Being a lifelong Blackhawk fan I feel conflicted these days.
The die hard fan in me wants the Hawks to reach the playoff and win at least one round. After all they are the defending Champs and making the playoffs should be a given, regardless of the salary cap issues and the fact half the team was jettisoned. In my book, with the way the season has gone, anything more than winning one round is a significant achievement.
The realist in me says this is all going to end with a thud and maybe it is best not to qualify for the playoffs. If the Hawks aren’t fully healthy going into round one a quick exit would not be a surprise. Maybe it is best to fold the tent early and rest up for next season. In many ways this group has failed to get it all together and is still struggling to find the correct mix.
With an early finish management would realize it is a short hop from being a Cup Champion to playoff bubble team. Certainly there is a need for personnel changes and quite possibly the Hawks’ style of play has to be adjusted as well.
Maybe by falling short of the playoffs the desire will burn even hotter in October for players and those in the front office. With the correct additions the Hawks could make a serious Stanley Cup run next season.
If the Hawks don’t capture at least one point over the next two games there probably won’t be a reason to be conflicted any longer.
Regulation losses to the Red Wings and Bruins would mean the Hawks would need to capture nine points in the remaining six games to end the year with 97. But even a 97 point finish doesn’t guarantee a playoff slot.
It’s not impossible for the Hawks to achieve two upcoming road wins but complete efforts will be required. Although the Wings and Bruins aren’t on fire the Hawks don’t have effective replacements for the injured Dave Bolland and Patrick Sharp.
Without earning at least one point by Tuesday night the will of the players may diminish. Down deep they will realize they are a big long shot to qualify for the post season.
Duncan Keith commented after the loss to the Ducks that they weren’t out of it yet….Funny after one loss he would mentioned any reference to being out of it. But the players know the schedule and the standings.
The next couple of lines are taken from an Adam Jahns Sun Times article from Sunday… This pretty much says it all about the loss to Anaheim.
Here is a Marian Hossa quote immediately following the game…“Sometimes we tried to be a little too cute. Against a good defensive team like this, that’s sometimes not going to work.”
Jahns adds…That’s a common refrain for the Hawks after losses, especially when they muster a few quality scoring chances and traffic is minimal. I couldn’t agree more.
Versus the Coyotes Mr. Kane seemed to be stuck in second gear. His effort against the Panthers wasn’t great as he made a few poor decisions with the puck. But then Kane did what all great players often do…He came through.
Against the Panthers, Kane made a fantastic pass to Toews which changed the game. His turnovers and sloppy defensive efforts are forgiven because nothing looks as bad after a victory. But now there is no margin for error, especially when the Hawks don’t score a power play goal.
On Saturday night Kane was caught between a rock and hard place. Kane knows down deep the Hawk offense needs him more than ever. This puts Kane into a position to force things. When that happens mistakes take place.
I have mentioned on a number of occasions Kane is the best perimeter player in the league. Unfortunately at times Kane’s hockey IQ does not match his physical ability. He is still young, but old enough to know better.
When the same old song is sung by players about keeping things simple and getting dirty goals those comments are probably meant for Kane’s ears more than anyone else.
In the third period Saturday it wasn’t exactly a pure turnover, but Kane forced a low opportunity shot at the wrong time and the Ducks tied the score. His careless play resulted in the Ducks having an easy breakout which left every Blackhawk forward behind. Not surprising because the Hawk forwards were all below the faceoff circle in the Ducks’ zone when Kane tried a bad angle, low reward shot.
Kane has to realize although goals are precious now they don’t always have to be created by him. Kind of a tough spot for Kane but many times simple is best.
After Kane’s shot didn’t get through to the net he should have had only one thought in mind. Kane needed to skate as fast as possible to get to the far post before Corey Perry….Strike two.
Kane started to race with his head down but he let up for a few strides inside the Hawks’ blueline. Perry and company don’t need a lot of space to score and Kane wasn’t close enough.
The winning tally was created because the Ducks won board battles and were more determined. One would have thought Anaheim would have been the tired, road weary club but in reality they controlled the final forty minutes. The Ducks knew the formula for beating the Hawks. They kept Kane and others on the perimeter and were physical.
Without Bolland and Sharp the Hawks’ lineup has big holes. The Ducks were able to play with a consistent effective effort, even if minutes were piled on their top line.
The Ducks top unit was hands down better than the Toews’ line. Actually the top six forwards for Anaheim were stronger. I can’t tell what the game plan is for the Chicago third and fourth line but it isn’t working.
Joel Quenneville put all his eggs into the Duncan Keith Keith – Brent Seabrook basket. The basket broke in the third period and now the Hawks will probably struggle mightily to finish eighth.
Considering Sharp and Bolland won’t be back soon, maybe qualifying for the playoffs is a pipe dream. But the best chance to pick up any points in the next two games will probably be in Detroit. The Hawks are catching the Wings with some injuries. The Bruins will be more rested than the Hawks and they should pound away from the opening puck drop.
There were some curious decisions made by Quenneville concerning playing time.
There could be injuries involved in the decision process which we are unaware of but…
Niklas Hjalmarsson has been playing very good hockey but only saw the ice for a little less than 15 minutes.
That’s 14 minutes less than Keith, 13 minutes less than Seabrook and about four minutes less than Brian Campbell and new comer Chris Campoli.
Marcus Kruger played 11:30 at even strength. At even strength Ryan Johnson was on the ice for only 6:02.
Fernando Pisani did not play on special teams and had only 5:47 of playing time.
Bryan Bickell recorded only one hit against a very physical Ducks squad and played a total 13:54. A bad Bickell is still better than John Scott, but he hasn’t been bringing much to the party.
They say a head coach has the best feel for his team. On Saturday night Randy Carlyle was the better coach and the Ducks were the best team.
Another Hawk loss when they were outscored in the third period…Evidently a hard pattern to break.
If possible go to the Blackhawks’ website and listen to a recent interview of Quenneville on NHL Live.
Interviewing Q. was Ken Daneyko, who was a former three time Stanley Cup winner with the NJ Devils. Daneyko was a bona fide tough guy and a good defender. Pay attention to the question from Daneyko about the thought process involved when adding John Scott to the roster.
Scott isn’t a newly drafted player…He is 28 years old. So it was amazing to hear Quenneville comment that Scotts’ play on the blueline has improved a lot since the beginning of the season.
Scott might not have many fans in Chicago but he has the head coach in his corner.
By the way…If there ever was a time the Hawks could have used a physical presence, which could play hockey, it would have been versus the Ducks.
Before anyone wonders why there wasn’t any post game quotes available from the likes of Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews….They didn’t stick around long enough to be questioned.
Evidently those two and others got out of Dodge quickly as only Keith and Hossa endured the post game media scrum.
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