Oct 26, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling (33) celebrates with his teammates after their win against the Ottawa Senators at the United Center. The Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Ottawa Senators 2-1. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Well, our beloved Chicago Blackhawks are one calendar month into the 2014-2015 season, and while we’ve certainly seen a few losses that could have just as easily been W’s, so far so good. The Hawks are currently second in the Central Division with 13 points on the season. Here are four initial reactions regarding the Blackhawks play for the month of October:
#4 – Finally, Some Vintage Versteeg
Last year Chicago’s warm nostalgia quickly grew as frosty as its spring when the newly reacquired Kris Versteeg began to show he wasn’t the same player that had helped make Blackhawks history in 2010. Rumors were Steeger’s apparent recovery from a lingering injury stymied his production last season. Whatever the cause, Versteeg was practically an afterthought by the post season. Now however, it’s a whole new season, and we’re seeing a whole new Versteeg, or at least the Versteeg Chi-Town remembers. Thus far this season, Steeger has two goals and one assist in six games. That’s a mighty fine start. Here’s hoping it keeps on rolling because Versteeg still has a lot of doubters to prove wrong.
#3 – Still a Wild, Wild (Maybe Wilder), Western Conference
While thus far the Hawks have had their way with Eastern Conference opponents, just like last year, they’ve not fared so well against teams in their own backyard. Against Central Division squads this past month the Blackhawks are 2-2, and 0-2 against the Pacific Division. This should come as no surprise though. We all know the Western Conference is tough but it’s escalated into a full out arms race as of late, one the Hawks can ill-afford to lose. So far it looks like there will be even smaller margins for error than last year come playoff-race time in the Central Division, given the surging play of the Dallas Stars and the division-leading Nashville Predators. Once again, the Blackhawks will be the team their division rivals use as measuring stick, and that means the Hawks need to maintain top form all season to emerge as a playoff contender in the Central Division.
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#2 – Trevor “the Kid” van Riemsdyk Looks Legit
With the departure of Nick Leddy, it was anyone’s guess who would be skating on the Hawks’ third line defense. While it likely is still a work in progress this early in the season, at least one piece of the puzzle looks to be firmly in place: Trevor van Riemsdyk. Recently the rookie stated that he was going to keep his game simple as he acclimated to the Blackhawks and NHL level play. While the Hawks offense has had a bit of a slow start, the defense has been solid and consistent, and van Riemsdyk’s play has been a big reason for that. Going by the eye test alone you can tell van Riemsdyk plays smart, heads-up hockey and maintains excellent positioning. The only thing missing from van Riemsdyk’s game at this point is making his presence equally felt on the blue line in the offensive end (he only has 9 shots on goal in 10 games), but I’m sure that will come soon enough (but hopefully sooner than that).
#1 – The Hawks Have a Darling Goalie Situation
Last season the Blackhawks learned a valuable about not having a reliable back-up goalie to give starter Corey Crawford enough rest to stay fresh for the post season. Considering his limited experience with North American hockey, Antti Raanta filled in nicely when Crawford was injured. With Crawford injured once again this season, Raanta has yet again been able to more or less hold down the fort, going 1-2 in three starts. Rant was a nice surprise last season and this season, we may have an even nicer surprise in Scott Darling. Like Raanta, Darling has had three starts and posted a .933 save percentage, but having played in the minors for several years prior to coming back to sweet home Chicago, the 6’6” Lemont, IL native has the edge on Rant in terms of experience and size. It’ll be interesting to see who keeps the back-up gig once Crow returns to the line-up, but either way the Hawks went from having one legitimate back-up goalie to two, and that’s a great situation to be in no matter how it plays out in the future.
FOR THE DAGGER!