Blackhawks News

Blackhawks 4 Flyers 5: Well That Was Disappointing

By Cody Pugh

The Hawks started this game off really well. They opened the scoring with a fourth line goal off a great play by Jamal Mayers and a good finish by Jimmy Hayes. They surrendered a late goal but the ice appeared to be tilted their way. Andrew Shaw opened the scoring in the second restoring the lead until, in a fashion resembling last year, the Hawks had a massive malfunction and surrendered 3 straight goals.

They were able to mount a third period comeback, with goals from Seabrook and Kane, until a high stick sent the Flyers to the powerplay, where Van Riemsdyk buried the game winner. 5-4 Flyers.

This game was lost because the Hawks didn’t feel like playing defense for much of the contest. They allowed 46 shots, a season high. For most of the night the defensemen looked atrocious, turning over puck after puck with reckless plays and passes. The backcheck, support and overall positioning from the forwards was weak. The Hawks were scrambling far too much in their zone and the Flyers moved the puck around with relative ease, which exposed Emery’s slow lateral movement.

There were some of positives in this game but I’m going the pessimistic route because the negatives are far too scary to ignore. This team has some serious issues, starting with the fact that the defense isn’t strong enough and second, the fact that their overall scoring depth is a gargantuan question mark, for example, they have a third line who’s offense is drier than the Sahara Desert.

I don’t mean to stir up panic but there should at least be some concern. Its easy to sit here and tell ourselves “its just one loss, there’s nothing to worry about”. But when you have a look at the standings, things start to get put into perspective. With two consecutive regulation losses, the Hawks have given up the Western Conference lead to Vancouver (although they have a game in hand) Detroit and St. Louis are one point back (Detroit has a game in hand) and the Hawks sit just 7 points away from 9th place.

While its not exactly a precarious position, by no means do the Hawks have anything locked up and losses do matter, especially when they result from really bad defensive efforts, which have been the come-and-go illness the Hawks have had all season. Those kind of losses demonstrate the more systemic problems with this team, problems that need fixing and if are left unchecked, will spell doom for this team come the playoffs.

Again, I don’t want to sound like an alarmist, but I’d rather call it as I see it and look at the situation from a “glass half empty” perspective, as a situation that needs an immediate remedy, rather than than downplay its severity, assume all will be well and wait it out.  With all the potential buyers out there, the market will become hostile as the deadline approaches, as a lot of teams have the exact same needs as the Hawks and could snatch most of, if not all, of the players the Hawks are looking at. The Hawks are a good team but they are far from Cup favorites and unless they make some trades, they never will be. They simply aren’t good enough.

Some quick thoughts:

– Sort of a continuation of what I was just saying but over the last few weeks its become painfully evident that the Hawks need another defenseman. Last night they gave up 46 shots, their penalty kill is manure and they’re way too soft in their own zone. They need a  big, tough, shutdown guy that can play top four minutes because the Hawks’ second pairing of Leddy and Hjalmarsson simply isn’t strong enough to face tougher competition and their overall depth on defense isn’t sufficient enough to compensate. Right now the Hawks defense really only consists of one really good pairing and two average to below average pairings. Adding another defenseman, a legitmate #3 guy, which will force either Leddy or Hjalmarsson to move down to the third pairing, will round out the defense and give the Hawks three very reliable pairings and possibly the best defense in the NHL. With the trade market as it is, the Hawks would have to overpay but I can almost guarentee they’re going to be overpaying at the deadline anyways, so why wait and cost the team points in the standings? A trade needs to get done before the end of the month.

– I really liked how the new kids played tonight. I was very impressed with Andrew Shaw, who scored his first NHL goal on his first ever shot on net, had his first NHL fight and just had an overall outstanding game. I saw Shaw play in last summer’s rookie tournament in Oshawa and instantly noticed his outstanding work ethic, underrated offensive game and ability to really agitate opposing players. These assets will make him a really good bottom six addition sometime in the near future. Dylan Olsen looked good too. He was physical and made some smart plays with the puck. He’s probably not ready to be an NHL-regular just yet, but by next year he should be good enough to take a permanent role in the lineup.

– Speaking of kids, I think the Hawks really have something with Jimmy Hayes. He may not be the deadliest offensive weapon but his combination of size, skill and skating ability makes him a huge asset. Why he’s still stuck on the fourth line and receiving 7-8 minutes a game is beyond me. He has 2 goals and 6 hits in three games and he doesn’t mind parking that 6’6″ frame in front of the goalie. I think the Hawks could use more of that on some of the higher lines and on the powerplay.

– Its funny how we can be praising a player to death one week and chastising him the next. On that note, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa have had a couple of stinkers the past two games. Granted they had absolutely dominant Decembers so I’ll cut them some slack but it would be nice to see them back at 2011 form.

– Rough game for Ray Emery. He wasn’t at his best but he didn’t get a whole lot of help from his defense.

– For anyone complaining about the zero powerplays last night: do you really think it would have made any difference? The Hawks are 0/14 in 3 games prior to this.

The Hawks take on the Colorado Avalanche tonight at 6:30 CT. I should be back later with some more thoughts on the Hawks, the rest of the league and what happened at the WJC’s.

Enjoy your Friday!

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