Blackhawks’ Vets Back On Track

By Joe Kremel

Hossa Flips On Beast Mode At The Right Time Which Leads Directly To The Eventual Game Winning Goal. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

I wrote about three veteran players that were under-performing, specifically in game three, but overall in the series as well.  Those three were Hossa, Keith, and Toews.  It pained me to say anything bad about our team leaders due to the fact that they are so well respected in the NHL.  I would love to believe they read what I wrote and it inspired them to step it up a bit.. but really they are their own greatest critics.  Everyone was saying the same thing; they were waiting for the “Toews moment”.  While it hasn’t come yet, he has still shown some Captain Marvel qualities through all the little things he does.  So let’s look at what our vets did to improve in game four.

  • Toews was over 70% at the dot, and he was credited with two takeaways, a hit, and two blocked shots.  This may sound a bit disappointing since he still doesn’t have a point, but compared to game three this is a nice jump in defensive production.  When you look at his real time stats for game three, you can see he had no hits, blocked shots, or takeaways, so he is at least headed in the right direction.  He had an 18% increase at the dot which is huge for Hawks possession and also helps relieve pressure on the defensive zone draws. For Toews to not be credited for some act of defensive play is basically inconceivable.  You definitely noticed Toews a lot more in game four, and it was expected, because when can you remember Toews being irrelevant? Never.
  • Keith was on the list for more minor things that were pretty much nonexistent in game four.  He was keeping the puck in on the PP and playing solid hockey overall.  What makes it more impressive was the fact he was that he had not gotten any sleep due to the birth of his son.  So even if he had had a bad game, I would have to give him a pass due to those circumstances.  Keith ended the game with a +2 plus/minus rating, one hit, and 2 blocked shots. Not too shabby for being sleep deprived.
  • Hossa was a bit more like the Beast Mode Hoss that we all know and love.  Just like Johnny, we set a very high bar for our vets because we see night in night out how good they are.  In game three, Hossa had one assist and was a -1 +/-.  Furthermore, he did nothing defensively to counterbalance the minus.  Comparatively, Tuesday night Hoss was +2 +/-, had an assist, a blocked shot, and a takeaway.  I absolutely need to mention the great read and steal on what ended up being the game winning goal.

So far, the top lines for both teams have been doing a phenomenal job of canceling each other out, and that leads to games where your third and fourth line need to stand out.  The Hawks have a great lineup from top to bottom, and that pretty much explains why Bickell has 3 points and Toews has none.  Toews and Hossa both have defensive responsibilities, and as they can’t get left behind on the plays, they can’t risk as much offensively.  Also, Minnesota knows they can keep up with the Hawks so they have done their best to play positional, slow, frustrating, and basically anti-Hawk hockey.  The thing is, the Wild only have two defensemen capable of dealing with the Hawks and only six forwards that they can rely heavily on.  Our vets did everything right in game four, and we can expect them to lead us deep into the playoffs.