Out Of Whack

The Hawks lose again as their best players were missing in action in Anaheim. Some of the Hawks stars haven’t returned from Christmas break while others have been on a longer hiatus. Corey Crawford did his best to back stop the Hawks but mistakes and a lack of effort for the entire sixty minutes spoiled his return to action. 

The Hawks did play with some desperation. But the desperation switch wasn’t flipped until the final period. The Hawks aren’t good enough to beat many teams with a part time effort. 

When teams struggle to win goals are usually in short supply. This magnifies every mistake. 

A bad line change and a brain cramp by the Hawks top defensive duo, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, allowed the Ducks’ Corey Perry to score the winning goal. At the time it seemed like the Hawks could still bounce back. After all the Ducks aren’t a powerhouse and they were also without their best player. 

But Jonas Hiller was outstanding as the Ducks’ goalie wouldn’t cave in. Hiller wouldn’t allow the Hawks any hope and he sealed the victory for the Ducks.

The Hawks are in a funk and whatever can go bad will, and it has. 

Last night players who aren’t proven scorers had the game on their sticks and failed to convert. 

Jack Skille was stopped despite having a wide open net to shoot at, although Skille created the chance. Skille played a good game and is doing what he can. But that doesn’t mean he will often be successful in scoring goals. 

Viktor Stalberg was also buzzing around last night. Stalberg shot at an open net only to hit the blade of Dave Bolland’s stick. Bolland’s blade was about the only thing that could have prevented Stalberg from scoring an important goal. 

The Hawks were credited with 40 shots on goal, 19 coming in the final frame. Taking almost 50% of shots during the final twenty minutes normally is a bad sign.

Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane had two shots each. 

The efforts of Bryan Bickell, Dave Bolland and Stalberg accounted for 15 shots. 

Simply put the Hawks are out of whack. The effort is there at times but so are the mistakes

The best players have disappeared. The Blackhawks’ physical play has vanished as well. The Hawks were outhit 29-15 as only four of twelve forwards registered a hit. 

The Hawks can’t play a solid puck possession game if they continually lose faceoffs.

The dismal results at the dot….Patrick Sharp 21%, Tomas Kopecky 25%, Dave Bolland 31%. As a team the Hawks won only 36% of faceoffs. 

The only centers which win draws, Jake Dowell and Ryan Johnson play the least. 

Like I said things are out of whack. 

Onto LA and it looks like Jonathan Toews could be back in action. I watched an interview with Toews between periods and the look on his face said he wasn’t going to wait to be 100% healthy to return. 

Joel Quenneville appeared to be a magician last season. Every lineup decision and line combination seemed to work. This year Quenneville’s approach sometimes seems as scattered as the performances of his club. 

Hopefully the Hawks turn on the desperation switch at the start of tonight’s contest. 

Al’s Shots 

The Hawks signed highly touted prospect Dylan Olsen to an Entry Level Contract (ELC). After the World Junior Tourney, Olsen will report to Rockford. 

It was reported in the The Third Man In.com, Olsen wasn’t going to be academically eligible to play in the second semester. I don’t know if that is a fact but it would be a reason for him to suddenly turn pro. 

It was also pointed out the Hawks are at the 50 man roster limit. If another player were to be added someone would have to go. 

Olsen probably has had a lot on his mind lately and his play in the tournament has been spotty. 

Someday Olsen could become exactly what the Hawks need. A big crease clearing defenseman who can play top four minutes. Olsen plays mean. 

I don’t  know how soon that day will come. 

But if it is soon Stan Bowman could go out this summer and fill a need. 

Niklas Hjalmarsson would become expendable and he wouldn’t be difficult to trade. 

Bowman could then try  to acquire a big second line center who plays with an edge. Also this center should be able to win faceoffs. 

For now Jordan Hendry put on his defenseman skates last night for the first time since Nov. 1. Hendry looked rusty but played as well as could be expected.  Two months is a long time to not play your regular position. 

Just another of the many things which seem …..Out of whack.

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  1. Dave Morris says:

    Al, all good points…but it seems clear that with neither Hossa nor Kane at 100%, and Toews injured, the Blackhawks’ chances of winning close games are severely compromised.

    There aren’t any teams in the NHL that can afford to be without their three best offensive players healthy.

    To your comment about Hjalmarssson, his offer sheet ate up the extra million and a half dollars Bowman might have used this year to obtain a faceoff specialist and/or a reasonably good veteran bottom pairing d-man.

    The Blackhawks aren’t floundering; they remain four points out of fourth place in pack that comprises practically the entire Western Conference (apart from the Division Leaders).

    But every point counts, and increasingly so.

    • Al Cimaglia says:

      Dave you could be correct about Kane and Hossa….

      But neither rushed back and the amount of ice time they have been given does not indicate they are playing hurt.

      Hossa did the best when he played with Toews…..That duo should be reunited and Kopecky should take a seat.

      Kane needs to stop trying to do too much and play more north and south.

      I can’t cut them any slack any longer for possibly being hurt.

      And at this point the line combos and lineup decisions need to be questioned as well.

      • Dave Morris says:

        Al, without knowing their medical status, of course I’m just guessing about Hossa and Kane, but they don’t look 100% fit.

        They are probably getting the ice because there isn’t anybody able to pick up the slack.

        Brouwer, Bickell, Skille and Stalberg show the occasional bursts, but they aren’t able to drive the Hawks attack on a regular basis. None of them is a dynamic, creative player–like Jeremy Morin for example.

        It appears Toews will come back before he is ready, and the Blackhawks will hopefully do their best to steal a point or two tonight.

      • New York Nicky says:

        Some great points Al….Kane has been absent so far since he’s been back. It looks to me that Kane is starting to feel the pressure of “producing” at a pace that he’s being paid to do. He rarely goes into the corners to battle….and if he does go into the corners….it seems like he’s about 70% involved….when in fact, the other team is going at it at 100%….hence, he losses the battle along with the puck.

        But it’s not just a Kane problem….it’s a lot of problems. The bottom line to me is that THE HAWKS DO NOT HAVE A 100% EFFORT EVERY NIGHT. They seem to try to turn it on ONLY when it looks obvious that they are in trouble (last night 3rd period). If they had the same effort in the first 2 periods like their 3rd….they would’ve easily won. The Hawks would’ve looked like the St. Louis Blues from last week….St. Louis kept the pressure on the Hawks the whole game and it reality, feed the Hawks their lunch, dinner, and mid-night snack before it was all said and done. The Hawks need to also bring TEAM TOUGHNESS to every game.

        Also, I really do not remember Stan Mikita in his playing days but I heard that he was one of the BEST faceoff players in his time…can someone suggest that he spends some time with the centermen and teach them a few pointers?

        Ahhhh, I’m just frustrated because they’re off by just a little bit and they need some tweaking mentally and they’ll be fine but it has to start right now or it’ll be too late this year.

        Niko

        • Al Cimaglia says:

          Mikita was very good at winning fcaeoffs. I don’t know if he ever has been asked to help.

          I do know John Madden was a big positive influence last season….But now he is with the Wild.

          Not sure what the answer is now.

          But the players who get the most ice time haven’t been good enough.

    • Al Cimaglia says:

      A little friendly advice to all…

      The NHL point system is a made for TV version to provide parity.

      Every team looks like they have a chance until one realizes points are very difficult to make up.

      If past history is any indication the final playoff spot will go to a Western Conference team with at least 94 points.

      The Hawks need 51 points in the final 42 games. If the injuries continue that outcome will be unlikley….if healthy it will be difficult.

      The Hawks aren’t sinking but they are floundering.

      And after this month 20 of their final 32 games will be played on the road.

      • Dave Morris says:

        Al, to add to that, 51 points in the last 42 games require a little over .600 hockey.

        Not impossible, but as you say, difficult at best.

  2. SavvyOne says:

    Al, I wanted to comment on your point about Stahlberg’s shot. Watch the replay — Bolland clearly tried tipping the puck. Why? Who would have a clue. With Hiller down and the middle of the net up wide open, there is NO reason for any kind of deflection.

    Bolland needs to go back to PeeWee camp. Kids are taught early on (and we hear Eddie O repeating this mantra often on TV) to “keep your stick on the ice.” Bolland is one of the worst offenders – hence his often-stupid penalties arising from the fact that his stick is almost never on the ice and he is seldom in control of it. If this jerk would have followed this 1st rule, Stalhberg’s shot goes in and the Hawks get at least a point of out the 3rd period effort.

    One other comment: this is a game the Hawks are not even in if C2 is not in net. Between the penalty shot and the other point blank save, if Turco is in net it’s at least a 4-1 game. This wasn’t lost on me but his effort, as solid as it was, seems to have been lost in the fog of another poorly coached game by Q.

  3. Al Cimaglia says:

    I am not sure he was trying to tip it although his stick was up.

    If Bollnad did try to tip the puck he wasn’t aware of where Hiller was….because the puck was going in.

  4. shruew says:

    Apropos of nothing – I still think the Winter Classic is lousy hockey. All the hype and attention to showcase what is usually one of the worst hockey games of the year on horrible ice conditions.

  5. pricey says:

    Bolland tipping that puck wide just seems like the normal type of thing that would happen in a season like this one.

    It’s reactionary on his part, like every player who waves their stick at a puck over their head knowing its going to be a high-stick call

    I guess I’ve just accepted what this season has become and hope management doesn’t do something stupid in a “last ditch effort”

    • djd says:

      It is what it is, Pri$ey, I agree, but nothing a couple of six game win streaks won’t cure.

      Whether it be injuries, the constant line juggling as a result of them, or juggling just for the hell of it, lack of consistency, not showing up, poor D, poor goaltending, bad bounces, or no finish from the core players, it is quite apparent after 40 games that chemistry, character, and the will to win are in short supply with this squad. We all know where the character went. As for chemistry, it would be nice to see the same healthy lineup iced for more than two consecutive games so it can be determined whether the right personnel is in place. For all of that, it is a wonder that they’re even sniffing a playoff spot.

      Unlike many others here, I actually thought the ‘hawks put out some effort and played a decent game last night. We already know they’re not a physical presence, they had some tough puck luck and deserved a better fate. That type of effort wins more than it loses.

      Yup, it is what it is … let’s hope they’ve bottomed out as they are now looking up at 10 teams … but you know, that sounds so misleading. Truth is they’re still in the thick of things … talk to me after game 70. No need for doom and gloom just yet.

  6. Dave Morris says:

    Al, to come back to your “Out of Whack” headline…as simplistic as it sounds, this team is simply *not* as good–on any level–as last year’s, while other teams in the Conference *have* improved.

    If one can look at the building of a Cup contender in the post lockout era as a three to five year cycle, the Hawks reached that peak in 2009-10.

    Last year WAS their ‘window’, the ‘Cup Or Bust’ moment that was written and talked about so much.

    The players knew it was then or never for most of them in Chicago, and then or never to win a Stanley Cup.

    That situation doesn’t exist anymore.

    Just as Detroit and Pittsburgh had their respective drop-offs the years after their Cup victories, the Hawks are living through theirs.

    Re: the competition, the young players in COL, LAK and STL are all benefiting from another year of experience; they also have an increased sense of urgency.

    For a PHI or VAN, this year may be their best chance for a while. Ray Shero in Pittsburgh has added mean, hungry guys to his lineup, having learned from the upset vs MTL in the playoffs. BTW he has *several* enforcer/agitator types. Fortunately, Wilkes-Barre has been a good source.

    Where the Hawks are concerned, one can’t expect Bickell, Skille, Dowell, Stalberg to arrive in Chicago with that hockey savvy that takes years to acquire, and none of them (except for Dowell) have the ‘snarl’ in their game that it takes for many players, usually the less gifted ones–to persist.

    Troy Brouwer lacks that ‘snarl’ and he may not be in Chicago much longer unless he finds it.

    Tomas Kopecky, if not traded before then, may not even have an NHL contract next year.

    Until the next wave, i.e., Morin, Leddy, Olsen, Beach are ready to come up, with the energy and aggression of youth–and it seems strange to say it when so many Hawks are so young–the Blackhawks will need to go through their transition ‘out of whack’, the way they are right now.

    Again a reminder, though…everyone wrote off the Flyers at this time last year. And the reasons were very much the same as the ones being cited by Hawk critics.

  7. Al Cimaglia says:

    All said I can’t disagree although there were some major management decsions here….Not having anything to do with salary dumps….That might have been off target, as in the replacements for those who left.

    The Hawks were about the youngest team last yr. and Bowman and company nade the team even younger and less experienced this season.

    Too much inexperience at the same time….which has put too much pressure on the core players.

    A drop off should be expected….Not making the playoffs shouldn’t be.

    • Dave Morris says:

      Al, in hindsight one can question Bowman’s choices, and one can find flaws/mistakes…but then he was in a unique situation where he HAD to reduce his salary mass dramatically, and some would say, in an unprecendented manner.

      As far as the replacements chosen…the available veterans this summer (i.e. Asham, Salei, Lilja to cite a few examples)may or may not have been more expensive, and who knows if they would have been better than what the Hawks have now?

      The weakness at center goes back several seasons, and until that is corrected, the Blackhawks will have a nagging problem. They could make up for it last year because they had four lines that could roll.

      The search for a 5/6 d-man is tough because Sopel was much better than people had thought he would be.

      IMO we will see both Morin and Olsen in CHI at some point. And a current forward will be traded.

      If the Hawks miss the playoffs, no one should be surprised. The competition in the West is closer than anyone has seen in a very long time.

      Essentially, every game’s a playoff game from here on in.

  8. Al Cimaglia says:

    If the Hawks miss the playoffs, no one should be surprised.

    Don’t tell John McDonough….lol

    I have been saying it isn’t a foregone conclusion for quite awhile.

    We can all speculate and hindsight is 20/20…But a prudent hockey mind would conclude that too much inexperience is not going to be a good thing.

    Really that point can’t be debated and my view has been consistent on that issue since this fall.

    • Living the Cup says:

      Given the salary cap constraints of this past summer adding experience in the form of good players probably was too expensive.

      Bowman barely has any wiggle room as it is. He has veterans like Boynton, Culli, Pisani all making close to minimum as are most of the new young guys.

      We’d all love some veteran leadership like Madden but we can’t afford it – maybe a deal at the deadline but not last summer. After all we couldn’t afford Reasoner.

      I could see Hammer being dealt at some point – that makes sense, our D prospects are pretty deep.

      To paraphrase Frank Zappa ‘The Hawks aren’t dead yet, they just smell funny’.

      When Toews returns I’d give them 10 games to see if they can pull it together – I still think there is a playoff team there unless injuries get in the way all season long.