hasn’t given him consistent ice time. It would be wise to give him a fair share of playing time and decide whether or not you’d like to give him an extension.

                           Scor Scor        Scor Shot  Ice                 Ice
Season    Age    Tm  Lg GP    G    A PTS +/- PIM   S%  TOI  ATOI BLK HIT TK GV
2014-15    20   TBL NHL  3    0    0   0   0   2  0.0   50 16:35   3   2  1  0
2015-16    21   TBL NHL  9    0    1   1  -1   2  0.0   93 10:19   5   6  3  3
2016-17    22   TBL NHL 29    0    4   4  -4   8  0.0  377 12:59  27  25  1  7
2017-18    23   TBL NHL 35    4    4   8   4  18  9.3  393 11:14  24  36  3  6
2018-19    24   TOT NHL 23    1    2   3  -2  12  3.1  357 15:33  35  36  3  4
2018-19    24   TBL NHL  9    1    0   1   0   4  6.7  129 14:20  12   8  1  1
2018-19    24   CHI NHL 14    0    2   2  -2   8  0.0  228 16:19  23  28  2  3
5 yrs           TBL NHL 85    5    9  14  -1  34  4.9 1042 12:15  71  77  9 17
1 yr            CHI NHL 14    0    2   2  -2   8  0.0  228 16:19  23  28  2  3
Career        5 yrs NHL 99    5   11  16  -3  42  4.2 1270 12:50  94 105 11 20

Provided by Hockey-Reference.com: View Original Table

Even though the Blackhawks have basically played their way out of playoff contention by losing 4 of their last 5 games, the rest of the season is still important.

StanBo & Co. will use the remaining 16 games as an evaluation period to determine who they view as a potential building block for the future. This offseason is going to be extremely entertaining, since the Blackhawks will have big-time cap space to use on extensions and signings.

For more Blackhawks news and updates, follow the author @Certified_TonyG on Twitter.