Change comes from within
In my opinion, this is where the change starts. No more rentals and giving away picks to find some grizzled veteran who won’t make a difference. No matter how young and talented this ‘Hawks team is, without being tougher to play against, the rest of the division (and league) will continue to sweep past them.
In today’s game, all players are expected to block shots. If you drop down and block more shots, fewer pucks will go to the net. If you physically knock players off the puck (don’t need to put them in the fourth row — just rub them off the puck), team speed against can be neutralized, which helps your defense.
If you backcheck relentlessly (boy, do we miss Marian Hossa), you can mitigate errors associated with a young defensive group. Your statistics will improve, and great defense turns into more offensive chances.
Da Windy City
How about that powerplay? As we know, if you can score on the powerplay, the entire dynamic of momentum changes. How do you do this? You need to get in front of the net.
Not to the side, but right in front of the tender. Great to see Artem Anisimov back in the lineup, as he understands the importance of net-front presence. Brent Seabrook getting a powerplay goal last night was great to see as well.
The move made in last night’s game to get Duncan Keith off the ice during the powerplay and allow others who can move the puck more quickly is long overdue. Keith may not like it, but for the team it’s a win-win decision. The ‘Hawks get a quicker powerplay and at the same time save Keith’s minutes so he can focus on shutting down the opposition.
There was a reason the Blackhawks were swept last year. When your top players don’t play hard, in-your-face, relentless type hockey, a youthful team will emulate them and play the same soft game.
How often do we see Jonathan Toews, Keith or Brandon Saad lay down to block a slapshot, or hit someone on the forecheck to get a turnover instead of a stick check or skating away? The ‘Hawks are negative-66 on giveaways/takeaways so far this year. If the team becomes more relentless on the puck, this stat will change and wins will come.
Try and have some fun
As part of this internal change, I’d like to see the team embrace having fun sometimes. I understand the pressure after two straight first-round playoff losses and a poor showing thus far this year, but it just doesn’t look like there’s much enjoyment or laughter going on anymore, be it on the bench or in the dressing room. Looks like they’re all just punching a clock.
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In prior years, there were some character guys like Andrew Shaw and Adam Burish who would keep the room light even during tough times. Usually with a young team comes a little more lighthearted energy. As part of the turnaround, the group needs to find a little humor and fun. As passionate as we all are about our ‘Hawks, hockey is a game, last I checked.
As we know, it’s a long shot for the Blackhawks to get into the playoffs and make a deep run, but if Colorado can gain 20 points in three weeks with a backup goalie, it can be done.
It’s time for the Blackhawks to step up and match or exceed the other teams’ intensity. It’s a shift-by-shift mentality and must include everyone, not just the fourth-line guys.
If not, we can continue to kid ourselves that the Blackhawks are so talented they don’t have to hit or block shots. As long as that thought goes unchecked (pun intended), they might as well get the clubs polished, as a tee time is right around the corner.
In the game versus the Islanders a few nights ago, the lights in the building went out. It reminded me of an old UFO song with lyrics: “Lights out, lights out Chicago… hold tight ‘till the end… Let’s hope the lights don’t go out on our season just yet.” I know the Blackhawk faithful will hold tight ‘till the end.
Let’s go ‘Hawks!