Chicago Blackhawks Player Evaluations: Michal Rozsival

The Hawks' defenseman was a pleasant surprise to fans in 2013

 Blackhawks Convention has come and gone, but we still have a few more players left to evaluate from the 2013 season here on Madhouse Enforcer. Today’s subject is defenseman Michal Rozsival.

The Good:

There wasn’t much in the way of expectations for Rozsival going into the shortened 2013 season. He was going to be battling for the sixth defenseman spot in the lineup with Sheldon Brookbank, and was largely going to be confined to mostly even strength and penalty killing minutes.

What the Hawks got instead was a guy who ended up with 12 assists in only 27 regular season games, a plus-18 rating that was best among the team’s blue liners, and ended up averaging 18:07 of ice time per game. His productivity did dip a bit in the playoffs, with only four assists in 23 games, but his playing time went up slightly to 19:16 per game, and he actually was more proactive on offense with 14 shots on goal in those 23 games.

In addition to all of that, Rozsival had a really good year from an advanced statistics perspective as well. He had the best on-ice Corsi of any defenseman on the Hawks with a 19.64, and his PDO of 1045 was also tops among the blue liners. Granted, his numbers were helped by the fact that he started a vast majority of his shifts in the offensive zone (63.4%, to be exact), but it’s still a remarkable achievement from someone who wasn’t expected to be anything but a warm body going into the year.

What all of these numbers tell us is that Rozsival played a very controlled game on both sides of the puck. A high PDO indicates that a player’s team possesses the puck a lot when he is on the ice, and when a team is trying to limit the number of shots on goal they allow, that makes all the difference, and Rozsival was a big part of that.

The Bad:

Sixth defensemen aren’t supposed to be world beaters when it comes to defensive responsibility, but during the regular season especially, Rozsival would frustrate fans with his approach at times when the opposing team had the puck.

He seemed indecisive at times in that area, and there was a particularly galling example of that in Game 3 of the Blackhawks’ second round series with the Detroit Red Wings. On a play in the second period of that contest, Rozsival floated a weak clearing attempt up the ice that was intercepted by Detroit center Cory Emmerton. He pushed the puck up to Patrick Eaves, who blew by Rozsival at the near face-off circle, and the puck was eventually tapped home by Drew Miller to give the Wings a 2-0 lead.

Obviously, it’s a fool’s errand to try to boil down a player’s entire season to one play, but it does show that Rozsival does have some things to work on as he enters the first year of a new two year deal with the Hawks in 2013-14.

Best Game of 2013:

With teammates Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya struggling to get their sea legs in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins, Rozsival stepped up on both sides of the puck to help the Hawks win the game.

Not only did he manage to have a plus-3 in a game that the team gave up five goals, but he also picked up two assists, including the primary assist on Jonathan Toews’ tip-in goal in the second period. It was a picture perfect play by Rozsival, who put the puck on net with traffic in front of Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask to make the goal happen.

Rozsival stepped up at other times during the season when his teammates were struggling, but in a game that the Hawks had to win to prevent the series from getting out of hand, he stepped up in the biggest way possible.

Outlook for 2013-14:

The new season is going to be a fascinating one for the freshly re-signed Rozsival. He will likely settle back into a semi-platoon with Brookbank in order to keep him fresh (a strategy that Quenneville seemed to like even after Rozsival won the battle between the two blue liners), but he could also have to deal with competition for playing time with guys from the Rockford ranks.

Dylan Olsen and Adam Clendening are both going to be angling for spots on the team’s roster coming out of training camp in September, and one of the guys who could see his minutes cut or eliminated is Rozsival. If he doesn’t keep playing at the high level that the team learned to expect from him in the playoffs, his spot in the lineup is far from guaranteed, so he’ll have to avoid a letdown now that he has a bit more contractual security.

The Hawks will also need Rozsival to be a bit more assertive on the offensive side of the puck as well. There were times during the 2013 season that he would pass up open shots in favor of making an extra pass, and that has to change in the new campaign. If he is going to allow defenders to get into better position to stop shots from the point, then he isn’t going to work out in a system that is designed to sling the puck around the ice quickly, and his playing time might suffer because of it.

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