Blackhawks Confidential

Some pollsters rank Blackhawks No. 1; time to worry about Shark attacks

blackhawks-logo.jpgNow it gets scary. The Blackhawks are being anointed kings of hockey in some realms.

Often just a temporary position in this tight job market, yet noteworthy at the same time it's nerve-wracking.

Kings are made to be beheaded. Thrones have been known to turn into overflowing toilets overnight. Shooting stars at nightfall find themselves crapshooting by the dawn's early light.

Can you tell I've grown up in Chicago, where the first sign of sunshine in your sports franchise makes you run for the comfort of a dark bar to ease your worries that now it suddenly has become the best times of our lives?

Yeah, that's what they said about World War II. Have you seen all the graveyards?

"The Hawks look unstoppable," the National Post's Noah Love wrote in Monday's editions.

I need a depressant straight from the ol' bottle to calm these shakes. Two countries are forming alliances for the Hawks' coronation ceremony.

Has Mr. Love seen our power play the entire season? Is not having a second-line center really beside the point when you have 32 points and a 15-5-2 record?

Are the Hawks just one or two major injuries away from having too many man hours lost to legitimately overcome? Is Patrick Sharp planning to join the power play in progress?

Should we see Troy Brouwer's four power-play goals as an accident or an arrival that can signal a trend? Has goalie Cristobal Huet exorcised all the hinks, kinks and stinks out of his system?

Should we not be worried, just believing the Hawks can go California surfin' for the next week, riding the wave to 6-0?

Look out below. The Hawks have only one way to move once they are proclaimed the best. It really sucks being No. 1.

I worry, therefore I am, as that old hockey fanatic Rene Descartes (the spitting image of Michel Goulet) once said after taking too many philosophic knocks to the noggin.

Mr. Love, aptly named, was explaining to National Post readers why he elevated the Hawks from the 6th best NHL team to No. 1 in his latest poll ranking this week, unseating those New Jersey Devils from the top.

"Without the perennial 40-goal scorer, the Hawks offence (remember, this is Canada, where they can't spell, eh!) has looked as fluid as water," Love gushed about the touted return Wednesday night of Marian Hossa. "Imagine how good they might be with him."

The Hawks' 7-game winning streak will get a strenuous test Wednesday in San Jose. Put the Sharks where you will--Love ranks them 2d to the Hawks--but this clash will be a monster mash.

The Blackhawks beat the Sharks 4-3 in overtime Nov. 15 at United Center when Brent Seabrook broke loose to finish a Jonathan Toews pass from behind the net. But Dany Heatley was quite impressive and Patrick Marleau was all over the ice.

To beat them again on their own ice will be a monumental task.

"Heatley leads the league in goals (18, tied with Rangers' Marian Gaborik) and Joe Thornton (25 assists) is one off the league lead in points (32)," Love wrote.

Think the Hawks' defense and Huet might have their hands full against the Sharks? If the Hawks and Hossa find a way to celebrate his Chicago debut with a win, Hawks fever will be raging more than the swine flu.

As much as I enjoyed the 1-0 win at Vancouver, let's be honest. The offense was pretty much stilted. The laudable team effort masked that road exhaustion, but the Hawks must be much sharper in San Jose or face the prospect of getting whammed like a Thanksgiving turkey.

Vancouver felt it dominated the Hawks without getting the benefit of luck. The Hawks are an eyelash from being 2-1 on the trip rather than 3-0. But the circus trip has the bandwagon rolling faster than ever this season.

ESPN interpreted the present state of affairs just like the National Post. Pierre LeBrun also raised the Hawks flag above the fort, shifting them from six to first, as well.

Rally round the flag, boys.

"Now a date in San Jose," LeBrun wrote . "Must-see TV."

He added about the Sharks: "The best line in hockey right now is Marleau-Thornton-Heatley, bar none."

Before the new year's bells ring, will he have changed the best line in hockey to be Patrick Kane-Jonathan Toews-Hossa? Or will coach Joel Quenneville keep them together enough at even strength to determine if that's a consistent unit or only an occasional attack, mostly on power plays?

Guess how Fox decided to rank the Hawks? Yet a third power ranking that goosed them from 6th to 1st, praising Toews' contributions for the recent winning surge.

Yahoo's Ross McKeon posted his power rankings before the last two Hawks wins on the trip, so their third-place rating is just a matter of not keeping up with the times. He has San Jose No. 1, and if the Sharks beat Chicago Wednesday, they'll be back on top everywhere else.

CBC Sports' Elliotte (told you the Canadians can't spell) Friedman claimed San Jose made trade inquiries into getting Sharp from Chicago before finally dealing for Heatley. Friedman adds that perhaps GM Stan Bowman is weighing trade offers now for Sharp, noting that Chicago assistant GM Kevin Cheveldayoff was scouting a Leafs' game last weekend.

Friedman argues for Bowman to not consider trading Sharp and tampering with chemistry.

"It's a young group loaded with single guys who like to have a good time, but recognize when business must be business," Friedman opined.

Now those kind of good times don't frighten me at all. Bottoms up, in the bar and the bedroom.

We'll give the last word on power rankings to TSN to set up Wednesday's ballyhooed tilt.

Neither TSN nor CBS Sportsline has bought the Hawks yet as the NHL's finest. The Sharks are No. 1, the Hawks No. 2 in their thinking.

"Consistency in all phases keeps the Sharks--owners of the league's best power play, second-best penalty kill and second best plus-minus--on top for a fourth straight week," TSN pollsters determined.

What no one knows is whether Hossa comes out smoking or searching. But to me it would be best if the rest of the Hawks continued to play like he really isn't there.

That's been a successful viewpoint up until now. Hossa needs to smoothly join the program in progress and not reinvent the wheel.

We'll see how long it takes for everything to mesh. In the meantime, start worrying, because the Blackhawks are No. 1.

How much good news is a person expected to take?

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12 Comments

dum dum alouwishes said:

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One of the most uncomfortable feeling, is when co-workers start gushing up the Hawks for me..and i work at the Wild flagship station, Mpls,MN! Like the Incredibles, not first not last...just in between...

Mike Kiley said:

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In sports, nothing lasts forever. And after so many decades of the Blackhawks being out of the picture, the big picture look can intimidate. Are we this good?

Alligator Derski said:

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Yeah I'm starting to feel some anxiety...still confident, but anxious. It will be a great test to see how the Hawks play in hostile territory against a dominant team with plenty of rest. No excuses.

Mike Kiley said:

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Let's hope it's a hell of a show. The Hawks are due to be on the wrong end of a blowout, but remember Calgary and the 5-0 miracle on ice. Maybe blowouts aren't possible against this team. At least I wish it so.

Dave Morris said:

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Ranking...doesn't that rhyme with something that starts with 'w'?

Those "hockey experts" are good at that, eh.

Stay thirsty, my friends.

Mike Kiley said:

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Dave, I have yet to notice anyone call you the most intriguing man in the world. They have called you--well, pretty much the same things people call me.

Dave Morris said:

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Hey Mike, as long as they don't call collect.

FearlessFreep said:

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If I recall, I was one of those guys who said not to worry about Huet, that he'll come around, and I was branded a fool by a few people here - but we won't name names. Still, I think that the SJ game will be a huge test for Huet. This is the type of game that really identifies the elite players, and Huet has a chance to finally quiet those who question his ability as a number one goaltender. He doesn't necessarily need to win, but he does need to keep the Hawks in it - and allow no softies. He'll have a test with the Sharks and their offense.

The Hawks continue to surprise me with their resilience and maturity against tough opponents. Here's hoping they come through again on Wednesday.

Mike Kiley said:

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Now Freep, you know fools rush in where angels fear to tread. You can't go trying to steal the feeling-sleighted concession from me. I got the patent. So hands off. You were ahead of the curve with Huet, Freep, what can I say? But there is no such thing as a one-game statement from goalies. Next time Huet steps in the bucket, and he is bound to sooner or later, the doubters will be back. Ah, the way of the world. Evil, ain't it?

VegasHawksFan said:

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If this is real, this is just another thing they will need to learn to deal with. SJ has had some time to get used to being at the top of the heap and they are playing like it. It will be interesting indeed to see how Q deals with Hossa, especially if we now falter a bit. It's not like we are going to trade him or sit him if we get kicked down the coast and drop all three games.

Yeah, anyone who's grown up or lived in this town for ten years or so knows painfully well how badly our teams choke when they are anointed "The Next One". Still, look at the best teams in the NHL and compare the talent, the Hawks (for once) are not some bullshit overachieving team. Without a doubt, they can drop quickly if they stop doing what they are doing. On the other hand, ugly wins or not, they are playing some real good hockey and deserve to be where they are right now. I believe this team is headed to a cup this year or next. Being able to not get distracted by hype is something they need to learn to do, along with playing a full, disciplined, two way game every night. Being optimistic right now seems reasonable, even with the curse of Chicago teams.

Dave Morris said:

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Nklhd12, when Da Boyz got their Hawkey hineys roasted last year by the Winged Wheels, they learned the difference between being a Champion, and aspirations to same.

These aren't boys any more.

Whatever happens, this is the most exciting Blackhawks team in a long, long time.

Jay Zawaski said:

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Mike...can I get my bong back? Thank you kindly.

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