With the calendar year changing to 2015, it’s only right to grade the Chicago Blackhawks as they officially begin 2015, a year that’s looking awfully bright for the boys off Madison Avenue – so let’s get to it!
The forwards for the Hawks have been more than stellar so far this season. It’s been some time since I’ve seen all four lines and all twelve players producing so consistently. Having to deal with the Quenneville blender is one thing, it’s another to relish in it and understand the “team” wins the Cup, not a single “line”. The Blackhawks are exercising their will on opponents top to bottom, something that kept them from hoisting the cup last season.
The forwards are helping contribute to the Chicago Blackhawks current PIM, where they sit third in the league. To top that off they’re fifth in the league in Goals For with an average of 2.97 a game.
There isn’t much that can be said that hasn’t already been heard about the Hawks Defensive Corps. They’re amongst the league leaders in shots against, goals against, and have done it all a midst injury and a constant rotation of the third pairing. It’d be nice to see a couple of the youngsters or newly acquired Tim Erixon, to find a partner that can be effective and relied upon for even half of what the first two are.
The goaltending for the Hawks has quite honestly been the story and success of this season so far. First, Corey Crawford has been performing at the elite level the Hawks have been looking for since his performance in the 2013 season. Aside from some minor mental malfunctions and some bad luck, the man’s beginning to find his footing as this illustrious’ clubs main net-minder.
When he has been away, the Hawks have relied upon some unusual people from unusual sources, but for Annti Raanta and Scott Darling their talent speaks for itself. The Hawks went 7-1 in their last eight without Crow. Raanta went 4-0 and Darling went 3-1.
Needless to say, should something happen to Crawford again, the replacements and the future seem bright for this club at the goaltending position.
POWER PLAY: B-
This issue might not be so much about what I want to say, or even have to say, as much as what we can all see. A while back I had mentioned that the last piece of the Hawks puzzle was their defense. While that still might be true, the power play continues to mind boggle – heres why.
With two rotations of men including the names of Toews, Kane, Sharp, Keith, Richards, Saad, Shaw, Seabrook, Versteeg and Hossa – they should be able to consistently operate at over 20% due to talent alone. However, they currently roll at a measly 17.5 %! WooHoo, 18th in the league!
Yet again, we find ourselves talking about the power play being the one thing holding them back. I wouldn’t go that far, the power play is their final key to the elusive main door. Their confidence and speed should be able to carry them through the man advantage, allowing the Hawks numerous opportunities to toy with opponents. I’m not saying I know how they’ll get that done, but should they figure it out – teams will be climbing out of two and three goal deficits, instead of all the one goal games they’ve currently been caught up in.
PENALTY KILL: A++
“We want to keep improving… We’re trying to keep them from unloading the puck and finding ways to get goals.” – Ben Smith,on the Hawks PK.
Here’s a little stat for you… Chicago is first in the league on the PK, with a 91.4% kill rate – that’s record pace. How does one get to 91.4% kill rate? I’m glad you asked – one gets there by killing off 85 of 93 penalties. Detroit is closest currently operating at 88.4% – the defense rests. (No pun intended)
I’m hesitant to open any cans of worms in the coaching category especially when they relate to Q. However, I must say that there’s little I have qualms with so far this season. Better to get things figured out and grooving earlier rather than later. Though the power play hasn’t been exceptionally better than last year, Kevin Dineen’s influence has already begun to shine through and seems to be on a good track to help both units to break through, hopefully sooner rather than later.
Now that the three amigo’s have decided on some lines, they can focus their attention on meshing the defense and power play. Let’s just say these men are well ahead of schedule and also most of the teams in the league.
Though the Hawks dropped a tough shootout to the Columbus Blue Jackets last evening, I’d expect a lovely turn around this evening as the madhouse will be on full tilt with many already beginning to celebrate the holiday.
I haven’t seen any power rankings for this week yet, but I’d be surprised if anyone has someone other than the Hawks at the top!
HAWKS VS MAPLE LEAFS 6PM WGN TV
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