Centering an Injury Storm. Blackhawks leave the UC banged and bruised.

Centering an Injury Storm. Blackhawks leave the UC banged and bruised.

The Blackhawks and Wings met in a game which had a little of everything last night. The Hawks prevailed in the end, despite being down 3-1 behind a bunch of prospects from the Detroit system. A lack of zoned coverage the culprit for the mid-game deficit. But, even worse than coverage issues, the Hawks left last nights game with a pathetic total of 8 hits. A strong reason for the 3 injuries that filled the evening, taking the focus away from the buzz around the center position.

There was a decent amount of hype going into this scrimmage. Hossa was making his first appearances, and Kane was having a go at centering a line with him, who was also making his season debut. The result was promising, Kane scored, looked good as the quarterback hanging a bit deeper in the defensive zone and even made a few big defensive plays. Hossa also scored despite looking a tad offensively lost in Yonkers. Never-mind that Kane could have netted a few more, blowing some primo scoring opportunities is allowed in game 1 of the new year.

Still, 8 hits were all the Hawks could muster, and it hurt them bad.  And sure, the Hawks battled back to win a game they should have more easily won, but they also left the night with a thinner roster. Smith and Stalberg both left the game prematurely, and Bolland is listed day to day for some reason.

Stalberg suffered the so called "lower body injury," hobbling off the ice looking to nurse his left leg and never to return. Q said that he is likely to miss 3 weeks and added that the organization had been happy with his play so far.

Later, Ben Smith suffered a very deliberately high hit from Detroit's Brendan Smith who is looking at a suspension from a league he was unlikely to be skating for by the beginning of the regular season anyway. Obviously concussed from the hit, Ben moved very little for a minute while Seabrook tried to supply some justice for his fallen teammate. Q stated that there is "no time line" for Ben's return.

The hit and resulting concussion could sideline Ben for a while and it came the same night of a hard fought game tying goal from the determined winger. I was commenting on how his determination and frequent ability to be in the right place at the right time was earning him the spot over breakout performer Brandon Saad to a friend just before the hit.

Regardless of how good Saad has looked, it was a good bet that he would be spending some time down in Rockfrod before making an appearance in a regular season game. Until now. He is now a decent candidate for the spot left open by Stalberg and Smith. He and Olesz, who looked best in the Edmonton game and lack luster since, will have to battle out for the spot next to Captain Toews opening night.

The 3 injuries also make room for a possible spot at center. Brandon Pirri might have just gotten his chance to show the big guys what he can do during regular season play. Apparently Bolland's effort to bulk up in an attempt to avoid injury did not quite pan out like he anticipated.

So, if you missed the game and want to know a few more specifics beyond the injury count. Here is a little summary. The important elements to focus on were the lack of coverage, and the PP production. The defensive game was hurting for the Hawks last night, as it has been since hoisting the cup. Usually not a big deal for a preseason game, but the Hawks had their big guns out last night. No excuse.

Missed coverage by O'Donnel and Seabrook cost the Hawks a goal each. It was the only blunder from Seabs all night, but O'Donnel had a few others despite looking okay on his feet for most of the game. I was not happy with the choice to pair Leddy with Keith and then Seabs with Hjalmer. Some switching there would make me a happy blogger.

Hjalmer had another impressive night, showing more than once why he is a defensive giant and even proving some time spent practicing his offensive skills. I also liked what I saw out of Lepisto again. Although he made a few mistakes in his own end, he also had some big moments there, and proved an offensive threat often.

A success last night, beyond winning the game, was the powerplay production. Smith's goal was the only tally at even strength . This leaves us with a total of 3 PP goals. Not too shabby. I will take it as a sign for future prosperity. Kane, Hossa, and Seabrook all participating in that stat. And with that I bid you good-day with the news that Sharp could return to practice this Friday.

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  • I like what I saw of the Kane experiment. He will never do what Toews does, but I don't think that means he can't be effective there. It was good to see those early comments that Kane wants to take his game to the next level. I could be wrong, but I tend to think it will be more a matter of maturity then anything else. Maybe this year, maybe next year, I think he is going to take a giant leap forward.

    The Power Play was great to watch the other night. Yeah, it's pre season, but it seems like Q has got more to work with this year. The goals given up were typical Hawks goals against; blown coverage and overcommital that left a guy wide wide wide open in the slot. Even the rookies of a team like the Wings are not going to miss those. That really sucks on the injuries and there is nothing good about them. Looks like we are about to start finding out whether we really do have depth in the prospects.

  • Smith gets the rest of pre season and five games. No link yet to the video. Discuss.

  • I think this is grist for a future topic by itself, but it's been interesting this morning to look around at various blogs and see the comments. For the most part, even most Wings fans that I have read don't really have a problem with the number of games. Though I worry Ben Smith may miss more games then that, five regular season games seems consistent with what has been dished out so far.

    Equally interesting to read have been the wails of purists who believe that NHL now stands for No Hitting League. I dunno, I think so far Shannahan has punished what look like douchebag hits to me. I haven't watched every video, but I think this Smith hit is probably the first one that actually had something to question. From disgruntled Wings fans, I have heard the argument that Ben Smith's alleged attempt to toe drag had a lot to do with the head shot. At worst, some mouthbreathers seem to believe he therefore deserved it and at best, some make the argument that his toe drag at the last second caused it to unintentionally happen.

    One of the angle I saw during the game was from Ben Smith's left and more then a toe drag, it looked to me like he was getting ready to shoot. Until that exact moment, his head was up all the way. Was Brendan Smith's only move available to blast him in the head? I don't think so. Whether he aimed for the head or not, he looks to me like he crouches and explodes upward at the impact. If nothing else, he's another Nick Kornhole in the making, that's for sure.

  • You got it, Vegas. "Was Brendan Smith's only move available to blast him in the head? " Rule changes are there to remove that option.

    I think Smith saw a sliver of space with the D going one way he tried to go the other. Toe drag, whatever, that is what forwards do from peewee on. what Shanahan is trying to do is remove the option of blasting someone in the head when they suspect they are about to be beaten.

    Good call.

  • Shanahan's video is up on NHL.com and they use the video angle I was talking about. Shanahan addressed it directly that while Ben Smith's head did move, it was not significant enough to say he put himself intentionally in a vulnerable position. most of the other sites today are using the overhead angle, but I think the angle NHL uses really shows how little Ben Smith's head dipped when he pulled the puck back. It also calls bullshit, I think, on the argument he was toe dragging and ditty bopping worry free across center ice with his head down. For a split second he looks down as he pulls the puck back.

    Correctly, people point out that this HAS been a legal and pretty much worshiped hit until this year. But, this is now. I hate that this happened to our Smith, but I think this hit makes it clear beyond any shadow of a doubt that a head shot is going to bring a suspension. Will it ruin the game? I don't think so.

  • Anyone who does not think Brendan Smith deserves a suspension needs their own heads checked. By a psychiatrist and not someone's shoulder. There is a really good reason why these rules are in play and for those who are pissed that the league is becoming a no-check league, you have to understand that the game is much faster than ever before.
    I have seen hits where it could be argued that a player put themselves in a vulnerable spot, but that is far from this situation. If anything, Ben took his head out of the line of contact when getting ready to shoot.

    You have to try hard to hit someone's head, especially coming from behind and to the side as in this play. If you do not have the control of your body to avoid the smaller target and hit the larger (shoulders, body), then you do not belong in this league. Players need to show some ownership and responsibility over the well being of their peers.

    Pure and simple, these hits can be career ending and they have to stop. How much clearer can the NHL be about that. Im not one to be rude, but for all those who feel it was not deserving of punishment, you are flat out wrong and need to rethink making any statements about this sport in the future.

  • For the record, it sounds to me like the punishment fit the crime. I have no problem with the number of games and I think Shanny is doing a great job so far in addressing this issue (hits to head) As much as I dont care for someone like Cindy Crosby, I would rather see him playing and beat him than have him out of the NHL all together. If cracking down on head hits requires stiffer penalties to keep these players safe, then it sounds good to me! I want my guys just as protected as anyone else out there.

    It also brings back a question posed on these boards last year (at least I think we discussed it here) Should the length of the players injury sustained from a cheap or otherwise illegal hit be considered in the length of the punishment for the offending player?

    Just wondering what your thoughts were......

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