It’s only been a couple of games but there’s some sample size to see on which Chicago Blackhawks players are trending up and down. Though it’s only a pair of games, a player like Kevin Korchinski has seven games left before a potential decision is made on whether he stays or goes back to Seattle.
Though he won’t be the focus of this version, we’ll start with the crease and look at one more on the blueline.
Blackhawks Trending Up
Arvid Soderblom and Petr Mrazek
Who had the Blackhawks goaltenders making 68 of 72 saves against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins? Mrazek was unbelievable against the Penguins, turning away 38 shots and kept Chicago in the game as the skaters were trying to find their stride before rallying to win.
Soderblom might not have gotten the victory, but he too, was excellent having 30 saves of his own.
Keeping two potential playoff teams at bay and giving the team every chance to stay in it is a strong start. Will it keep up? Potentially. But that brings in another question mark that might be a reoccurring one throughout the season.
Blackhawks Trending Down
When Isaak Phillips was sent down as one of the final cuts to the 23-man roster, it left the Blackhawks with Kevin Korchinski and Wyatt Kaiser. The former was in the Western Hockey League. The latter saw nine games at the end of last season with the big club.
The minutes were a bit more sheltered. Now in a top six role, Kaiser had a so-so game on Tuesday, but struggled mightily at times during the 3-1 loss to the Bruins on Wednesday. Besides taking two penalties, there was the David Pastrnak goal which ended up being the game winner and how Kaiser decided to defend it:
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First of all, it’s Pastrnak, who is just on another level when it comes to goal scoring. To fault Kaiser for hitting the ice in a two-on-one situation isn’t the point. It was his partner Jarred Tinordi who coughed the puck up, leading to the break. Kaiser wisely played the pass but gave up too much space to Pastrnak. Tinordi, who raced back, could have cut off the angle if a pass was sent back to Milan Lucic.
Instead, Kaiser dropped to the ice, giving Pastrnak more time, the ability to make more space and a higher chance of burying the puck.
Now that one is a rookie mistake, one where the Bruins winger took advantage of the situation–which is what happens in the NHL all the time.
The Blackhawks have flexibility should Kaiser continue to struggle. But is it the pairing? Would putting him with Seth Jones help matters? Though he is versatile to play both sides on the blue line, what about slotting him exclusively on the left side with Jones on the right?
Perhaps it’s a bump in the road. 18 years ago, a report had Nikolai Khabibulan struggling to repeat his 2003-04 season numbers because of the rookies in front of him–a couple guys named Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.
Now that’s not to say he’ll be anywhere near their talent level. Heck, maybe he turns out to be a middle or bottom pairing guy and never really a top pairing guy.
It’ll take more than a couple games to make that judgement but it goes without saying that similar performances might send him back for some retooling in Rockford.