In Part 1 of this exciting trilogy, I went over what is wrong with the Hawks, so far this season. In Part 2, I dealt with the tweeners. These were the issues (and players) that were not really problems, nor necessarily good features. Now, in Part 3, I wanted to end on a positive note, so I saved the pro’s (good) for now. I saved the best, as they say for last. However, as I look upon my notes, I fear that this may be the shortest entry. I don’t know, quite frankly, how positive that is. We shall see…..
When it comes to scoring goals, the Hawks are averaging 3.16 per game. This is good enough to be tied for 3rd most in the NHL. This is not only good, but EXTREMELY necessary when you are 19th in goals against average. There are three, 20+, goal scorers on the team (Toews with 27, Hossa and the injured Sharp with 20 each) By season’s end you should see Bolland & Stalberg hit the 20 mark. If he decides to start shooting, Kane has a shot at it too. Maybe the openness of the All Star game will get him going again. It would be nice to see 6 Hawks with 20 or more. That type of balance is something I always liked. I would much rather have 3 guys who score 20, than the Super Star that has 60. Maybe that’s just me.
Welcome to Part 2 of the 3 part series. Just to recap. I am breaking down the Hawks season, up to the All Star Break, into 3 parts. The Pro’s, Con’s, and Tweeners (subjects, that fall in between the pro & con). I do it by subject and then by individual players.. In Part One, I took on the con’s of the team so far. In Part 2, let’s go with the Tweeners, and end Part 3 on a positive note. For all statistical categories, I basically used this as a guideline. With 30 teams being in the league, I looked at where the Hawks ranked. 1 - 10, I called good (pro), 11 - 20 tweeners, and 21 - 30 bad (con). Again, this was a guide line only. Don’t waste your time telling me that 11 isn’t between 1 -10, or whatever. The sequel now begins…..
I put this as a tweener for a couple of reasons. I had Crawford as a let down in Part 1, and will have Emery as a plus in Part 3. Average them out, you got a tweener. The 2 goalies combined have a 2.82 goals against average for the season, making them the 19th place team in the league. Although the net minding has been Ok, for the most part, that’s just it. It is just OK. The Hawks, as I have mentioned several times, are still the only team in the NHL who has not shut any one out this season. Crawford and Emery have both played well, but neither, in my opinion, have “stolen” a game.
As we approach the All Star Lame - not a typo, you look at the rosters this year and tell me I’m wrong. There’s no doubt that the game sucks (Only the NFL Pro Bowl is worse) but can be slightly tolerated by watching the Big Names share some ice time together. And DON"T even suggest that you pull a baseball and make the game mean Finals priority. I do like the mixing of the players from the leagues….. but I digress. Anyway, I am going to review the season so far, in 3 parts, as stated in the title. We’ll go with the Con’s as Part 1, the Tweeners (can’t call it one way or another) Part 2, and end positive with the Pro’s, Part 3. In the words of Pee Wee Herman in the basement, “Let’s begin, shall we.”
The Hawks have for months now hovered around 78% and in the 26th to 28th spot. It’s hard to believe that they had one of the best Penalty Kills in the league for the first couple of months. All of that changed early in November when the boys gave up 5 Power Play goals to Vancouver at a home game in the United Center. I can’t believe that one bad game would still linger and be the problem, so let’s examine. The Hawks play a much better PK when they are aggressive. We saw quite a few short handed coals in years past. I believe that when you start to doubt your goal tending (from coaches to players) to tighten up a little too much. The goalie, as they say, is your 5th Penalty Killer. Also, to many tap in goals, which leads to my next subject…..
As we head into the All Star break, it is a log jam in the Central Division. With 4 teams at 60+ points, and 3 points separating them, it should be a very interesting second half of the season. Shoot Out wins, (ROW) which I was warning about as far back as October and November, may prove to be what separates the Hawks from the others, when all is said and done. The Central is the only division with more than 2 teams at 60 or more points. And if that’s not enough, the Hawks do not return to the United Center until February 19!
In the previous match up, we saw Crawford start the game and Emery come in with 4 minutes left in the 2nd period. A one hopper from center ice got past Cro, to make it by far the softest thing to go past him this year. Although we’ve seen pretty solid goal tending out of both net minders, we have not seen one of our guys STEAL a game. Chicago still remains the only team in the NHL not to shut some one out. Hossa scored twice as the Hawks dropped the first match up 5-2. The problems also continue with letting players stand, not bothered , in front or side of the net. There have been far too many tap in & rebound goals. Quality shots, or for that matter, any shots are becoming a problem, also. The Hawks took only their second shot on goal in the game with less than 5 minutes left in the first period.
Before any one in Canada or even northern U.S. states calls us wussies, let me explain. If you have ever tried to negotiate Chicago traffic on a Friday evening rush, you know what happens when 6-9 inches of snow is thrown in right at the same time. Needless to say, no one was going any where for a while so the game was pushed back 30 minutes. Still over 21,000 attended—no wussies there.
As for the game, the Panthers (with ex GM, Dale Tallon) brought 5 ex Hawks with them. Versteeg (I always hated seeing him go), Campbell, Kopecky, Madden, and Skille. It was Ray Emery (the BEST off season move by Bowman, in my opinion) 10-3-2 against Jose Theodore (14-8-5). All of the Hawks lines and defensive match ups remained the same for this game as they did for the last game. A very rare occurrence to Coach Q and the boys, to be sure. The Hawks were victorious, 3-1. Their ability to be the only team in the NHL without shutting out the other team also remained.
Buffalo came into the United Center (how many home games do we get this season?—just wait, 9 in a row out of town soon) on Wednesday night. You really hate to see a team that seems to be looking forward to the off season BEFORE the All Star break, but you get that feeling watching the Sabres right now.
The Hawks won 6-2, and by the way, STILL remain the only team in the NHL without a shut out. I know that “they don’t ask how, they ask how many”, but seriously, we’re 47 games in. As a side note to the game, there was a goal that was disallowed in the game. Shaw knocked down the puck with his hand, to his stick, passed it to Kruger, who knocked it in. The goal was immediately waived off. The officials met, skated to the head set for about 5 seconds and then they played on with no explanation. A few minutes later, Edzo explained that the whistle hand blown due to a hand pass, (wrong call) which was passed on to him by a friend in Toronto. I can live with wrong calls, and I usually never even mention them. It is part of every sport. However, if that’s the call, EXPLAIN on the ice to the crowd & those who are watching at home. You can’t hope that Eddie O. calls every game & uses his connections!
It was Crawford (17-10-4) against not Miller (yes, I was a little disappointed, I still like to watch him) but, Enroth (8-8-3). As for the Hawks line, the “Kid Watch” continued with Shaw on the second, Hayes on the third, and Smith on the fourth.
Before we talk about last night’s match up, the game tying goal that was originally credited to Hossa against the Wings in the previous game, was changed to Toews, for those who missed that (like I did).
The 2nd in the league in face offs, Sharks, came to the United Center to play the 3rd in the league, face off leaders, the Hawks last night. Why did I mention that? I’m not really sure, so lets move on..Crawford (16-10-4) was in net against Niemi (19-7-5) . There were a couple of line jiggles, 2nd) Hossa, Shaw, Kruger 3rd) Hayes, Bolland, Brunette 4th) Frolik, Mayers, Bickell. The 3 “D” pairing seem to finally be set, with Montador & O’Donnell playing together, once again. San Jose came into the contest having taken 14 out of their last 16 points.
Back to last night. In the 1st period, Sean O’Donnell and Winchester dropped the gloves early. O’Donnell took exception to the activity around Crawford in the crease. It’s about time that we saw some one from Hawks get physical in front of the net, defensively! Both players left the ice for the usual 5 minute fighting penalties.
The Blackhawks played the Red Wings for the 3rd time in 16 days, this time at the Joe in Detroit. Judging by the previous two games, you knew a couple of things for sure. One that it was going to be a great game, and secondly that it would probably be a close score. It didn’t look that way at first, by any means, but it would end up that way. More on that later. Crawford (16-10-3) was in net for Chicago against Howard (25-10-1). For Chicago, Ben Smith was sent back to Rockford on the return of Marcus Kruger. The slight line changes were, 2nd line- Frolik, Bolland, Hossa, 3rd line- Kruger, centering Brunette & Shaw, 4th- Bickell, Mayers, Hayes.
The 1st period was a nightmare for Hawks fans. In the first 7 minutes it was all Detroit, out shooting the Hawks 10-0! Crawford was tested right from the start. In a game that saw only a few penalties, the Hawks were on the Penalty Kill first. The Wings took full advantage of it, on a redirect from Holmstrom. Hey, if you’re getting killed 5 on 5, what chance do you have short handed. Bertuzzi put the Wings up 2-0 on a break away. When all was said and done, the Hawks were fortunate to only be down 2 - 0 going into the locker room. Detroit out shot Chicago, a ridiculous 21-4.
Before we talk about the game last night between the Hawks and the Wild at the United Center, congratulations are in order. Three Hawks (so far) have been named to this year’s All Star squad. Marian Hossa will make his 5th trip to an All Star game, receiving the news yesterday on his 33rd birthday.—As a side note, I was wondering & would like your opinion on this. Hossa has over 400 goals. Do you think that 500 goals is an automatic trip to Toronto and the Hall of Fame or just a ballot opportunity. Another words, is that number losing the magic it once had? Just curious.—Toews & Kane will both be making their 3rd trip. I say so far because there still may be a shot for Duncan Keith, I feel. As always, time (and unfortunately injuries, will tell). Patrick Sharp, last years All Star game MVP is out due to injury (3-4 weeks, wrist). Sharpie, with 20 goals & 20 assists would have most likely made it 4 Hawks. Too bad.
On to the game. It was Ray Emery (9-3-2) against Josh Harding (8-4-2) in the nets. A couple line shake ups worth mentioning were, the 2nd line with Hayes, Bolland, and Hossa. I always thought that the Hawks needed a 2nd line center and perhaps they always had one who was on the 3rd line. We’ll see. The line certainly did well yesterday. Shaw centered Brunette & Frolik on the 3rd line. Bickell slipped down to the 4th line (it would NOT surprise me to see him go in some sort of package deal, down the line) with Mayers & Smith.
Viktor Stalberg collected his first NHL Hat Trick last night to help push the Hawks past Columbus, 5-2. I know that I have dogged Stalberg in many a blog this season and during the off season. Because of that, this is were a lesser man would mention that the 3rd goal was into an empty net, and that it was against the WORST team in the NHL, but I am above that. He also scored goals number10, 111, & 12 last night. 7 of the 12 goals he has scored this season have been against the Blue Jackets. I’m just say’n. Either way, the Hawks DESPERATELY needed a win, so congratulations to the kid.
In the net for the two teams was Crawford, 15-10-3, and Curtis Sanford, 6-8-3. I really didn’t know much about Sanford before this game. However, this kid played great for the first 2 periods. It has been a while since an opposing goalie has stolen a game from Chicago, and I thought that this was going to be it. The Hawks also faced a coach in his first game, Todd Richards. This seems to happen every time a team changes coaches.
Ben Smith (my man) was called back up from Rockford to replace Sharp (3-4 weeks, wrist). The lines were, 1) Stalberg, Sharp, Kane 2) Hossa, Bolland, Hayes (my other man) 3) Mayers, Bickell, Smith 4) Shaw, Frolik, Brunette. Montador & O’Donnel were the #3, D pairing.
About Talk'n Hawks