Ice time was something often discussed last year with the shortened season and has again been a topic this season with the compact schedule due to the Olympics.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville found a rotation he liked last season and stuck with it most of the time. The players’ ice times didn’t fluctuate that often during the regular season.
Quenneville liked his rotation so much last season that he’s used his most of his roster in nearly the same amount this season. Some players are within seconds of playing the same amount this regular season.
Here’s a look at the Blackhawks’ average ice times last season compared to this season:
Duncan Keith -- 24:07 last season, 24:35 this season
Brent Seabrook -- 22:00 last season, 21:56 this season
Niklas Hjalmarsson -- 20:54 last season, 21:13 this season
Jonathan Toews -- 19:21 last season, 20:33 this season
Johnny Oduya -- 20:31 last season, 20:16 this season
Patrick Kane -- 20:03 last season, 19:51 this season
Patrick Sharp -- 18:50 last season, 18:53 this season
Marian Hossa -- 18:02 last season, 18:27 this season
Brandon Saad -- 16:28 last season, 16:27 this season
Nick Leddy -- 17:25 last season, 16:26 this season
Michal Rozsival -- 18:07 last season, 15:55 this season
Andrew Shaw -- 15:03 last season, 15:19 this season
Marcus Kruger -- 14:10 last season, 13:51 this season
Bryan Bickell -- 12:48 last season, 11:39 this season
Sheldon Brookbank -- 12:45 last season, 11:32 this season
Brandon Bollig -- 8:01 last season, 10:02 this season
Bickell’s minutes: Bickell’s play improved this week, but he isn’t getting rewarded with the minutes. Bickell had a Corsi percentage of 66.7 or higher the last six games. He also totaled five shots on net, a goal and plus-one rating against the Anaheim Ducks and Boston Bruins.
Despite those numbers, Quenneville still doesn’t appear have full trust in Bickell. He’s limited Bickell’s minutes to less than nine minutes in each of the last four games. Bickell played 8:47 against the Edmonton Oilers, 6:34 against the Colorado Avalanche, 8:41 against the Ducks and 8:36 against the Bruins. He was averaging around 13 minutes prior to his injury.
Versteeg played 7:45 of even-strength ice time against the Avalanche, 4:29 against the Ducks (he didn’t play the third period due to injury) and 9:55 against Bruins. Handzus’ even-strength ice times were 6:13 vs. the Avalanche, 8:29 vs. the Ducks and 10:27 vs. the Bruins.
Getting the minutes: While Quenneville has decreased the third line’s minutes, he utilized the fourth line more.
He’s especially given Ben Smith and Bollig more even-strength minutes. Bollig played even-strength minutes of 10:48 vs. the Avalanche, 11:50 vs. the Ducks and 11:28 vs. the Bruins. He now averages 9:46 even-strength minutes per game. Smith played 10:51 vs. the Avalanche, 11:38 vs. the Ducks and 11:55 vs. the Bruins. He averages 10:40 even-strength minutes.
Leading in minutes: Keith leads the Blackhawks in ice time for the ninth consecutive season. He ranks 24th in the league in average time on ice at 24:34 and is the only Blackhawk among the league’s top-50 players.
Keith’s minutes are pretty similar to last season. He averaged 24:07 a game last season. He was playing 26-plus minutes in the three seasons prior to that. He averaged a career-high 26:54 a game during the 2011-12 season.
Defensive starts: One major change from last season is how Quenneville has used Bollig this season.
Quenneville has utilized Bollig a lot more this season as a defensive player. Last season, Bollig’s shifts started 41.7 percent of the time in the offensive zone and 27.2 in the defensive zone. That’s changed to 11.1 in the offensive zone and 50.2 in the defensive zone this season.
Bollig leads the Blackhawks in percentage of defensive zone starts this season. Kruger is second at 49.6 percent and Smith is third at 49.5. Kruger led the Blackhawks last season with a 47.5 defensive zone start percentage.