After falling to Detroit Sunday, the Blackhawks have now lost five of the last six games. Sunday night’s contest could have gone either way. Losing to the Red Wings 3-2 in overtime isn’t anything to be embarrassed about, but it was another disappointing outcome. The Hawks should have been the fresher team, but they still relinquished a third period lead.
The officiating didn’t help, but that isn’t a good excuse as the Blackhawks still squandered a two-goal cushion on home ice. In the end, the Hawks didn’t capitalize on power play opportunities and were exploited near their net by the crafty Red Wings.
As the Blackhawks stumble past the halfway point of the season, there are concerns and that which need to be recognized and fixed.
This past summer, GM Stan Bowman had additional salary cap space because of the Brian Campbell trade. Bowman realized the Hawks needed more know-how and went out and signed a group of experienced NHL players. Bowman remarked the Hawks had to be tougher to play against. Supposedly the additions would add more grit and experience. On the surface, that seemed to be so.
It is impossible for each player to be 100 percent dialed in for every regular season game. The better teams have enough overall talent to survive and play at a high level consistently. There will still be low points and struggles, but if everyone is on the same page with strong efforts, talent should prevail.
This is a different kind of Hawks team than the one that won the Stanley Cup. Trying to play the same style of a fast transition game might not work as well. My take is Bowman wanted to not only provide needed experience, he also sought to make the Hawks more like the tough and gritty Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins.
Unfortunately, despite the fact the Hawks have accumulated 53 points in 42 games, Bowman’s plan may have been misguided.
The Blackhawks haven’t proven they have the necessary players to pull off a physical forecheck and also play a quick transition game effectively. They can at times, but performances have been up and down. It seems like the Hawks are caught between trying to be tough and physical while still relying on quickness and skill.
As it is, there are simply too many wasted rosters spots. Now, due to increased injuries, the Blackhawks are counting on young prospects to step into full time NHL roles. Almost every top team needs some unexpected contributions from young players with friendly salary cap hits. The Hawks are banking on players which weren’t on the radar to quickly help this year and become significant contributors.
Maybe Jimmy Hayes, Andrew Shaw and Dylan Olsen will be able to play well enough to become full-time Blackhawks this season. Maybe the addition of some young blood will help soften the mistakes made this past summer.
The Blackhawks were supposedly built to make a strong run at the Stanley Cup. The sham of believing four shifts by John Scott, or the scattered, infrequent performances by Sean O’Donnell and Sami Lepsito, are effective additions to the defense must end now.
Believing Nick Leddy or Steve Montador can make a transition game sizzle like Campbell must stop. Thinking the heavy, hard minutes Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson are burdened with will have no ill effect is ridiculous.
Believing Hawks forwards are losing puck battles and playing so poorly defensively because they don’t care enough is also a straw man fallacy. Fatigue is a big factor, as well as some square pegs forced into round holes that lead to poor efforts and a lack of consistency.
The Blackhawks have enough high-end talent to make them a dangerous team. They are led by Jonathan Toews, who brings a supreme effort on almost every shift. On the surface, with the added experience, it appears they should comfortably qualify for the playoffs. The biggest concern is a rash of injuries and fatigue to top players who are counted on to shoulder the majority of the load. The end goal for this club shouldn’t be to only qualify for the post season.
Currently the Hawks are in a rough patch.
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