The Blackhawks have yet to lose in regulation sporting that flashy 9-0-2 record. During this stretch you didn’t hear/read me saying I thought this team had all but put the finishing touches on winning the Stanley Cup. No, no… I have been playing the cautiously optimistic card, pointing out the good, the bad and goaltending.
This has been my stance because I’m seeing major flaws in wins that shouldn’t have come close to a win. I have also seen teams who clearly have yet to gel and specific players with that glaze still over their eyes. The same look worn by the weekend warrior on the bench on Sunday morning, wincing as he fights off the urge to vomit. Sorry for the graphic nature of that last sentence, but the point is some guys are in shape and some are not quite there yet. In case you haven’t noticed, it has created a distorted view in standings and stats in the sports section of your local newspaper.
However, there’s not much more to say after watching the Hawks on this road trip. They are just flat out good. Like I mentioned above, there are some flaws, and Stan Bowman should keep his phone at least on vibrate. He could stand to make a couple of acquisitions prior to the trade deadline.
The Hawks should be looking to add some more physicality, specifically upfront. It’s shocking that they are 9-0-2 to be honest because it’s pretty clear the book has been written on how to defeat them the past couple of years. All you have to do is hit, hit and hit some more. This team is not built to withstand the physical pressure and when this pressure ramps up, they have no recourse.
The thing is, if they want to get stronger up front, something (or someone) has to give. Quenneville seems confident with Saad in the top 6, the 3rd line looks to be gaining steam each game and the 4th line possess the top PK unit of Kruger/Frolik. Obviously with this record Stan will not be that quick to return the other 29 GMs calls, hopefully he has a plan in place come Spring though.
Speaking of additions, let’s revisit last trade deadline. One difference maker I overlooked from last year’s team is the Johnny Oduya factor. Don’t laugh, it’s a thing. Blackhawks enthusiasts affectionately call him the “Pizza Man” from the hearsay they received from Winnipeg Jets message boards, plus his collapse in the Phoenix series last Spring. Before the playoffs though, the fact of the matter is the Hawks went 12-2-4 after acquiring the Pizza Man.
Oduya’s value is in his consequential ripple effect he has on the rest of the roster. You can call it the Brian Campbell syndrome, if you will. It restores the balance, all while reminding me of a Sesame Street skit. Ever since Campbell’s exit, it’s been a lot of “one of these things just doesn’t belong here, one of these things just isn’t the same”. Nick Leddy was forced into a role which in turn put more pressure on the rest of the defence. With Leddy now playing in a more depth position, the Hammer/Oduya pairing has been able to take immense pressure off Keith and Seabrook. The PK and PP units on the backend look much more stable as well.
The Hawks are welcoming the soothing sounds of Nashville’s music scene as they take on Mike Underwood and the Predators on Sunday. Then they can finally go home and see how many dead plants and goldfish they need to clean up.
With this shortened season, there is no room for error, and some teams may have to call a spade a spade and throw in the towel earlier than anticipated.
In the next 10 games, teams that should throw in the towel:
- Washington: Ovechkin’s struggles have been well documented. He currently has 8 points and just doesn’t seem like the same player. The coaching musical chairs could be the cause in D.C.
- Calgary: Their record is not terrible at 3-4-2 but they need to make a change. This is the time to get maximum return for Kiprusoff and Iginla, actually 4 years ago would have been ideal but who’s judging.
In the next 10 games, teams that should take those teams towels and make a run:
- Pittsburgh: I’m not sure if adding is as important as maintaining. Just keeping their players (cough..Crosby…cough) healthy is vital but that added punch would give them elite status.
- Vancouver: When Kesler and Booth return, they are going to feel like trade deadline additions but they still could use some firepower up front. Honestly, Luongo needs to go if you plan to make a run. It’s understandable that Gillis is not comfortable with the offers to date, but he has been known to sit on deals as well. Get it done and move on with Schneider as your guy.
“Jamal Mayers is the most useless player in the NHL” says Al Strachan in March of last year. Mayers took to twitter to fight back, getting his punches in within 140 characters. “Jammer” will never get you to jump out of your seat with an end to end goal but what he does bring is a role that all teams need.
Andy is a guy I respect a lot and has a high level of hockey IQ. I loved his response here (bottom of article).
Mayers engaged Chicago’s Most Wanted, Raffi Torres and sought redemption. The fight was essentially a draw but it was needed and done in perfect timing (other than Kruger going in on a half break). The Hawks built on that and went on to take down the deflated Coyotes in a convincing fashion.
In my last blog, I wondered about a road trip like this, would it build morale within the dressing room or was it trending to be a big ball of frustration. Unless a complete meltdown in Smashville, this trip couldn’t have been more successful.
Ty Cam out!
Filed Under: Chicago Blackhawks
About the Author: I am a rare Chicago Blackhawks fan from Canada, one might describe me as a hockey connoisseur and a solid checking line centre to your local rec hockey team. I once lived in a town of 500 people and now work in the hockey mecca that is Toronto. I work in the wonderful world of Advertising and these opinions are one of my own and not of my company - don't get it twisted.