Tonight our beloved Chicago Blackhawks take on the Minnestoa Wild in Game 5 of the second round in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs tied in the series at 2-2, and many Chi-town denizens are wondering how this evening’s contest is happening at all. The Hawks started this series with a commanding 2-0 lead after winning two decisive games at home, only to squander their advantage with two truly pathetic efforts in Minnesota.
Many analysts are scratching their heads as to how the Blackhawks even got themselves in this position to begin with, and while many fingers are pointing at the coaching (my finger being one of them). Yet perhaps one overlooked factor may be the absence of Andrew Shaw.
Shaw has been out with injury the past three games, and while the Hawks won Game 2 sans his presence, their unimpressive outings up north suggest that Shaw’s hiatus may be affecting the Hawks’ chemistry more than anyone has realized.
One thing I love about hockey is that you can have a team of superstar talent and come up short (see Capitals, Washington) and have a team of scrubs (relatively speaking) with dynamite dynamics and win the Stanley Cup (see Devils, New Jersey). While the Blackhawks certainly have top-notch talent, we all know that it’s the lower lines of a hockey team that makes the difference between a Stanley Cup Champion and a runner-up. The Hawks had this in 2010 and 2013, and Andrew Shaw was an integral part in the latter.
Andrew Shaw may be a polarizing player as far as Hawks fans are concerned, but one thing everyone in Blackhawks Nation will agree on is his spark plug electricity that can charge the Hawks at the flick of a switch.
While Shaw may draw ire for taking dumb penalties, his tenacity has no compare. Shaw may be 5’ 10” and 180 lbs. sopping wet, but he throws himself around the ice like a wolverine on cocaine. There’s no doubt that his teammates can’t help but admire Shaw’s gusto when he gets in the grill of players like Barret Jackman and Zdeno Chara on the crease, causing havoc that usually results in a Hawks goal. Let’s not forget that it was Shaw that got the so very important game-winning goal off a crease tip-in in Game 1 of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs after multiple overtimes.
Furthermore Shaw’s types of contributions are proven quantities. Dave Bolland was a lower line instigator that was essential to the Blackhawks 2010 and 2013 Stanley Cup runs, and now after his departure from the team, there is a particular, yet critical void that needs to be filled. While Andrew Shaw has yet to register in most minds as Bolland’s heir, his absence in the Hawks’ two losses on hostile ice in Minnesota suggests that there is certainly a correlation in the works.
As we know Andrew Shaw won’t be suiting up tonight, so the Madhouse on Madison’s home crowd is going to have to pick up the slack when it comes to igniting the fire under our boys in red, white, and black. Here’s hoping Shaw can return to the ice and in Game 6 and bring the critical revitalization the Hawks need to move on to round three.
FOR THE DAGGER!