The Blackhawks in Reflection.

The Blackhawks in Reflection.

When the Blackhawks look in the mirror, what do they see? Just what is this years Blackhawk's roster made off? This season has seen more than its fair share of ups and downs, none more turbulent than this past Monday and Tuesday night. Some have praised SB while others sent profanities in his direction. I have cursed the big Q Stache at times and other times seen a glimmer of hope for his teachings. We have loved and hated Patrick Kane, saw the worst performance by the most talented D-man in the league, watched Hossa score 8 goals in 7 games and then zero in 30 games, and we have witnessed a stellar performance by a rookie goaltender. 

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When the Blackhawks looked in the mirror at the beginning of the season I am sure they saw their missing friends in the reflection. Not just a ton of depth and talent, what mattered most early on was the chemistry created between brothers who had been on a great journey together and we might have been senseless to expect nothing else than a rocky start. With the exception of Sharp, Brouwer, Hossa and Kopecky, no one had a great start to the season, and then injuries eventually cramped Hossa's style.
Here at Powwow we pointed the finger at the nonexistence of a system. How can a team play consistent if they have no pattern of movement or organization in their positioning? Especially given the change in faces, a system was necessary. But, even more than that some players seemed to still have a hangover from last year, Kane still seems to suffer from his now. How can a system by developed when the roster hasn't even been decided? I personally feel like the organization waited too long to make decisions on players. Why wait on Hjammer, why not have a set roster by mid-preseason? Again, Stanley Cup hangover is likely to blame in some respects, but it should have been considered more dire to make the playoffs again.
The administration placed a lot of weight on their "core" to battle through the odds. I can say without a doubt that this has not been the Hawk's year. Many of the core players are having rough seasons. Keith has played the worst hockey he will most likely ever play. Seabrook has looked uninvolved, Bolland injured too much, and Kane has missed many shots from his wheel house. Sharp may have been the saviour in terms of goal scoring (I always said he had it in him, a friend giving him the nickname: the 60 goal scorer that never was), but his +/- has been outrageously bad. Bad calls hurt them early, missed opportunities, sluggish starts or slow finishes with an absence of physical play, a terrible PK and again, lack of organization.
Since the Allstar break the Hawks have been damn good. Not many teams have played as strongly, no player has tallied more points than Toews, and an 8-game winning streak found the Hawks in 4th place right behind another streaking team who played behind an old friend in net. If we were to forget about the first half of the season and solely look at what has transpired more recently we would most likely be happy campers about what we saw. Some players are still battling out of their slumps, but behind Captain Serious this team has come alive.
Somewhere along the lines they found chemistry, and it has a lot to with the administration finally making a decision on what type of game they would play. A few acquisitions have helped, but more importantly the Hawks realized that no other team has a Defense that can skate the way they do. Building off of that a system of quick transition hockey, a sound and quick breakout, neutral zone passing, and a cycling pattern driven by talents such as Kane and Hossa, teams are having a hard time keeping up. Detroit might be one of the best at this type of play and even they could not keep up. Somewhere along the lines the Hawks forgot to practice shooting on goaltenders though.
Still, the Hawks have scored 242 goals on the season. Only 2 teams are better in that category. They currently find themselves in 8th place which is less than appealing. Having blown a few in recent weeks is a good place to point the finger, but again I question whether or not this is the Hawk's year. More times than not the bounces have gone in the other direction. All in all I like what I see from this team currently. They are much better than the standings show. A rough start having most of the blame for that. There are areas that need work. Boston showed how bombarding Crawford with bodies could wear down even the fastest teams. Without size, the Hawks need to figure out how to deal with that. The PK is still hard to watch, and defensive breakdowns still plague them.
Hoping to end on a positive note, I do believe in this team. They should make the playoffs and I wouldn't even put it past them to end up in 6th (not counting on it), 7th would be nice. Anything can happen, Detroit gave up 10 goals to the Blues last night (where was that on Monday?). I can say with much more certainty that they will be a much stronger team next year. In closing I turn to the rookie goaltender. Probably the greatest surprise has been his play throughout the year. He established himself in his role early enough on to have time to work out some kinks. He fell into a bit of slump in past weeks, but has played stellar in the last few. When he is on, his positioning and poise have made it hard for teams to read him. He almost stole the game away from Boston the other night, unfortunately his opponent was Thomas. A Dallas loss would help the cause tonight, though the Hawks should be focused on winning a game they should win on Friday night.

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  • Great overview HH. Last year's hawks had a swagger and even a little mange to them. Burrish, eager, Fraser all were in your face guys. Ladd, madden and sopel were rock solid veteran leaders, madden being a PK god. The team had personality which translated into chemistry and sped the development of bolland, byfluglien, and versteeg.

    For all of the guys that left, who did we get in return? Stahlberg.

    The hawks have done pretty well considering that gross imbalance.

  • HH, a very good synopsis of a season gone awry

  • Great rundown HH. It's a thin line between making excuses and using context to describe this year's team. Yes, The Blackhawks are the defending champs, but this is not remotely the same team it was this time a year ago. Without a doubt, some veterans have had some long and really bad stretches that included questionable effort. But is that entirely new? The term cup hangover can be used, but I'd be hard pressed to say exactly what that means for this team and how it is manifesting. I have nothing like that too relate to personally, but I remember finishing basic training at Ft. Jackson a long long (long) time ago, and life afterward was simply not the same. For a lot of the guys, like Toews, Kane, Keith, Biscuit, Brouwer and the guys who are now gone, they have won what I think is the toughest of all championships to win and they are so freaking young. It's a huge achievement, and then.....life goes on.

    In a lot of ways, I think Q was starting further back this year then he was two years ago when he took over for Savard. Not only does he need to school and develop new kids coming out of juniors, but he also needs to continue motivating and teaching leadership to some players who may still be immature despite having won all the marbles. And also, he needs to build some kind of system where a guy like Hossa fits with a guy like Kane. I'm happy to see the sorta system begin to take shape, but Q and SB are going to have to again reinvent the wheel between now and next season because pure speed is not going to be an answer.

    For me, I don't want to sound like I have tossed in the towel, but what I am most concerned about at this point is to see my team finish strong and give it their all for however long that may be. Play every night like they did in Detroit, I will have no qualms with how things shake out. It may not be their year, but with the talent they have locked up and the experience they will coming into next year with, I think we have a lot to look forward to.

  • Well, the Sharks destroyed Dallas last night. Now the Hawks can gain a bit of ground, and put themselves in position to grab 7th over the Ducks.
    Sounds like Sharp will not be playing yet, but Sunday's game against Tampa is a possibility for his return.

  • In reply to puckpowwow:

    Today is the day to think of Admiral Ackbar yelling, "It's a trap!". Tonight really is a must win game. Possibly, going five hundred from here on out is enough to sneak in, but I still think there is absolutely no reason they should not take at least four games. Ten goal ass whipping or not, the Blues and the Jackets are two teams not in the playoffs that the Hawks must beat. The Bolts and Habs, though playoff teams, are not currently juggernaut teams. Ideally, I would like to see the Hawks take both of those games and split at worst with the wings at the end.

    One step at a time though.

  • In reply to puckpowwow:

    Au contraire mon frere. Tonight is pure opportunity. Tonight the Hawks can slam the lid on Dallas and be no worse than 3 up on Calgary with 2 games in hand. Maybe 5 up. This is breathing room night. They have everything to gain against a lesser team who played a road game last night.

    Attack from the start and DO NOT LET UP. Go Hawks!!!

  • In reply to jorput:

    Just to add to this, Nash is out of the line-up as well as Mason. Garon between the pipes.

  • In reply to fourfeather:

    With the season on the line, if they can't beat the 13th place Jackets team without Nash and Mason tonight, do we even want to see them make it to the playoffs to face the Nucks?

  • In reply to fourfeather:

    In reference to HH's overview, I thought the schedule at the beginning of the season was brutal for this team, and the fallout has hurt them all season. After a short summer, and very little time to regroup / bond with their new teammates, they set off to play 10 games in the first 16 days of the season, and 17 games in the first month. They had no time for practice much less anything else. Trial by fire for a lot of these young guys for sure. They lost in dumb ways, and to teams they should have beaten. This cost them a lot of points, and more importantly, a lot of confidence / poise as a team.

    Of course that sounds like a great excuse. But now that they've had time to bond as a team, and are in the midst of a less intense play schedule (13 games in the last month), they still haven't really figured out any pattern of consistency and/or intensity. So who knows what to think anymore...

  • In reply to fourfeather:

    I stated the same thing in my post, gitr, and I think it did have a huge impact on the first 25 or so games for the very reasons you articulated. At one point, just about every team in the conference had 5 games in hand on the 'hawks.

  • In reply to fourfeather:

    Exactly! And in all honesty, my post was a response to yours. I had initially started it, "In reference to HH's overview, and following up on some of FF's first post..." but then I was just going to put it as a reply to yours -- then in my haste forgot to do either!

    In any case, let's go Hawks tonight!!

  • In reply to fourfeather:

    Ugly. Two is better than one is better than none. Thank you Corey Crawford. Did I mention ugly?

  • In reply to jorput:

    Well, they looked OK for the first 6 minutes anyway... sheesh.

    Apparently St. Louis used up all their goal-scoring ability on the Wings the other night.

  • In reply to iplagitr:

    I took the wife out for dinner and finally tuned in with 8 minutes left in the second period. It was all pond hockey from that point on. I guess they started well huh?

    Good that the blues are out of goals. Hawks need everything they can get.

  • In reply to jorput:

    I have no doubt the Blues will find something of their scoring when they play the Hawks IF the Hawks take them lightly. This time of year, every team is dangerous. Out of the race teams without much to play for do at least get some satisfaction if they can screw up someone else's playoff shot.

  • In reply to jorput:

    Pathetic about sums it up for me. That looked like the old, no chemistry team of pre-christmas. In fact, with all the give-aways it was just like christmas. I'd be embarrassed to take those two points. Crawford bails them again.

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