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.
The Blackhawks in Reflection.
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.