On Thursday, the Chicago Tribune's Chric Kuc penned a story about Marian Hossa's recent struggles. While the Blackhawks had been surging at the time of publication, Hossa, now 35, had just three goals, and one since the start of November. Not exactly the output fans expect from someone who recently amassed 1,000 career points.
So, how does one break out of a slump like this?
"You just hope something hits you and goes into the net, or you get an empty-net goal," Hossa said.
Over the weekend, he got his wish.
The Slovakian forward potted two goals during Saturday's contest in Nashville -- a game-winner in the second period and an empty-netter that sealed a 3-1 victory. The former, which was basically an empty-netter, as well, was his first since Nov. 22.
Hossa's impressive performance was yet another thing that's gone right for the Blackhawks, who are finally looking like themselves again.
The Blackhawks' win in Nashville has put them on pace for 112 points -- quite a change from three weeks ago, when they were ninth in the West and 17th overall. Such a rise is possible when you win six in a row and nine of 10.
Indeed, it was only a matter of time before Chicago found its stride, and we all knew it. This team is simply too good to hover around .500.
What, then, was holding them back? There are a few answers to that question. One of the most important is their previously low shooting percentage.
Through Nov. 8, Chicago was scoring on just 5 percent of their even-strength shots on goal, ahead of only Florida (4.87). That's a remarkably low success rate for any team, let alone one that features Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and, of course, Hossa.
Predictably, the numbers have begun to correct themselves. Chicago's five-on-five shooting percentage has improved to 7.49, good for 18th in the league.
Another team that's made a big leap is Detroit, which is 9-2-0 since Nov. 18. After a slow start in October -- one that led many to believe their infamous playoff streak was bound to end -- the Red Wings are now just two points below the league-leading Ducks with a game in hand.
GIF: Weiss puts the Wings up 2-1 http://t.co/Z31eMjkcNW— Steph (@myregularface) December 5, 2014
Much of Detroit's success can be attributed to its stout defense: No team is allowing less even-strength shot attempts per 60, and just three have surrendered less shots on net per game. This is a testament to their forwards' defensive acumen -- especially Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco, Tomas Tatar and Justin Abdelkader. Among NHL forwards who have skated in at least 200 minutes of even-strength action, those four rank first, third, fifth and sixth in shot attempts against, respectively.
This has been a big help to goaltender Jimmy Howard, who has won six of his last eight starts. He's seen 30 or more shots just twice in that span.
The Canadiens have gone 1-5-1 in their last seven and have fallen from the top of the league standings to 11th. This is concerning, especially when we consider who they've played in this stretch. The lone win came against the mediocre Avalanche, while two of the losses came at the hands of Buffalo.
This sharp fall can be pinned on a number of issues, including poor possession metrics: The Canadiens are 22nd in score adjusted Corsi, sandwiched between Ottawa and Edmonton. Not exactly the best company.
Carey Price will keep the Habs afloat, as will Tomas Plekanec, Max Pacioretty and P.K. Subban, but it doesn't feel like this team is on track to reach its potential. And it may not reach its potential until some major changes take place behind the bench.
The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing Marc Bergevin that Michel Therrien could coach.— Mike Obrand (@MikeObrand) December 7, 2014
Another club that might benefit from a coaching change is the Devils, who have lost 12 of their last 15. As is often the case, New Jersey's offense is lacking.
Jaromir Jagr leads the way in scoring despite his 47-point pace. That might cut it if you have a lot of forward depth, but the Devils are particularly weak up front. Only Buffalo is generating less shots per game, and only one skater (Michael Ryder) has more than nine even-strength points.
These struggles have put Pete DeBoer on the hot seat. It can be debated how much he's responsible for the Devils' 10-13-4 record, but his goaltender management has been criticized almost universally.
Cory Schneider, who is signed until 2022, has been given just one night off all year. It may only be a matter of time before he's run into the ground.
|Team||Last Week's Rank|
|1||Chicago Blackhawks, 18-8-1||5||Second City Hockey|
|2||Tampa Bay Lightning, 18-7-3||3||Raw Charge|
|3||Pittsburgh Penguins, 18-6-2||2||Pensburgh|
|4||Anaheim Ducks, 18-6-5||10||Anaheim Calling|
|5||Detroit Red Wings, 17-6-5||11||Winging It In Motown|
|6||Nashville Predators, 17-7-2||4||On The Forecheck|
|7||St. Louis Blues, 17-8-2||1||St. Louis Game Time|
|8||Vancouver Canucks, 18-8-2||6||Nucks Misconduct|
|9||New York Islanders, 19-8-0||9||Lighthouse Hockey|
|10||Los Angeles Kings, 14-8-5||7||Jewels From The Crown|
|11||Montreal Canadiens, 17-10-2||8||Habs Eyes On The Prize|
|12||San Jose Sharks, 14-11-4||15||Fear The Fin|
|13||Boston Bruins, 15-12-1||12||Stanley Cup Of Chowder|
|14||Minnesota Wild, 14-10-1||13||Hockey Wilderness|
|15||Calgary Flames, 17-9-2||16||Matchsticks & Gasoline|
|16||Winnipeg Jets, 14-9-5||17||Arctic Ice Hockey|
|17||New York Rangers, 11-10-4||14||Blueshirt Banter|
|18||Toronto Maple Leafs, 14-9-3||20||Pension Plan Puppets|
|19||Florida Panthers, 11-7-7||21||Litter Box Cats|
|20||Washington Capitals. 12-10-4||18||Japers' Rink|
|21||Ottawa Senators, 11-11-5||19||Silver Seven|
|22||Dallas Stars, 10-12-5||23||Defending Big D|
|23||Arizona Coyotes, 10-15-3||24||Five For Howling|
|24||New Jersey Devils, 10-13-4||22||In Lou We Trust|
|25||Colorado Avalanche, 9-12-6||25||Mile High Hockey|
|26||Columbus Blue Jackets, 9-15-2||28||The Cannon|
|27||Philadelphia Flyers, 9-13-4||27||Broad Street Hockey|
|28||Carolina Hurricanes, 8-15-3||26||Canes Country|
|29||Edmonton Oilers, 7-15-5||29||The Copper & Blue|
|30||Buffalo Sabres, 9-16-2||30||Die By The Blade|