Ranting and Raving: Thoughts on early Hawks hockey.

Ranting and Raving: Thoughts on early Hawks hockey.

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.

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  • I was making an argument today that Leddy should be put in Campbell's spot and give him some time to succeed or fail there. Physically, Leddy is going to struggle with big forwards for awhile. In the meantime though, I think Leddy has been making pretty sound plays and has shown enough to be given a shot there. He's not yet a solid veteran D guy, but neither is he helpless. Some have said Leddy benefits playing with Keith, but I'm going to talk wild shit and suggest Leddy may be being held back by this pairing as is Keith. As for Scott, I look at actions like sending him to Switzerland with Hammer, Kruger and others and I see a commitment to keep him around. When the second goal comes while Keith, Toews and Sharp are caught staring at the puck, I'm hard pressed to bitch about Scott even though I agree I think there are better options then him. By and large, Boston played the game and stayed away from Sedin Inspired Bitch Slapping. Did having Carbomb, Scott and Mayers out there at various times help with that? I dunno.

    As an optimistic spin, I'd rather see the Hawks be struggling a bit now and be forced to work on improving their game. In my eyes, I think they took a lot of games for granted last year and got their balls handed to them as a result. Toews is having a slow start, as usual, but he has also lost a tremendous playmaker on his wing in Kane and also has Sharp who is not necessarily known for his defensive prowess. The yotes probably have taken a step back, but their record is the same as the Hawks and that's more then enough to make me wary of them. Step back or not, the Yotes will play with attitude, as will the Avs twice and then the Ducks. This stretch isn't going to determine the season, but I think it's going to say something about whether this team has finally learned to adapt and win games they don't control. Boston just reminded them what that looks like, let's see if it sunk in.

  • Grit was an issue last year, so I can sort of see the reasoning in playing Scott against Boston, but scoring goals was also a sore spot. At least Olesz brings an offesnive threat and he is fairly physical as well. With Keith and Leddy, sometimes playing like-minded players together works, but I have found that when it comes to defensive pairings balance is key.

    Most of my ranting is circulating around a common concern of mine last year, and that would be coaching desicions. This team is in a far better position to win than last years, so when it doesn't, I throw an angry look towards coaching. I am extremely optomistic about the year, but the Hawks should not have lost any of those points given their potential.

  • After frequent discussions with a family member about Q, I'm trying to be more objective this year. There were a lot of things we all griped about last year that I think were fair swipes at Q. Then again, there were many nights I felt like the veterans just didn't have their heads or hearts in it and I don't think it would have mattered what Q did. Given Scott's talent level, I don't think there will ever be a night where it can be said playing him gives you a better chance to win then some other guy. But, he is what he is. The won a cup with Nick Boynton and they seem to want that option available to them.

    Where I will be critical of Q and his staff is on the PP and the PK. In Dallas, the Stars figured out after one PP that all they had to do was wait for Kane to cycle the puck to Toews to the left of the goalie and then just lay down in front of Toews to block the pass to the slot. The Hawks went for that play over and over and over and the Stars shut it down every time. On the PK, they should pay Sopel 500k to come back home and teach every player in the organization how to block shots. The talent has to deliver, but they also need to be given a plan that works and is adaptable.

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