It hasn't exactly been the greatest start to a season, but on the other hand, the Blackhawks had very little rest after an intense season, and only suffered their 2nd regulation loss in 11 games against the Wild. By no stretch of the imagination was that performance on Saturday night a great one, but it wasn't awful, and the Wild are worth a great deal of credit as a team.
I find the perspectives of others and my own to be fairly interesting. I myself have contradicting views on the significance of the start. In some ways, you could argue that they haven't gained the amount of points their play in those games suggested (they are 3rd in the league in shots on goal), and on the other, some of that play has been pretty hard to swallow regardless of getting a shot on goal. I suppose the bigger question is, do you think the Hawks will break out of this "slump" and will it be sooner than later, and is it even a slump to begin with?
As we saw in the Lightning game, apparently scoring more than 2 times in a game was not the only problem. And we have also seen that coming from behind doesn't seem to help either. Hey, at least Bickell is getting on the board with his 3rd line minutes. And, while Crawford has made some tough saves to keep the Hawks in games, I'm not inclined to say that he has helped the Hawks win when they needed the hand. There are other goalies around the league who are doing this for their teams.
Maybe the most glaring concern is the special teams situation. I would place this along with the inability for the Hawks to find their groove and proper line combinations. And, as always, I point towards the coaching staff for the main blame (not all of it, but a lot of it). We have spent enough time complaining about the power-play, which has actually been better than the extremely low bar of last year, but the PK has been really hard to swallow. I might stop saying this some day, but I really think that the Frolik move was a terrible one. Not only would he be helping in the PK area, but he might have also been the glue for the line combination issues, even if it is a center that is missing.
I will say this about Morin. I thought he did more in the Wild game than most of his counterparts. He should have been pulled up sooner, and he should be given more time to gel. Besides the concerns just mentioned about special teams, Frolik also took a lot of depth away from the Hawks, and it would be helpful to find someone who can fill a bigger portion of that loss. Q might as well have been playing his prospects during these tough games, so that they gained experience and comfort in the NHL.
Changing directions a tad, I listened to a podcast by Stan Bowman in which he talked about the 3rd period woes of the Hawks and what the issues he thought were to blame. I definitely think that he sees this early season as a time to hash out some new growing pains, and shake off the hangover, but more than that he sees a team who has jumped out to leads and not found the goals in the right moments after that. The Hawks have started many of the games strong, even against teams looking to make a statement against them. What they have failed to do, is score goals when the opponent starts opening up the game to push for their own needed goals. It is a dangerous game plan to push your D into the offensive zone more, and have both wingers fleeing up the boards on the break. While this often leads to some good scoring chances, it also presents some gaps in your D, and the Hawks have found the opportunities to cash in on here. They have just failed to score. Kane did it on his breakaway the other night in Tampa, but the Hawks couldn't hold on, and those goals were missing from prior games.
And while we are on the subject, I have seen far too much of a tendency for the Hawks wingers to fly the defensive zone too quickly, as I just mentioned. They are doing this with leads, and is one big reason the D-men are coughing up so many turnovers. Some are on the D-men themselves, and Keith/Seabrook have been very guilty of their own mistakes, but the wingers are not helping matters. There is no need to do this with a lead. Surprisingly, even with Q as a defensive minded coach, the Hawks are not taking care of home first.
For instance, Kane's plus-minus is nothing to get excited about, and the whole top 6 has been kind of off in this category which is extremely weird for Toews and Hossa. Hangover? Or is it that combined with Q's insistence to play his top 6 too much, early in a season that should be about grooming the newbies, and figuring out roles, while resting his top guys?
And while we are on the subject of playing the right guys at the right times, why was Kruger taking a defensive zone face-off on the PK when the Hawks have had issues being scored on right off of face-offs and Kruger has sucked in that department? I believe that we begin to see Q's true colors as a coach when his allstar roster isn't shining it up for him. It is often the little choices that count in close games that are being fought between equal competition. Q has failed to make the right choices, and his team's heads aren't in the game for the most part. There were 3 goals over this weekend that I thought were the result of bad changes by the Hawks. A couple more were due to having the wrong players on the ice at that time. In response, Q called out his goaltender for a bad game, which I thought was truly bad form. Crawford didn't save you, but he didn't shoot the gun either. Why should he take the bullet?
Can I ask why Roszival was playing after a couple of terrible efforts, and Brookbank was not rewarded after some strong efforts?
In the end, the players will smooth it out, pull their heads out of the garbage, feel the passion to win again, and start playing soundly executed hockey again. This struggle might even make them better for it.
Filed under: View from the Bench