The Chicago Blackhawks and where they stand as of now.

The Chicago Blackhawks and where they stand as of now.

First off, let's get to this Duncan Keith suspension thing: If you haven't yet watched the video of Shanahan delivering his judgment, you should. The important part for us is that Keith has been handed a 5-game suspension. My reaction is this; it seems a bit harsh, ignores Sedin's role in all of it, Burrow's escaped his own suspension, but in the end it is Keith who I am displeased with.

I thought Keith was looking at a 2-3 game suspension. He had no priors, and the hit did not look quite nearly as terrible as others we have seen this year. Plus, Sedin's hit on Keith earlier in the game also targeted Keith's head, but went without as much as a fine. Adding to the confusion over this punishment is that Shane Doan received a lesser sentence for an extremely similar hit. The difference would appear to be that Sedin missed the game and might miss more. While I can agree with the idea that players should suffer similar amounts of missed play as their victims, this might not have been the hit to start that pattern.

Again, with all that said, it is Keith that I point the finger at. As it now stands, the Hawks are still battling for position in the playoffs. If not to make it in, then to avoid the Nucks or Blues in the first round. They now have to win against a few tough teams without Toews, and without their #1 D-man. Say what you will about Keith's performance this year, it still seems that his play is pretty well connected with the Hawks success. While Keith's elbow might not have been enough for 5 games IMO, it was still stupid, had the intent that others are assuming it did, and should be punished. Can we please be a better team than the Nucks?

Does this mean it is time to bring O'Donnell back, or is Lepisto the better option due to his superior puck-moving skills? Do we move Oduya to the top line with Seabrook, taking him away from Leddy, or move Hjalmer to the top line with Seabs? One move hurts our defensive game, while the other hurts our puck-moving game. My personal feeling is that the Hawks are winning based on their transition and puck-moving game, so you do what you can to keep that running as smoothly as possible.

This brings us back to the larger picture of where the Hawks currently stand. Quite simply, we have seen some pretty decent hockey from the Hawks in recent games, and that winning streak is really necessary given Keith's verdict, Toews' recovery, and the time of the year and schedule ahead.

I can't help but keep coming back to the Toews element. Without him, the Hawks have finally patched up some of the gaping holes in their game. How long those patches hold is yet to be seen, but I have to be happier with the types of moves coming from the coaching staff save for the special team's terrible idea of smart hockey. I am content with the PK, but the PP is enough to doubt the future. Thankfully, the Hawks have been staying out of the box as long as they aren't playing the Canucks. An  element to their game that has greatly impressed me.

While you might not be completely happy with everything that Shaw does on the ice, his presence as added intensity and goals. Scoring 11 in just his first 30 games in the NHL. This has helped spread the scoring a little more evenly across the lines. Kane and Hossa are producing, while Sharp and Stalberg seem pretty content playing together and using their speed to overwhelm others. The 3rd line has looked fairly strong as well. I still think Bickell is gone next year, but he seems a little more interested in playing hockey these days. Could the addition of Shaw have helped, or did he finally get an ultimatum?

The defense has figured something out, which has its roots in the team commitment to defense, and the addition of Oduya to help smooth things out. The Keith thing is unfortunate, but you have to be happy with where the Hawks stand as opposed to earlier in the year.

With a win tomorrow, the Hawks can grab 2nd in the Central and find a 4th place spot in the West. They seem primed for a 4th, 5th, or 6th spot which means that they will either play the winner of the Pacific, the Wings, or the Preds in the first round. As long as it is not the Blues or Canucks. Given their recent play, I have good feelings about making it to the 2nd round. Their success will then depend on the health of the team, and especially Toews.

The news is that Toews is skating, and for the 3rd day in a row. This is better news than if he wasn't skating, but we still have no idea what it means in the big picture. My hope is that we see him sometime in the 1st round of the playoffs and that anything else would be gravy. If he can come back and resume his domination without the rest of the team getting lazy again, the Hawks could be on their way to winning a lot of playoff games. We will just have to wait and see.

For now, my eyes are on Q and company to make the tough choices, making sure the Hawks do not fall into a dangerous position by the end of next week. The Preds are tomorrow, then the Devils, Blues and Preds again. A lot can happen in the 5 games that Keith has been suspended from.

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  • As for Keith, the end result is that he hurt his team. Personally, I believe several things about this. One, Sedin was also well aware that Keith is not a retaliatory type and he felt he had a no consequence freebie to slam Keith's head. Two, when a non responder guy like Keith loses his mind enough to want to hurt someone, he must have gotten his bell rung pretty hard by Sedin. Lastly, I believe Keith meant to hurt Sedin and with that in mind, I can't complain about five games. As for Sedin, yeah, it really sucks his hit was not even mentioned. That's not the way you end head shots Shanny.

    If Lepisto is healthy, I'd be cool with seeing him in there, but I believe he is still hurt. Do the Hawks play O'Donell or go to the Rockford. I would expect OD plays tomorrow and they go from there. Looking ahead to the last seven games, I see no gimmies there. What's realistic? 3-4 down the stretch? If they take three, I would tend to think that locks up sixth. If they do better then that, then it seems real possible they end up squaring off against the Preds in the opening round. I dunno. Nothing ever easy.

  • Not mentioning the Sedin hit to Keith brings up other issues as well. First off, there was no call on Sedin for the hit. Why? Then, Keith only gets 2 minutes for a hit that should have been a major penalty. Why? Then, Vancouver goes ape-@#$* all over Keith, and Burrows knees him in the groin while pulling his hair once again. Somehow, Keith is hit with the same judgement as Burrows in this play, and Bieksa, who originally targeted Keith in this play gets off scott-free.

    A couple of things are at play here. The main concern being that the officials made the wrong calls on the ice in way too many instances. Missing the call on the Sedin hit sent all of this in motion. What else sent this in motion is the cheap shots that Vancouver is well known for, and that starts with coaching. Alain Vigneault deserves a talking to about his team and their antics. In this case, it caused a Norris Trophy winner to lose his cool (without any priors) to elbow a Hart Trophy winner in the head, taking both players out at a very important time in the season.

    Point and case, the officiating needs to step it up, and coaches need to be held accountable for their player's actions. On the flip side, Q's verbal response to Keith's hit is almost as terrible. Not once does Q say the hit was out of line, and that he holds Keith accountable for his actions. Instead, he makes excuses for his player when he should have been advocating to end these types of hits.

    Vancouver fans can cry about having their top player out at an important time, but what about Toews, who means more to the Hawks than Daniel Sedin, being out right now. The reason that Toews is out is due to bad officiating (and Q's overplaying of him). He was targeted for a great stretch of hockey, with other teams taking liberties upon liberties with him, and weak calls made. Sure, the Hawks terrible PP plays into why other teams were willing to take it too far on Toews, but I still question the coaching of those teams, the integrity of those coaches, players, and officials at the time, and how it all leads us to today's situations.

    My guess is that the players are playing slightly fearful and pissed off for those reasons. Hence, Duncan Keith going too far during a play on the ice.

    Shanahan knows all of this, and he chose to make a point with Keith's hearing.

  • Because the game was televised nationally in Canada the media went over the top on this one. Let's remember one thing here, Sedin was the Art Ross trophy winner last year and that's equivalent to him being Sydney Crosbyesque in the eyes of some fans.

    Next, why did Shanahan want to change the hearing platform from phone to in-person? I'll tell you why: because Mike Gillis was all over the NHL for limiting their options with a phone hearing. The Canucks are still outraged by the Rome suspension (4 games) from last years cup finals on what was deemed a hockey play. There's no question Keith's hit was retaliatory and that carries with it additional time if proven. So, what Shanahan did was ignore the prima facie evidence and chose to suspend Keith without retaliation as a cause. This was good for Keith IMO.

    Next—and I'm sure Gillis had some influence in this too—because Sedin was flown home he was sure to miss at least two games. I think that's why Keith didn't get three only. He got two more games added on as a result—sort of compensation for Sedin being out.

    Sedin not getting suspended is moot because it was not going to be for any length of time longer than two games anyway. Fines are not, or do not have to be, disclosed by the league so we don't know if Burrows, or Sedin received them. If Shanahan walks that path then he pretty much has to hit Keith for retaliation too. So, I'd take the 5 games and just move on because in some ways it could have been a lot more based on Keiths actual intent which everybody knows.

    Enjoy the game guys.

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