January 30, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) celebrates with left wing Patrick Sharp (10) his goal scored against the Anaheim Ducks during the second period at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
For those of you who didn’t notice, there was a little thing called the Super Bowl yesterday. Unlike recent Super Bowls, this one was pretty entertaining and went right down to the wire. I hope you all enjoyed the broadcast in spite of the outcome (I was actually rooting for the Seahawks, even though I don’t really like either team). But amidst all the hoopla, the Chicago Blackhawks played two games this weekend. They dominated the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night, winning by a score of 4-1. Then they fell into their typical trend of winning one and losing one. They actually got shut out 2-0 by the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.
The Hawks probably got even more lost in the shuffle as these match ups were in California, and didn’t start until most normal people were thinking about going to bed. No worries, we here at Blackhawk Up have got you covered! Let’s dissect these games a little before we move on with our week.
5. Patrick Sharp is sharp! It seems fitting to start with some talk about the winning game. Patrick Sharp was 4 for 4 on Friday night, assisting on all 4 Blackhawk goals. This is the third time he has had a 4 assist game in his career. He earned the secondary assist on Jonathan Toews goal (the first of the game). He was then the primary helper for Duncan Keith’s goal, and also for 2 scores by Patrick Kane.
Hmm, do you think Sharpy is campaigning to keep his spot on the second line even after Kris Versteeg returns from injury? He certainly turned it on when he was trying to make the Olympics last year. Perhaps all he needs is a little motivation to take it to that next level. Whatever it takes to help the Chicago Blackhawks win more games.
Speaking of Kris Versteeg, our editor Keith Schultz made a good point in a previous post. Upon his return, Versteeg could be inserted onto the third line with Teuvo Teravainen and Bryan Bickell. Steeger’s play- making abilities could be the perfect complement for TT’s pin point passing.
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4. The Physical Element. Now we move on to that icky shut out. I can just imagine San Jose’s head coach Todd McLellan giving his team a pre-game pep talk. I won’t use quotes, because of course this didn’t happen, but I’ll use a separate paragraph to give you the idea.
All right boys. The Hawks are coming off playing two highly physical teams in LA and Anaheim. They’re tired. They’re probably feeling a little beat up. Go at them fast and hard and never let them get their groove. Oh, and Niemi, if they do get it going for some shifts, stand tall my man. You guys have got this one.
That’s pretty much how it played out, wouldn’t you say? It was an especially physical first period by both teams. But then San Jose kept it up, and thwarted Chicago’s attempts to set things up. When the Hawks were able to generate a few great chances, Niemi was there to make even greater saves.
3. So what’s the answer? It is true that the Hawks tend to have lots of trouble with the big and physical teams of the NHL. Just look to last year’s playoff series against both St. Louis and Los Angeles. More recently, we can refer to the last three games. I know we don’t like to talk about hits with the Blackhawks because they’re a puck possession team, but let’s take a look anyway just for fun. Wednesday night against the Kings, Chicago was credited with 17 hits to LA’s 39! (lost the game). Friday against Anaheim, the Hawks had 26 hits to the Duck’s 31. A little more even, and guess what? They won the tilt. Now take a look at the hits in San Jose. 16 to the Shark’s 30 (lost the game).
Of course the number of hits doesn’t determine whether a team wins or loses. But based upon the above findings, it does seem to bear some consideration. My meat head hockey co-worker is convinced that having Daniel Carcillo back to push people around a little (he’s eligible Tuesday against Minnesota) will go a long way for the Hawks. I don’t know if I would go that far, but I do believe Chicago could concentrate on pushing back a little bit more. Or should they just stick to what they’re known for, being the faster team and passing with more accuracy? What do you think Blackhawks fans? What can the Hawks do to start winning with more consistency?