CHICAGO – The Chicago Blackhawks have begun to finalize the sorting out of their final issues, even if it took them twenty five games to get it done – better late than never. After the goal scoring has picked up, the lines are clicking and even with Crawford out, the goaltending has been spectacular – so what’s the last piece to their puzzle?
The answer: The Defensive Corps. The Blackhawks have four name sakes that sit on the blue line night in and night out in two time Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Johnny Oduya and Swedish Warrior Niklas Hjalmarsson – but what about the third pairing?
“We like the way he moves. He’s a big guy, skates well… we think he’s capable of having the right assets to contribute and fit in.”- Coach Q on Klas Dhalbeck
Michael Rosival, the most veteran of the blue-liners seems to be holding down the first of the two spots in the third pairing and for good measure. Rosival has been around, has solid vision, solid decision making (most nights) and the skill set to back it up. But Rosival just turned 36 in September and despite being a solid veteran Defensemen for the Blackhawks, the real question remains, will the gas tank run out? It’s already difficult not noticing his slowness once a night – at least it’s obvious to me.
Before the injury to Trevor VAN Riemsdyk, the third pairing was a solidly rotated between pairings of TVR and Rosival to TVR and Rundlblad. Now it’s Rosival being the constant and Rundblad, Clendening, and Dhalbeck the three fighting to be the second and third. But as of this morning, Adam Clendening has been sent back down to Rockford and replaced with Khlas Dhalbeck.
Though Dhalbeck has yet to record a start in a NHL contest, he was around the big club during the post season in 2014 and as he told Mark Lazerus of the SunTimes, he was… “just learning, seeing how all the guys work, day in and day out, just some of the routines.”
After Clendening was a healthy scratch in the last three games, the Hawks have decided to get him playing again and probably for good measure. Defensemen and goaltenders only become and stay consistent the more they play – the more comfortable they feel on the ice. I wouldn’t expect Clendening to stay in Rockford the rest of the year. His offensive prowess is as high as Duncan Keith’s, with a goal on his first NHL shot to prove it. That goal came off a one timer from the blue line – tough to argue with that – but his minus -1 rating over two consecutive starts put the nail in his proverbial coffin and his butt on the big league pine – at least for now.
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Dhalbeck will get his first opportunity to force the Hawks to look into a more Islandic, Blue and Yellow group of blue liners. Dhalbeck, the 23 year old, 6’3”, 207 lbs Swede joins Niklas Hjalmarsson and linemate Johnny Oduya, as well as David Rundbald as the fourth Swede in the Hawks D-corp and the sixth on the roster. (Marcus Kruger and Joakim Nordstrom are the others)
Even more exciting about Dhalbeck, he’s said to model his game after that of Hjalmarsson and if he is anything like the Hawks most prolific warrior – he’ll be a welcomed addition for both the city and the coaching staff. Only time and battle will tell if he’s ready to don the Indian Head night in and night out.
“We like the way he moves. He’s a big guy, skates well… we think he’s capable of having the right assets to contribute and fit in.” Quenneville told the media. Clearly, Q knows he’s still searching for the right pairings, consistency and intelligence on defense.
Again, if Dhalbeck is anything like our Swedish warrior – the Hawks may have uncovered a diamond in the rough and maybe even a future partner for TVR. Maybe it will be Dhalbeck who will inspire consistency from David Rundblad and the Swedes can build a home away from home on the Hawks Blue line.
All in all, the hawks Defense has been wonderful through twenty five games. The Hawks have given up only 49 goals all year and are among the league leaders in shots allowed and puck possession. So it isn’t about finding a fix to something that’s broken, but just as is with the forward lines, the Hawks are just looking for the next perfected D pairing that can be relied upon come May and June… because that’s the last piece of their puzzle before digging in to embark on the Hawks real journey – the one to achieve their ONE GOAL.
Hawks look to extend their season high win streak to five tonight against the Habs…
Gametime is 7:30PM CST, watch it on CSN-CH where Pat Foley will have the call.
Happy Friday Feather Faithful!
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