Chicago – The fact the Blackhawks can’t seem to play with the same effort throughout a game makes them an interesting but frustrating club to follow. From night to night or period to period, even shift to shift the Hawks can appear a scattered group. My view is the will to win of the team shouldn’t be questioned but there is a need to further define the word effort in this context.
In the case of the Blackhawks, putting out effort isn’t necessarily the same as trying hard. Now almost a day doesn’t go by without some in local media as well as Hawk fans feeling disgust because this group seemingly brings a part time performance. As some would say, the Blackhawks don’t care enough until their backs are to the wall.
That type of thinking is reasonable, to a degree, but in reality putting forth effort isn’t the issue. The problem is this team exhibits the wrong type of effort, so even though they are trying hard the results aren’t as consistent as most fans would like. In the playoffs, more so than a Tuesday night in January versus Edmonton, the players are focused. They are trying their hardest to win but sometimes not working together in a way to have the most opportunity for success.
The Blackhawks as a team still struggle for an identity. Their current roster doesn’t give them the opportunity to consistently win in the same way as when they won the Stanley Cup. A different style of play is needed, one not only based on speed and pretty plays.
The game has changed in the last few years, penalties are called differently and teams must be able to crash and bang to win. Even a top skill level club like Washington has changed the way it plays because regular season success didn’t lead to long playoff runs.
Over last summer I heard a recorded interview with Scotty Bowman. He was asked if he was surprised the Washington Capitals had so much trouble winning in the playoffs. Bowman commented he really wasn’t surprised because the Capitals could win games with offensive skill alone in the regular season. So when they needed to play a tight checking-style they would have problems, like in the playoffs. When the going got tough they resorted to what helped them win during the season. The same type of effort didn’t work in a playoff series.
Bowman, who is a senior advisor for the Hawks, made reference to winning without the correct effort. Correct effort or effective effort is what the Blackhawks sometimes lack. Over the course of this season, Joel Quenneville and some players have admitted the same. Interestingly, this year it finally appears the Capitals can play an effective style in the playoffs.
When the Hawks began this season, they were winning although not playing the way the coaching staff was instructing them. It’s not easy for coaches to make a point about playing differently when a club is still having success. Human nature dictates and if the wrong type of effort isn’t followed by a bad consequence, it is more difficult to change behavior. The Hawks changed moreso after their nine game losing streak.
When the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, they could win in a variety of ways. They could chip pucks in and retrieve them, they were fast and strong along the boards. Most often they would skate pucks into the offensive zone and look to quicken the pace. Eventually the Hawks would wear down an opponent because of their depth and high skill level. The Cup-winning team had the physical ability and net presence to score from close in and that is a must in today’s NHL.
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