Defense. Well, let’s start with what everyone has been talking about. Duncan Keith, one of the most important members of the team, and perhaps one of the smartest players in the NHL, decided to pull his idiot card right before the playoffs. His “intent to injure” major will likely get him at least a five-game suspension. As much as I like Keith, he made a dirty play, and hung his team out to dry. There’s really no way to defend him.
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Meanwhile, with Brent Seabrook out sick Tuesday night, and Keith thrown out of the game, everyone got to see firsthand that the blue line is very fragile indeed. Erik Gustafsson was a scratch, and has been numerous times of late. Both he and Viktor Svedberg simply don’t appear NHL ready, much less ready for a playoff push. Trevor van Riemsdyk; well it’s obvious that he’s going to get thrown in there to sink or swim. Let’s hope he can manage to tread water. Everyone was clamoring for Christian Ehrhoff to get more ice time, which he’s had the last two games. But he didn’t exactly do much to prove himself. One can only hope he can settle in with the right defensive partner. And poor Niklas Hjalmarsson was run ragged Tuesday trying to do everything by himself. It’s a wonder he’s still alive!
Again, in the spirit of trying to find positives; here’s something of interest. Michal Rozsival has only been in the lineup for nine of the 13 games played in March. In that time, he’s quietly put up 6 assists! He’s also been nominated as a finalist for the Masterton Memorial Trophy. Now Rozy might be old and slow and a bit of a liability out there. But he appears to make up for it when it comes to getting the puck to the guys that can score. The question is whether his positives will outweigh his negatives come playoff time.
In goal, Corey Crawford hasn’t played since the LA Kings tilt in mid-March. It is rumored that he is suffering from vertigo. He has not been skating, and there is no timetable for his return. In the meantime, Scott Darling has come in and done a stand-up job. He has now played in seven consecutive games, and has posted a .899 save percentage in that time. That doesn’t sound all that hot, but there were really only two stinker games (against Dallas and Minnesota) that really pulled him down. And you also have to remember that he doesn’t have the best blue line in front of him right now. Let’s hope Darls can hang in there for a while longer.
Special Teams. The Chicago Blackhawks power play has gone 0 for 26 in the last nine games. To quote Coach Quenneville, “It’s a little too stationary and predictable right now for me”. Well duh! I keep on waiting for a chance to write about the power play goal that finally got the Hawks out of their slump. Well, I’ve been waiting for a long time now. At this point, I’m betting on somebody unexpected to get it done, like Rozsival.
At least the penalty kill is starting to look a little better. Since Marcus Kruger has been back, the Hawks have gone 7-for-7 on the kill. In the most recent game against Minnesota, the Hawks killed off a 5-minute match penalty, as well as two other minor penalties. Even if they didn’t win, these kills really helped to build momentum and give the Hawks a boost throughout the game.
Next: Coaching And Intangibles