Feb 19, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; The Chicago Blackhawks celebrate a victory against the Vancouver Canucks at the United Center. The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-3 in the shootout. The Blackhawks tied an NHL record for scoring at least one point in 16 consecutive games to open a season. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
We have arrived in what feels like a week to the half way point of the season. When we wrote about goals for the Hawks at the beginning of the season the biggest one was with the first 10 out of 12 games on the road it would be important for the Hawks to get off to a hot start. Not only did the Hawks jump out to a hot start against the LA Kings in the first period of the opener, the Hawks have maintained their hotness for 1/2 of a shortened season to the sound of a 21-0-3 record. Here are my first half awards for your Chicago Blackhawks.
Most Improved- Marcus Kruger
Kruger was taken off second line center and dropped to fourth line center in favor of Dave Bolland. Some young players would sulk in this kind of demotion, but Kruger has thrived not only has he been productive on his line but he’s a key member of the Hawks very productive penalty kill unit. Kruger through half the season has 3 goals and 6 assists and a plus 3 rating, but it’s his play along with his line-mates that gives Joel Quenneville the ability to play any of his four lines at any time.
Most Dramatic Ending- Hawks vs Calgary
In the closest game that had a chance to derail the streak,Marian Hossa scored with less than 3 seconds left to tie the contest with the Calgary Flames. Ray Emery was the real star of this show stopping 40 shots on net to get the game to overtime where the Hawks prevailed. Every night has produced a new hero and this episode co-starred both Hossa and Emery.
Most Underrated- Bryan Bickell
When the Hawks traded John Scott last season I really thought that Bickell would be the next player that Twitter would abuse because at the time he was figure skating and not playing hockey. After a view from healthy scratch land, Bickell woke up during the playoffs and it has carried over to this season. Bickell leads the team in hits and he has found his scoring touch. At the halfway point Bickell has 5 goals and 7 assists and a plus 6 rating and a player that the opposition doesn’tseem to plan for but has to deal with more than they originally thought when the puck is dropped.
Best Teammate Jumping in For another Teammate Moment-DuncanKeith
When Andrew DesJardins gave a cheap shot to Jamal Mayers, Duncan Keith even though physically over-matched still took him on in aid of Mayers. Not only was this a great moment for team building, but it turned the tide in the Sharks contest and lit the fire that ended up becoming a Blackhawks victory. Keith has one goal and eleven assists and a +3 rating at the halfway point.
Favorite player to watch skate- Nick Leddy
Yes Patrick Kane is magical, yet the new and improved Nick Leddy there is something special about watching him go end to end. If you picked a most improved defensive player Leddy would be the choice. He now puts pressure on the opponents with his rushes and he can finish as seen by his OT game winner against the Red Wings. Leddy has 2 goals and 6 assists and very good +10 rating.
Biggest Suprise- Ray Emery
If you asked me after watching Ray Emery’s first period of play would he go 10-0-0 , I would have said he would be lucky to play 10 games. Emery fought through his first start then stole his second in Calgary which gave him the confidence he has shown ever since and still hasn’t lost this season. In the shortened season with so many games in such a compact schedule having two goalies you can count is incredible for the Hawks and Coach Q. Emery is incredibly 10-0-0 with .925 save percentage
Best Comeback-Marian Hossa
From the Raffi Torres hit to the lockout no one knew what Marian Hossa would be when the season finally started. Hossa has been great including netting two game winners in overtime and starting his 1,000th game. Hossa and the Captain benefited most from the extra time off from the lockout and he has delivered. Hossa currently has 10 goals 8 assists and +8 rating.
Worst Fight Ever- Toews vs Thornton
Another turning moment in a Sharks vs Hawks game but this fight was almost humerous but the Captain was fed up with Thornton and had to make a point. There’s a reason Toews hadn’t dropped the gloves since 2010 and let’s hope it’s a minimum of at least 3 more years until we see this again!
Most Underrated Play Of the First Half To Extend the Streak- Viktor Stalberg
The fore checking play by Stalberg in Detroit to set up Patrick Kane’s game tying goal is the most underrated play of the season to extend the streak. Stalberg has been effective even though he’s playing on the bottom lines. His speed is a killer even if it seems he has a blow out per game. Stalberg has 6 goals and 7 assists and a +9 rating.
Best Captain in the NHL- Jonathan Toews
Toews does it all and his lockout workouts are a key reason for the streak!! Toews has 10 goals 11 assists and is the best leader in the NHL.
MVP- Patrick Kane
Kane has been super since the first period of the season. He not only is he my choice for Hawks MVP but he should be in the running for NHL MVP. His goal scoring slowed a little last week with Dave Bolland on the shelf but he still finds dramatic ways to influence games like burying game tying goals in Detroit. He’s impossible for a opposing goalie in shoot out situation, but it’s his flair for the dramatic and his ability to produce in the clutch make him a fan favorite and the MVP.
The 2nd half of the season starts Friday night in Colorado. What is your prediction for the 2nd half of the season?
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