The Chicago Blackhawks: Find an imperfect win against Toronto.

The Chicago Blackhawks: Find an imperfect win against Toronto.

It was Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya's premier in the Indian-head sweater, and boy was it a rough start for him and his new team. The scene was that of two struggling teams coming together from different conferences battling to keep their playoff hopes alive. If you have not yet started questioning the playoff hopes of the Hawks, maybe the 1st period of this game helped you to get there.

By the end of the first 20 minutes, the Hawks looked like a team without any drive, motivation, or care to putting together a winning record from now until the end of the regular season. They were lucky to be only a goal down, 3-2 in just 20 minutes of play, and Oduya had the luck of being on the ice for every single goal against. Obviously, not just his fault, the team looked lost, chasing around and losing most battles at any end of the ice. Their neutral zone play was laughable, causing turnover upon turnover, and Crawford was not up for the challenge in any shape or form.

Being pulled in the first 20 again, the choice to start Crawford time and time again is one I will keep looking to Q as a confusing one. Luckily, Emery was up for another bout of rebounding the team, and the rest of the line-up responded in the 2nd period to help fix what was broken, although not completely fix.

It was not all a loss during the 1st however. Shaw made his triumphant return with a bang, scoring a huge goal after cycling out of the corner. He was a breath of fresh air for the team once again, and it was nice to see. The game would end up being 3-1 in Toronto's favor eventually, but again, a single hard play by a winger would help take a bite out of that lead. A great play by Stalberg to win the puck twice, and on 2 good hits eventually allowed him to work the puck out of the corner and to the point. Kruger, doing what he does best, went right to the slot and was able to deflect a shot off of Leddy's stick (Leddy had 2 assists on the night).

Beyond his 2 assists, Leddy actually had hands in other goals and in the form of some big, aggressive plays to keep the puck in the posession of the Hawks. Oduya had is hard times, but Leddy seemed right at home as his D-partner, though his size continues to be his downfall.

Only 1 goal out, Emery started the 2nd period off, and the Hawks responded in large ways. Namely, Kaner and Hossa, who began to put on a clinic for the viewing pleasure of the United Center crowd. There were at least 3 occasions when Q threw the dynamic duo out against Toronto's lesser lines and it paid off big. I have to give a shout out to Q here, the best moments of Hawks play was at the hands of this move, and it was a game-changer. Regardless of who they were playing against, Kane and Hossa were out to prove something and they lead their team to an eventual victory.

I had my concerns here and there for the next 40 minutes, but it was an overall strong performance for the rest of the game by the Hawks. Yes, Toronto is a struggling team, and yes, the special teams still had their concerns, but it at least seemed like the Hawks really wanted to win, and they did in the end.

The will of this team is most definitely up for question, and so is the ability to win without their captain. The fact remains, that when this team skates hard, and plays a more positioned game, they will always be within reach of a win. What does not seem so clear is why they continually swing back and forth between caring. Why did they come out of the gate so terribly, and what is Q not doing to get their focus for a full 60 minutes of hockey. Again, I point to consistency as the Hawks biggest issue.

I thought that the addition of a  bigger body like Bollig was a nice one. I feel for Frolik, and see his talent, but a bigger body is what the Hawks need right now if he is not going to produce numbers. I hope the Hawks find a nice home for him during the off-season, and maybe Frolik will finally find his scoring touch under new leadership.

We could again discuss the issue of Kane as a center, since it seemed to work out last night (although the Hawks were not so great at the dot). I would aslo like to point out the play of Lepisto, both physically and positionally during the game. Seabrook seemed lost in Yonkers, but other D-Men stood up, and Lepisto was one of them, in a big way when he saved a goal with a nice kick-save (maybe he can give Crawford some tips).

Not perfect by any means, but a win, and that is what they needed right now. Question: is there any hope for these guys without Toews on the ice?

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  • After the third goal, I could have sworn I saw Oduya with his hand palm up looking at his new teammates like, "WTF guys, do any of you have a defensive assignment?" Agreed that none of those goals were on him and when they played him with Leddy, he managed to get himself back to even for the night. I'll say this now and hopefully not beat the point to death, they just found Hammers permanent replacement.

    No disagreement with anything else you said there. There isn't much buzz on the ice and reading various blogs, the air is getting sucked out real quick. The real work for this team starts this summer.

  • Dreadful game. Two lousy, despondent, hockey teams. Leafs played the night before and traveled too. Hawks … no comment. The look on CC's face after he was pulled told me all I needed to know about this team, this year.

    Oduya, is another Lepisto, and I doubt he'll be around after this year. Not what this team needs.

  • In reply to fourfeather:

    What the Hawks need versus what they can afford may not be reconcilable, not without trading some players away that is. Keith, Seabrook, Hammer and Montador make a combined 17.5 million. Teams like the Bruins and the Preds have one player making Brian Campbell money, but most are much more balanced and I think the goals against speaks for itself, at least in comparison to the Hawks.

    Deep down, I can't believe Stan looked at his team prior to the deadline and believed the addition of Oduya would make a difference. Given the fact Oduya is another Swede, I would not be surprised to see him stay and someone else go. Under the current coaching, Hammer, Oduya, Lepisto, it kinda doesn't make much difference which one plays.

  • I am not ready to place judgement on Oduya's worth to this team. Yes Vegas, I saw his reaction to the Hawks positioning and it screams out loud to the Hawks problems, and the coaching element that goes into helping that along. Somewhere along the line, this team forgot how to play "old time hockey." Not saying thats how they should always play, but they need a little of it.

    What worries me more than how well Oduya's (or any other trade's skills for that matter) talents fit into the mix, is whether or not he will be able play to his talents with this current system. It would seem that something has gone majorly wrong in the past couple of years. It might take some serious action by the administration to fix, and time.

    In the end, this game really meant nothing besides, "the Hawks had to win it."

  • In reply to Hostile Hawk:

    I agree, HH, hard to tell what Oduya brings to the table and as far as I'm concerned he's more of what's already on the roster. Another, somewhat skilled but lightweight D. The team needs to bulk up on the back end among other things.

    Agreed, something, somewhere, at sometime in the last two years has reduced this team from contender to pretender and now all the flaws are being exposed. Whether it's on SB, Q, or upper management serious action is required.

    As for 17.5 M for 4 D, Vegas, that's on SB. Really, he's no different than Tallon at doling out the ridiculous contracts with NMCs. This will be the undoing for this team unless he can find some takers for some of these players and, I don't think Wirtz will let him bury more salary in Europe or the minors.

  • In reply to fourfeather:

    No disagreement it's on him. He did several "crossroads" deals on the way to the cup and now has to figure out how to get out of it.

  • I enjoyed the game because it seemed more fluid than during the tight misery of recent losing streaks. There were lapses everywhere but the hawks showed some heart fighting back to win.
    Just after the draft ended SB made a comment in the Hockey News that "we were open to anything". Where I thought he had meticulously picked a D man to go with the previously picked 2nd line center in Morrison, thereby covering his ass by addressing the obvious and placing responsibility squarely on Q, this comment sounded like he really was ready to deal.

    Posturing, perhaps. But the company line that "we like what we have" is becoming less true. The very strategy of tape to tape, speed, puck contol hockey has not worked. We would have a power play if it did. I see toews, hossa and Keith as untouchable. Everyone else has been pushed into mediocrity by stronger opponents or Q's meddling . Only a deep playoff run will prevent a major core shake-up.

  • In reply to Icehogst:

    The core is still the same (with the possible exception of Hammer ... and where the eff did Bolland go again now?). Sharp, Seabs and Kaner have all showed their former selves this year. I think playing with so many incompetent fools is kind of a new thing and wears on them... I mean.. Scott? Bickell? Frolik? Stalberg for half the year? OD? Mondator? Brunette? None of these guys have much of a purpose. That's on StanBow. This team was deep as hell not too long ago and he can't claim there aren't more cheap Brent Sopels out there for somebody to find. I mean, just to PK at least. Sheesh.

  • No change really from the start of the season. Goaltenders hung out to dry by a defense that can't clear the front of the net and forwards who rarely come back deep enough to help. Blocked shots are as rare as hits.

    I find myself repeating the mantra that nobody is as dangerous as an eighth place team in the play-offs. After a lousy regular season they get a fresh start and they have been embarassed. Think the Flyers in 2010.

    Let us hope.

  • In reply to Pilotefan:

    Amen.

    Only problem is eighth gets us the Canucks again. No thanks. They may as well just miss if that's the case.

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