With 4 down, and 3 points lost out of a possible 8, the Hawks have excited and scared their fans into early predictions of a promising season. The air feels cleaner than last year, but there are still high expectations looming over the Blackhawks who have been picked by many to go extremely deep into the playoffs, the most knowledgable predicting an appearance in the finals.
And yet, with the hangover gone, the bodies healed up, and the so-called "grit" added to the roster, we have seen the Hawks repeat some all too familiar practices. Such as blowing a lead because of a lack-luster performance in the 3rd period. How, with all the new faces, a team carrying at least 6 possible 30 goal scorers and a few 20 goal scorers to boot, time to have figured the blunders of last year out, and experience that has won a cup, can they give up points like that?
A common complaint already gaining strength is that of the choice to play Keith and Leddy together. The culprits of last game's blunder, Keith and Leddy were found watching as Boston's Boychuk retreived his own dump-in and centered the puck to an awaiting Horton. It would seem that there was a communication issue between the 2 speedy defensemen, both of whom are much too talented on their skates to ever allow such a thing to happen.
So what did happen? A common question I have is just what goes on in practice. Shouldn't these issues be dealt with by now, especially with defensive coverage an early complaint? The fact is that this misshap started well before Saturday night's error. Keith and Leddy do not make sense together. It causes an obvious unbalance in the defensive core. Nevermind how much easier it makes Hjalmer's life to play alongside Seabs, this pairing has to end.
And what is with seeing so much of John Scott? Is this still necessary and what does it say about all of the summer signings? Is Olesz not a better option? Note: the rhetorical questions. Again, a common complaint from last year lives on as Q seems destined to repeat questionable behavior.
Thank the hockey lords that Kane has decided to mature. Even proving his performance was due to more than just playing on Hossa's line, who is also repeating concerns from last year by already missing a game due to injury. Kane might be starting to hit his prime and boy is it exciting to watch. Some say he is a new player, or is it just a natural progression for someone who was drafted so young and had a lot of pressure to bare.
Coming in that young usually means that the best hockey is a few years down the road and this just might be the beginning for the 22 year old "center." Everyone had a rough season last year, and some aimed to do something about it. The new purpose that Kane is playing with, his drive to play 2-way hockey, making smart choices, and his confidence to spilt defensemen over and over again with dazzling puck movement is a testament to his competition level and determination during the off-season.
With the early coaching questions and missed opportunities, the stars of this team are going to have to shine early on. Those among the possible 30 goal scorers, Kane, Hossa, Sharp, Bolland, Toews, maybe Frolik (given his early play), or Brunette as well, and even Bickell has been looking pretty primed to rack up points. This team looks hard to beat on paper. Lets just hope it translates on the ice.
The Hawks will face a Yotes team who stepped a few notches down from being a tough team to beat since last year.