Chicago Blackhawks fans have every right to be frustrated, but not panicked. Yet.
The Hawks have clinched a playoff spot, so they are not in a situation nearly as precarious as that of other teams, such as the Pittsburgh Penguins or Detroit Red Wings, whose postseason berth will be decided by just a point or two in the last couple of regular season games.
Although the Hawks have been sorely missing Patrick Kane for the past several weeks, they have also defied our pessimistic premonitions of possibly missing the postseason thanks to players stepping up in tough games, especially the league’s best Captain, Jonathan Toews.
We fans also should not be too concerned about who the Hawks play in the first round (or two), or whether they will have home ice “advantage.” In last postseason, and this year’s regular season, the Hawks seem to fare slightly better on the road overall (recent games against the Dallas Stars and Philadelphia Flyers notwithstanding).
Yes, there are still a number of things that can and should give us cause for at least some concern. Although some people are hoping against hope that Kane will be able to return well in advance of the originally projected timeline, especially now that he has returned to practice, the Blackhawks organization maintains that the 12-week timeline is still in place. That means he wouldn’t be back until the Western Conference Final round (assuming the Hawks make it that far).
Perhaps even more concerning are the losses in our defensive corps. Rookie Trevor van Riemsdyk, whose brilliant start to the season was cut short with a fractured kneecap in a game last fall, had been slowly returning to play in the past few weeks with the Rockford IceHogs, but hurt his wrist in a recent game and will have surgery tomorrow.
In yesterday’s Easter Sunday tilt at the United Center against the St. Louis Blues, the game (and a higher spot in the Central Division standings) wasn’t the only thing the Hawks lost. Veteran defenseman Kimmo Timonen left in the first period after being launched into the Boards by Blues player Ryan Reeves, and is currently day-to-day with an upper body injury.
All Reeves lost was a tooth, courtesy of Brent Seabrook’s retaliatory hit later in the game.
Hawks fans were clutching their proverbial pearls well before the game even started, thanks to reports that notoriously stubborn Coach Joel Quenneville was going to put Michal Rozsival in the game over David Rundblad. After the Timonen injury, Coach Q’s hands were tied even after the two boneheaded mistakes – a penalty on one hand giving the Blues prime opportunity to score a power play goal, and standing next to Corey Crawford like mannequin and watching the puck sail into the back of the net for the other – and had little choice but to keep Rozy in the game.
Now, however, Quenneville has a choice to make, and it’s likely going to decide how deep into the postseason the team goes. And whether we get to see Kane in action again this season. As much as he likes his veterans, Q needs to bench Rozy. Everyone else in the world can see just how much that needs to happen. Other players get benched or a healthy scratch for far less.
It’s not like there are no other options, even with the salary cap in mind. Recent injuries could give the team some wiggle room to bring up other D-men from Rockford. Quenneville may be concerned about their lack of experience, and he seems to be a big fan of that old “the devil you know” adage. But if the devil you know makes as many critical mistakes as frequently as someone like Rozy does, why not bring someone up in that spot, if Rundblad is really that much of a concern? At least you’ll have the advantage of speed – something Rozy cannot bring, but something that will be necessary if the Hawks hope to fend off some hard-charging teams in the first round (or two).
I know the Hawks can make a deep run, even without Kane. Although optimistic, I am still concerned that that the postseason will end too early, which seems to be likely if Rozy stays in the lineup.
What do you think, Hawks fans? Let us know in the comments below, via Twitter, or Facebook.
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