Thoughts on the Hawks opening weekend

How's the back? (source: Getty Images, Claus Andersen)

Overall, I’m a little bugged. Champions establish themselves early on, build up a nice cushion, and don’t sweat the playoff push too hard. The Blackhawks get a pass last year for a variety of reasons (Cup hangover, short summer, injuries), but not this year. Overall, the weekend reminded me of nothing more than last season. Inconsistency, stretches of dominance.

The Hawks physicality has improved- Jamal Mayers has been better than advertised and Bryan Bickell has dialed it up a couple notches – and that’s before the first Carbomb.

The Hawks could have used Carcillo this weekend, where the Stars brought a physical, yes annoyingly chippy, edge to their game. The Hawks haven’t seen the last of this strategy.

(By the way, who was it that Dave Bolland dropped on his ass at the end of the first period Saturday night? Bolland released the puck as time was expiring, then a second later, stepped into an oncoming late hit beautifully.)

In Carcillo’s absence, Quenneville decided John Scott could be the Hawks answer Saturday, compiling three more minutes of data that this is in fact not the case.

I like the developing Marcus Kruger meme- shows up for first camp as an NHLer. “Isn’t this great? Think I’ll just glide around here and loosen up. What? Rockford?” So, wake-up call, then call-up, and the next thing you know, the guy is throwing his face in front of rubber discs.

Because let’s face it, the Hawks are one decent center away from having something really special. As I watched Vernon Fiddler and his $1.8 million cap hit skating for the Stars, I wondered if…

Kruger, of course, is a long-shot for actually filling a top-6 spot in the NHL, but he is the only pure center on the team besides Jonathan Toews and Bolland. On a line with, say, Marian Hossa and Andrew Brunette, skating against lesser opposition, maybe…

I’m prepared to let the Patrick Kane at Center experiment run its course- I’m ok with giving this several more games but, ultimately, Kane looks less like the answer than Patrick Sharp here.

If Bolland is so critical to the Hawks success that his absence accounts for the loss in Dallas, the Blackhawks are not nearly as deep as some teams (*cough* Pittsburgh *cough* Boston.)

And puh-leez on the Duncan Keith bashing. He had a bad game Friday, but the guy does stuff, basically every shift, that no one else on the team can.

With the present team, and allowing for injuries, I still expect the Hawks to reach 105 points this year. But I sure hope Stan figures out something before the trade deadline to put the Hawks over the top.

  • wardrums

    I believe it was Phillip Larsen that 36 obliterated. And I believe he said F-you as Larsen headed for the ice. What I really noticed on the play was how quickly Seabs came flying in to restore order. Twice this preseason I’ve seen Seabs fly into the mix when Bolland was being unfairly singled out for alleged misconduct. Good to see a don’t mess with our skill players attitude developing on this team.

    Keith appears to have a renewed energy level this year – not a good sign for our opponents. He chased down 2 or 3 Star fowards who had a step on him. Still like him paired with Seabs. Funny how players skate in on Keith and how erasily he thwarts their best efforts. Sort of a “Sorry meatball, I’ve seen that move.”

    Liking Mayers m,ore and more everytime he takes the ice. And not because he dropped the gloves – the dude can play hockey.

    Kruger flew around the ice – yes, more of that please.

    Sharps goal was the best of the night – what a herculean effort. i’m begginning to like #10.

    I also like the way Montador plays – very physical and with a someone pooped in my Cheerio’s attitude.

    no chinks in Corey’s underarmour yet. Gardner noted something that I failed to pick up on the great save on the Sharp miscue that left Ott wide open in the slot. “He soaked up the puck – no rebound.” A great save, but if there were a rebound it would have spelled disaster.

    • cliffkoroll

      @wardrums you make a lot of good points- grounds for optimism abound. thanks for sharing Still, I’d like to see the boys run off 6 in a row now. Let’s make this season a calmer ride.

      • wardrums

        @cliffkoroll CK – did you write the above piece?

        I think we’d all like that calmer ride – although it seems like everygame you play in this league is a struggle. Even the least of NHL teams are still pretty darn good. I think that was one thing so special about the Championship season – the number of blowouts we had. It seems like most hockey games are decided by a goal or two-I have no stats to back that up, but as you know most of my observations are based on generalities.

        It’s a lot less stressful watching a game when we have a two goal lead – I have enough grey hair already.

        • cliffkoroll

          @wardrums yes, ’twas me. and yes, I get irritated by how spoiled Hawk fans have become. There may be more Cups, but there will never be another 2009-10.

        • JeffreyBartl

          Good thoughts, dude. However, and I’m saying this purely to stir the pot a little bit, but isn’t saying you’d like to see the ‘Hawks run off six in a row before you start getting excited about what this team can be is, in itself, saying YOU’RE spoiled? After the Cup run, we all are to a degree. I don’t think, though, that anyone is saying solid first win or getting on Keith for having a drop off from his Norris form is cause to call ‘Hawks fans spoiled. I’m excited about this season, and it won’t take six in a row to keep me excited :-)

        • flahawkfan

          @JeffreyBartl I don’t know whether getting down on the team after the first loss, or saying after 2 games that Keith remains below Norris form, is an indication of spoiled fans. IMO, speaking as a non-Chicagoan, it’s part of what I see as the panicky fatalism of a lot of Chicago sports fans and their tendency to shoot down their own players. I don’t get that, but I don’t have the same experience. Heck, when I was a little kid (I’m old), my Reds and Dolphins were winning back-to-back championships, and my Noles have won a couple of times. The only team I live and die by that hadn’t won a championship in my lifetime prior to ’09-’10 was the Hawks. I mean, I love it when my teams win but I don’t blast them when they’re losing (and all of ‘em except the Hawks are going through big droughts right now), even though it’s frustrating. Maybe I’m not as cutthroat or something but I do view the constant worry about the team and particularly the damning of Keith after TWO games (!) as symptoms of a somewhat unique Chicago mindset. But perhaps I’m just stirring the pot myself. :)

        • cliffkoroll

          @JeffreyBartl Hey Jeff, stir away. I didn’t say anything about when I would or would not be excited about the Hawks. I simply said “I’d like to see the boys run off 6 in a row now.” Feel free to take the opposing position. Honestly though, every time I sit down to watch a game at the UC with this team, I feel it’s a privilege. It wasn’t so very long ago…

        • cliffkoroll

          @JeffreyBartl And to be clear, my sweeping generalization about “spoiled fans” was not formed over just the past two games.

  • flahawkfan

    Thanks for the comment on Keith. We were at the game Saturday (in our not-so-cheap-any-longer seats in the 300 level where I love watching the flow of the game) and I don’t know how many times I heard myself saying, “Nice play by Keith.” Then I read several post-game blogs and comments about how worried people are about Keith, he should be benched, etc. I wondered whether I was watching a different game. Ah, well. I thought he had a fine game Saturday and I continue not to be worried about the guy.

    I also came away with an appreciation for Bowman’s view of Kruger. Kid had a nice game and you can see him thinking hockey the way Toews, Hossa, Bolland, Keith, Seabs, et al. do, going to the right place making the right subtle move. The kid’s smart and I wish the Hawks could keep him around as the fourth-line center, but I know Rockford’s better for him right now. Hope we see more of him this season, though. Really enjoyed seeing him play like that.

    • cliffkoroll

      @flahawkfan Thanks for sharing. Sometimes I worry about my objectivity around Keith, but I generally have the same reaction you have virtually every game.

      Agree on Kruger too. Good to see the kid shake of the “camp malaise”.

    • wardrums

      @flahawkfan In all honesty, I wear a #2 sweater. but he does do all those little things, against the toughest competiton, while logging over 25 minutes/night. One of the best stats Saturday was he only had to skate about 23 minutes. Your right about saying “nice play” on some of the defensive takeaways – those words also came out of my mouth. i’m not even sure who I would try to compare Keith to as far as his style.

      I think a lot of people agreed with your assessment of Kruger – he was motoring about the pond like a snowmobile in the UP.

      My normal seats are upstairs also, but I got to sit in the company suite on Saturday. In between periods I was walking back to the suite when I saw Stan Bowman walking by hiself. I started to kick his ass for trading away the championship team – JK – actually just said, “Nice job on the team this year Stan.” He gave me a great smile, said thanks and then went back into deep thought. Leddy and Morin were two other great deals he orchestrated. Although I miss Campbell dearly, we have some, as John Mayall once sang, “Room to move.”

      Sigh – major sigh – remember the $10 seats in Teows and Kanes rookie year?

      • ChicagoNativeSon

        @wardrums@flahawkfan I’m pretty sure we’re the “Official Apologist Blog of Duncan Keith.” We posted a couple of articles over the summer showing that he wasn’t as bad last season as others suggest.

        An argument I saw elsewhere, against the 2-8 paring: “They’ve already given up 1 goal against this season.”

        When the EV TOI leading pairing has only given up 1 of the 4 EV goals, I’m thinking that might not be the strongest argument to use against that their effectiveness.

        I don’t need the Hawks to run off 6 straight wins to prove anything to me. I rallied against that thinking all last season. Hawks pretty much dominated both games – at least enough to win both. But when you face a goalie with a .974 Sv% in one of those games…

        In a low scoring sport like hockey, luck will often affect the outcome. A couple of those goals go in and we’re praising the Hawks for their dominance instead of questioning their consistency.

        • cliffkoroll

          John, you say the Hawks pretty much dominated both games. That’s not what I saw Friday. Dallas won the first period, and they were protecting a two-goal lead in the third. The only period the Hawks dominated was a big chunk of the second, to no avail. I think it’s a stretch to say the Hawks deserved that game.

          As for last season, you know I was steadfast. I never moaned. I hate moaners.

          But it was a torturous year. No two ways. And this team is BETTER than that. Like clockwork, the Wings get out of the gate. Am I spoiled for wanting to see this?