Are Hawks Showing Cracks in Their Armor?

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -Ray Emery suffered his first loss of the season as the Chicago Blackhawks fell to Anaheim 2-1. To add insult to injury the Hawks have now lost three in a row to the Ducks. In the last two contests goals came late in the final period to cost the Hawks. In the first meeting Anaheim tied the score in the final minutes of the third frame and won in a shootout.It is important to remember the Hawks were without Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp in the last two losses to Anaheim. That said injuries hinder every team at some point in the season.Friday night’s contest felt like a playoff game, a packed house and it was an intense game. The Ducks have played the Hawks with a playoff like effort every time they have met. Anaheim is a big club that can execute a quick transition game and they play solid team defense.

More significant than the Blackhawks being swept in a season series is why it has happened.

The Ducks, like a handful of others in the Western Conference can prevent the Hawks from playing their preferred style. It is apparent the Ducks take them out of their comfort zone as the Hawks can’t control the pace.

Friday night the Blackhawks held their own in the opening period but the players that kept the pressure on the Ducks were the bottom six forwards. It’s good there are two lines that can play a dump/chip and chase game but versus the Ducks they need four lines. With Hossa and Sharp in the lineup the top two lines can play with a more determined effort, but the Hawks will still be challenged.

Teams like the Ducks, Kings, Canucks, Blues and Predators can play a tighter, close checking game that will take away the Blackhawks speed. For the most part, those clubs can play the same way during the regular season and in the playoffs. There is no denying at this point the Hawks aren’t as comfortable playing that type of game.
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  1. Dave Morris says:

    Hi Al,

    Good article as always by you. IMHO the whole ‘kool-aid’ thing is really less important than it’s made out to be. The Hawks are doing booming business, and the fans are excited. That’s never a bad thing in pro sports.

    As for the team itself, it’s clear the Blackhawks are missing Hossa and Sharp, and their absence is a major factor against a team like Anaheim.

    Bob Murray has succeeded in addressing the gaps that plagued the Ducks last year. His guys are especially motivated against Chicago.

    Stan Bowman’s challenge is rather complicated. The Hawks play a fast-pace, have plenty of skill, and certainly enough size, and yes, some teams can counter those assets. But the gaps are very narrow between CHI and their most dangerous opponents.

    So the improvements at this point require incremental adjustments, rather than obvious changes.

    Would it good to have another big/tough center (like a Steve Ott) who can win face-offs? Absolutely. Could they use another solid, veteran d-man (like a Robyn Regher) to get them through the playoffs? No doubt.

    However, getting those kinds of players is extremely difficult in hot UFA market, and developing them from the pool of prospects takes time.

    Stan Bowman deserves credit for picking up young players like Leddy and Stalberg, and prospects like Morin, via trade, along the way. Does anybody miss Cam Barker and Kris Versteeg, or for that matter Bryan Campbell and his contract?

    Even if the Blackhawks play .500 or .600 hockey for the next few weeks, they are pretty much assured of a post season berth and they can use this time to continue to work on their weaknesses. Kids like Hayes, Morin and probably some others will get a look. When the playoffs start, the slate is wiped clean.

    Ray Shero has been aggressive this year, but it’s clear Iginla wanted ONLY to go to PIT. Brendan Morrow and Douglas Murray will be useful to the Pens, but were they worth the price? We will see.

    On the other side of the ledger, OTT is a team that has reinvented itself, thanks to Paul McLean and a pack of young players from their farm system who ALL buy in. But the Senators and their fans endured several years of frustration before the team got its act together. MTL was a disaster last year, this year they’re a contender. The Blue Jackets who everyone writes off, are fighting for a playoff spot. And so on…

    One can go around the league and make comparisons, and the conclusion will be the same: any team in the NHL can beat any other team on any given night.

    Bottom line, the Hawks are much better than last year. Are they good enough to get to the Final Four? With parity being what it is, who knows?

    In the meantime, this is a fun team to watch.

  2. Al Cimaglia says:

    ….And it’s even more difficult to make trades when you wait until the 11th hour. Hasn’t worked out well the last couple of years. The issues here have been the same all year…

    Iginla had no chance of coming and either does Ott.

    But there is a player or two out there that could make a difference…

    If the urgency is subdued because of booming buisness than results on the ice will reflect the same at some point.

    • Dave Morris says:

      Al, all good points as usual from you. I agree that there are issues to be solved. The problem for Bowman is similar to the one most GMs have in this shortened season: too much demand, too few available assets/not enough trading partners.

      Apart from Shero’s move – and that was basically Iginla dictating the terms to Feaster and CGY – there hasn’t been a major trade up to now. (Unless you think Ryder Cole qualifies.)

      Looking forward to reading your thoughts on which players the Hawks should be targeting at the deadline.

      Keep up the great work!