EDITORS NOTE: Tim and Bartl put together a combo post here. Tim has the commentary, Bartl has your shortened version of Boxing from both the Stars and Coyotes games where he breaks down the summary. Enjoy, ya’ll.
Okay, so the characterization in this article’s title is not entirely accurate. Or is it? The ‘Hawks let two points that they could easily have taken from Dallas and Phoenix slip through their fingers. They ended the road trip with two wins, two outright losses, and two shootout losses over the six-game span. That’s not going to do it, folks.
If the Blackhawks continue this level of performance — one period of coordinated hard work and 40 minutes that look like five guys who only met each other when they took the ice six seconds ago — they are going to find themselves searching for Saturday tee times before the grass in Chicago is really even green.
Click the jump for Boxing with ‘Hawks/Stars/Coyotes
How did we get here? Several very simple reasons, the first being injuries. Three guys have played all 56 games this season. Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Troy Brouwer. Do you see a 30-goal scorer on that list? Neither do I. Every one of our top-6 guys has lost a minimum of 2 (and in the case of Marian Hossa, as many as 17) games to injury or illness. It’s not anybody’s fault, but it sure harkens back to the days when the Blackhawks had taken themselves out of playoff contention by November because of injuries to key players.
Next, our top players haven’t been our top players — to quote probably the dumbest sports phrase that didn’t come out of Yogi Berra’s mouth. Sure, Patrick Sharp has cranked home 28 goals: but he’s a -11, and hasn’t been on the plus side of that stat all season. Patrick Kane has his good nights, but for half the season he’s looked like Rudy Galindo sans the Carmen Miranda outfit. Marian Hossa has had 9 multi-point games this season, but 4 of them were before October 20th. And it’s easy to see that Jonathan Toews is doing the best he can. He’s playing like his dick reaches from the crease to the blue line every night without fail. But he can’t do it all by himself, and that’s starting to become evident.
The poor performance from the millionaires isn’t limited to the forwards. The first quarter of the season Keith and Seabrook looked like they were still at training camp: slow, careless, and just not capable of the kind of play that won them such glowing accolades last year. And between the pipes, Marty Turco was brought in here to anchor this team and deliver wins. He has floundered in that area, and the only good thing about the Blackhawks signing him is that it’s a one-year contract.
Third is goaltending, and specifically the hunt for the “starter.” Turco’s GAA for the year is 3.08, his save percentage is .897 — nowhere near the kind of performance we need from a starting goaltender. Corey Crawford has played outstanding hockey in his 30-odd starts, and he needs to be given the reins down the stretch.
One quick note, in case anyone at the UC is reading. I heard it said recently that the Blackhawks organ-eye-zation was instructing Coach Joel Quenneville to keep Crawford on the bench as much as possible down the stretch, to avoid a repeat of the Antti Niemi situation during the last off-season. If this can be proven to be true, mark my words, a crowd bearing torches and pitchforks will demand Stan Bowman’s head on a pike. That’s the Dollar Bill Wirtz strategy for running a hockey team. And if you want to completely destroy the fan loyalty you’ve spent the last three years trying to build back up, that’s the fastest way I can think of to do it.
And finally, (here comes the hate mail) coaching. Joel Quenneville had it easy last year. He got used to coaching a team that built early leads but also knew how to come from behind when necessary. He got spoiled. He got lazy. So when the going got tough this year, his only response seemed to be shuffling wingers and sending out John Scott to waltz with somebody. Coaching an under-performing team is a whole different animal than coaching a team on a roll. Coach Q didn’t live up to expectations this year either, in my opinion.
This last weekend was a prime example of what’s been wrong with the Blackhawks this season. All of these factors came into play in one way or another. It should serve as a wake-up call to the faithful: a Stanley Cup repeat is a pipe dream, and merely making the playoffs is going to take every ounce of strength the Blackhawks can muster, plus a whole lotta luck.
Onto Bartl’s Boxing analysis …
‘Hawks/Stars from Friday
‘Hawks/Coyotes from Saturday
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