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Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago Blackhawks: Welcome Back, Oh Concussed Ones!

Chicago BlackhawksNow Playing: Pearl Jam - Pearl Jam

While last week’s action saw the Blackhawks playing like shadows of of their earlier selves, this week has proved immeasurably more productive, as we saw the return of Captain Jonathan Toews and hardheaded Ben Eager to the Blackhawks lineup. I was very concerned as I watched the Blackhawks scuffle and struggle through the thoroughly brutal and boring game in Phoenix. They came out completely flat, and it seemed like many had left their heads out on the golf course. Compared to the Coyotes, they looked they were skating on sandpaper. No drive, no quickness, no finished checks, and very few puck battles won. The 3-1 score doesn’t really show how lop-sided that game really was. Friday proved to be a much more spirited effort in Colorado, but they couldn’t maintain the intensity and fell to the Avalanche in a shootout (big surprise).

But Monday brought our Captain back to get this rig back on the road. And it seemed like he’d been holding the Blackhawks power play up there in the suite while he was out, because it made a grand reappearance as well as both Toews and Brouwer tallied 3rd period markers with the extra man. That’s a very encouraging sight, as the playoff and Stanley Cup hopes of a team hinge largely on the success of its special teams. With a dangerous power play, you send a message to opposing teams that it’s not exactly a good idea to spend much time in the sin bin as the likelihood of giving up a goal is greatly increased. Therefore your opponent will likely play a much less aggressive style of defense, for fear of taking stupid and lazy penalties. And ask any hockey player, it’s a lot easier to score and make plays without a 225 lb. defenseman draped all over you. The do need to get a little better at stretching things once they’ve set up their offense. I noticed at least 3 times against Colorado Wednesday they had the puck down low, but held on to it too long and made short passes. This allowed the Avalanche wingers to gradually collapse down from covering the point and get into passing lanes resulting in Colorado being able to clear the zone. In the last few games. the penalty kill has gotten much more aggressive. Wednesday night, a good portion of the better scoring chances in the first period were actually while the Blackhawks were killing penalties. While this can be risky at times, I really like to see it. Most teams assume they’ll be able to sustain pressure and swing the puck around the zone while on a power play, but the Blackhawks have really surprised some teams by really getting after it and even having organized breakouts instead of just clearing the zone.

On to the goaltending… Huey has really stepped up to the challenge laid out before him. After a shaky start where many in Chicago treated him more like a Chicago Cub than a Blackhawk, he has gone the opposite direction and settled nicely into his role as starting goaltender. He’s seeing the puck a lot better through screens, his lateral quickness has improved, and he really flashes the leather well. I was never one to press the panic button on Huey, especially this early in a season since I’d seen the proof that he could play better. I just kinda wished he’d hurry the process along a bit. The great thing is, Niemi’s confidence has been building, so we can feel good about putting him in if Cristo’s having a tough game or simply needs a night off occassionally. It’s really nice to have two solid netminders, especially when I see teams out there that don’t even have one.

What’s wrong with Brian Campbell? Since donning the Indian Head sweater, Soupy has been criticized for underachieving at every turn. But I have to ask: 1. were those expectations justified?; and 2. has he really underperformed? I think what many Blackhawks fans expected him to be was the next Rob Blake, and what we’re getting is more like the next Adrian Aucoin (*shudder*). Sorry, I was only joking, but that’s still mean. But when you look at his career numbers in Buffalo and San Jose, except for the ‘05 season where he had 12 goals, his high-water mark was 6, and his overall high assist total was 42. He also finished on two out of his first eight seasons with a +/- above 0, and only played more than 65 games twice. What did he do last year? Played in all 82 games, 7 goals (second highest season total), 45 assists (career high), 52 points (career high), 108 SOG (career high), and 4 PPG, 20 PPA (both second highest in career). So far this season he’s got 1 goal (a game-winner), 8 points, and is a +3. I have to say, if nothing else, Brian Campbell has been exactly who he’s always been, and even a bit better for the most part. The way he jumps into the play on offense makes him a high risk/high reward player, but I honestly think the expectations were unreasonable to begin with, and he’s played very solidly for us. (Note: the Blackhawks most playing like Rob Blake would be #25, Cam Barker. Very aggressive, great passing, and tied for 3rd among defensemen with 4 goals!)

And from the Obvious Files, Patrick Kane is absolutely dare I say…en fuego! Leading the team in points, throwing his heavier (albeit still slight) body around, and assaulting the top shelf where Grandma keeps the cookies! I’m going to go out on a limb here, I have a feeling this kid’s going to be pretty good.

Tonight should be an interesting game. Original 6 matchup between the Maple Leafs and Blackhawks, Friday the 13th, and my first real chance to get a good look at Phil Kessel this year. Although Toronto has had an abysmal start, they seem a bit rejuvenated since getting Kessel healthy. They do give up a lot of goals, so there’s a chance of a blowout. But never sleep on bad teams, they’ll surprise you.

Well that is all for today, as always, I welcome your questions, comments, thoughts, etc… Until next time, LET’S GO HAWKS!!!


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2 comments for “Chicago Blackhawks: Welcome Back, Oh Concussed Ones!”

  1. Another great take. No really comments. Only that I am glad that Jonny is back. We missed him on faceoffs as well as on the PP. And with Eager returning hope this means that Fraser will ease off on the fighting - cause he really doesn’t do very well.

    Posted by tinao37No Gravatar | November 13, 2009, 11:05 am
  2. Well the Hawks beat the Leafs.Good read.

    Posted by CanuckulheadNo Gravatar | November 14, 2009, 6:08 am

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