Sorry for the late wrap everyone and for what will probably be a bit of a jumbled review. For anyone who didn't watch the game, Stalberg again had a huge game as the Hawks beat up on the Jackets. The win is not quite as dominant as the score suggests, but the things to be happy about, I think, outweigh the things to not be so happy about. First and foremost, it's another two points and the Hawks become the first team to hit 50 points AND they held ground on a night when both the Blues and the Wings won their contests. Second, this was a game the Hawks should win and needed to take advantage of. Lastly, the Hawks got secondary scoring and even added a power play tally. While I'm not going to get too giddy here, the Hawks continue to climb out of the metaphorical and statistical hole they dug for themselves early this season. I'm not yet convinced they are ready to go deep in the playoffs, but I like the trends I'm seeing.
Some other blogs have hit on things I had been thinking the last couple of days, so hopefully this isn't too much overlap or hodgepodge. The emergence of Stalberg is huge and if this continues to hold, I think it says some very good things about the organization. One thing it says is that the scouts and senior management have both an eye for talent and some long term vision for what certain players can do for the team. Not only that, but if Stalberg continues to improve, it speaks highly of the ability of the team to develop raw talent. After decades of watching good talent come and go in Chicago while mediocre talent stayed and got overpaid, this is something we have longed for. At this point, I don't know that the Hawks have become capable of pulling players off a scrap heap like Detroit has, but they have been doing some good things with younger players. For a team that doesn't have a visible "system", this is an impressive development.
A few words about Stals. Early season, my gripes on him were very specific; he was not very physical, he was not frequently engaged away from the puck and I didn't think he was very good defensively. Across the board, I see improvement on every one of those issues. With his improvements and his numbers, it seems a no brainer to put him back on the first line. However, I think this would be a waste of the versatility the Hawks have worked hard at developing in him. Yeah, a guy playing like he is right now is top six forward material. But on a team that has been desperate to get some secondary scoring, I'm not so quick to make that call. If the Hawks are going to go anywhere, getting scoring from lower lines is crucial and Stalberg, right now, is bringing energy wherever he plays. The top line was -1 last night and Bruno does not appear to be the answer there, which complicates things. Still, until a better option becomes available for the lower lines, I like what Stals is doing right now. Ultimately, I would like to see Carcillo come back and play up top while Stals help stabilize the bottom six. Besides, it's not like he won't play up and someone else play down intra game.
Since others have already covered the game, here are some random thoughts. Happy as I am with Stals play, it's drawing an even harsher light on Bruno, Bickell and Frolik who are each an average -7. Something needs to give here. Bruno up top doesn't seem to be an answer, but then again neither does Frolik. Olesz might be a wild card, if he can clear waivers, but I am starting to believe SB needs to make a choice between Bickell and Frolik and try to make a trade or put that cap space to use. On the defensive side, the rise of Leddy, I think, has caused similar issues by pushing Montador to third pair. At -6, O'Donnell does not seem to be the answer and when it comes to Lepisto, the gist of most arguments I hear in favor of him boil down to, He's not John Scott. If people want to see Scott sat for good, I think the team needs to either try out a Hog's D man or make a trade. Anybody want to take a flyer on Cam Barker? I kid, but in just a quick glance at the standings, the bottom three of each conference are probably places to start shopping.