#4 – A Hot Goalie: Been There, Done That!
You ever wonder why announcers/analysts/fans of hockey will say a goalie “is standing on his head” when he’s having an incredible game? Take the figurative language out of the phrase and you have the answer: it’s hard to do, which is obviously why it’s so noteworthy when it happens. It’s a well-known fact hockey goalies are mentally tough; you have to be to successfully track a 6 oz. black rubber disk traveling around 80 mph from countless angles against a white backdrop. However, like physical toughness, the price of mental hardiness is fatigue, making it sustainable only for so long. The Blackhawks have the NHL’s #1 offense for a reason: they can put the puck in the net, a lot. When they don’t, it’s usually because a goalie “stands on his head” and makes around 30 saves against the Hawks. Making that many saves once takes a whole lot of mental discipline, but to do it again, then a third time, and even a fourth time, especially in the span of just over one and a half weeks is a monumental task, but it’s exactly what any goalie who faces the Blackhawks in the post season will have to accomplish to have a shot at his team advancing in the playoffs. And spoiler alert! The Blackhawks have taken down formidable goaltenders in playoffs before: Jonathan Quick, Tuukka Rask, Jimmy Howard, Pekka Rinne Roberto Luongo (twice), among others. These goalies have two things in common: 1.) they put up great numbers in games against the Blackhawks during the post season, and 2.) they couldn’t do it four times. Hot goaltenders may give the Blackhawks fits in the regular season, but they’ve shown in the playoffs time and again that eventually they learn how to crack any keeper’s seemingly impervious façade.
#3 – Michal Handzus…Has Been on Borrowed Time Since the Arrival of Peter Regin
Since it happened on the eve of the Olympic break, the ramifications of the Blackhawks’ acquisition of center Peter Regin were overshadowed and not fully explored. If you think about, the Regin transaction is pretty darn telling of something. Consider the following: last year Michal Handzus was brought in on the eve of the playoffs to help win face-offs, and he did that and more, but don’t forget, he was brought in for a very choice need, which was help at the dot. Because the Hawks thrive as a possession team, winning face-offs is critical to their success, and the fact that yet another center was brought in so late in the season means one thing: Michal Handzus is not doing the job he was brought to Chicago in the first place well enough to command the coaching staff’s confidence going forward. While he’s been making a few contributions on the penalty kill, Handzus’ burden on the Hawks’ offense has become statistically palpable, and can no longer be ignored. While nothing is given for any player on the Blackhawks, with his youthful advantage, the starting gig is Regin’s for the taking, and Handzus will likely go the way of Jamal Mayers last year and be a healthy scratch for the post season. Here’s hoping…