Chicago Blackhawks – Stan Bowman and team doing work at IIHF WC


Chicago, IL — Since the Hawks are out of the playoffs they are in somewhat unfamiliar territory, early time on their hands. This however maybe a great thing. Why?

Because it gives Stan Bowman and his scouting team a chance to gauge some of the worlds perhaps best NHL ready talents at the IIHF World Championships currently being held in St. Petersburg/Moscow Russia.

If history has shown Blackhawks fans anything it is how inventive, creative and flexible Stan Bowman and his scouting team is.

As Scott Powers reported for the Athletic1 I would suggest you go check that piece out by Scott, Stan Bowman is there as part of the Team USA advisory team but the Blackhawks scouting staff is also on hand I’m sure with their notebooks getting a workout as well as the players on the ice.

That has this Hawks fan very excited. If the scouting staff can find someone there even half as good as Artemi Panarin turned out to be the Blackhawks faithful will be overjoyed. Panarin is an illustration of several things.

  1. Great things come in small packages
  2. Europe has NHL worthy talents and should be looked at hard.

The Chicago Blackhawks know both of these things all too well and with their cap crunch situation item 2 is becoming more and more imperative if they want to remain atop a very competitive league.

The first item in regards to Artemi Panarin, not since Mikhail Baryshnikov was an unknown mostly to the west, with small stature and creative genius been overlooked by so many for silly notions. I’m betting most of these teams would like a do over now.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said as much during the playoffs their regret for not listening to Vlady Tarasenko when he tried to get the Blues to get Panarin.

Sorry but Chicago saw something in this budding young star they did not or were not willing to take a chance on. Who knows how high his ceiling can be.  That is another thing Stan Bowman needs to do is lock this kid up for a long time. I would say actually this is priority numbero uno. Patrick Kane is not alone, Chicago loves their Breadman too.

Panarin is not alone the Hawks also saw something is Erik Gustafsson, Viktor Svedberg, Dennis Rasmussen ect..

Scott Powers also reported today that in speaking with Bowman the rumored talks being close with Czech D man Michal Kempny are not a done deal yet but they are working on it. So we see Stan is a busy guy. The article also goes into what type of Dman Kempny is.

There are plenty of jewels to be found if you’re looking correctly. Actually you need look no further than Panarin’s linemates for Team Russia’s Evgeni Dadonov (RW) and Vadim Shipachyov (C). Panarin and his linemates have been burning it up in Russia and both have stated they plan on going to the NHL this year.

Dadonov was originally drafted by the Florida Panthers but was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes and he never really caught on in the NHL despite success in the AHL perhaps now with more seasoning he is ready for the jump to the NHL at 27 years of age.

Shipachyov is a bit older at 29 but has tremendous offensive skills. It is rumored the Montreal Canadiens really want him as they did Panarin. He is currently leading in all points at the IIHF WC with 3G, 7A in only 5 games played. Dadonov has 3G, 5A and Panarin has 3G, 6A.

There is no question the chemistry these guys have, again this is on big ice with international rules. Will their skills be able to translate to the NHL? That is the question if they can make the jump as quickly as Panarin did. Who knows but they are worth a look. Doesn’t Toews need a winger or wingers if Ladd doesn’t return?  And can a team ever have enough centers?

The only problem with them is again the Hawks have cap issues so there may not be enough money for the Hawks to get them and the two-way play that coach Q insists on maybe an issue or at least a development point, unless you’re an offensive dynamo then all is forgiven.

I never count Stan Bowman’s magic out though if he is interested in these players he will make it happen. Who knows what other players on other teams and even Team Russia the Hawks are eyeballing.

I should also mention Barry Smith, you know their Yoda of talent spotting and development is also in Russia. His official title is Director of player development.  Smith was the one who spoke to Panarin about the Blackhawks and what they were all about and how his skills would fit in with the team which probably sold Panarin on the Hawks.

Also this past week Stan was able to sign Swedish prospect sensation Gustav Forsling who will have a great chance at making the roster come training camp. His upside is tremendous.

Stan does have his work cut out for him this summer with moving Bickell contract out, Andrew Ladd and Andrew Shaw can they be resigned? Finding Toews winger/s? Finding that 4th Dman and where does Ryan Hartman, Tyler Motte and Richard Panik fit?  Stan needs to do something with Mark McNeill and sign Nick Schmaltz whew I’m tired just thinking about it.

The exciting thing is the Hawks were two goal post pings away and are still in their prime and only getting better with development and youth influx and some European flavor bringing their speed and skills.

Hawks fans should be excited for next year. Last season when the news broke Panarin was coming to Chicago even though the Hawks were still in the running for the Stanley Cup I could not contain my excitement for seeing Panarin with Kane and he didn’t disappoint, in fact he exceeded my and I think everyone’s except maybe his own expectations.

Will there be another Panarin that the Hawks find this year?  It is certainly possible and maybe there isn’t one quit as special as Panarin but then again you never know and that is the fun of scouting and developing players.

One thing is known for sure, the Blackhawks are one of if not the best at this. Finding hidden talent or bringing out the best in players others have forgotten or were afraid to take a chance on.

What was that saying from Top Gun 2 when Commander Mike “Viper” Metacalf addressed the new class of US naval aviators? “Gentleman, you’re the top 1% of all naval aviators, the elite, the best of the best. We’ll make you better.”

 

And that is something the Blackhawks offer better than most teams and can sell. They will make you better with the details of positions and letting players use their creative geniuses if you want to work at your craft.

Isn’t that what any competitor wants is to become the best of the best in the world? Besides who wouldn’t want to play with that core.

Even with how great a natural talent Panarin is the Blackhawks will make him a better player when all is said and done.

In a interview with Russian Television Panarin said he wanted to come to the NHL to push himself to accomplish things in his life. I’m sure he wants to be the best of the best and he certainly has gotten off to a great start.

If other players feel the same way then Chicago may just be the ticket for them at least this Blackhawks fan hopes so.

 

1 Bowman: Signing skilled defenseman Michal Kempny not yet definite for Hawks by  Scott Powers – theathletic.com

2. Top Gun released 1986 Paramount Pictures Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer, Don Simpson Director: Tony Scott

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Chicago Blackhawks – Finding another level


 

Red Indian head

 

Chicago, IL — The defending Stanley Cup Champions could be on the brink of elimination and their hopes and their fans of accomplishing something that has yet to be done in the modern cap era – repeating as champions is in jeopardy.

In order for this dream to be kept alive it will take an inner resolve and belief, which we have all seen that this team’s core is capable of. Now is the time that they dig deep and tap that perseverance we’ve witnessed in the past.

For fans we’ve been here before like the team. Keep calm and breath and have belief.

Their execution on the ice will need to be razor sharp because in the NHL playoffs there really isn’t much room for errors and the slimmest of margins separate teams being eliminated and teams moving on.

The Hawks need look no further than to last night when odds on favorite to come out of the west, the L.A. Kings, were eliminated. They found themselves in an eerily similar situation to the Hawks.

They were dismissed from the playoffs from their divisional rival  the San Jose Sharks, that always in the past seemed to come up short and not know how to finish. Well the times have changed apparently and now the student has schooled the master.

The difference however is huge between the Kings and the Hawks. The Kings may have suffered from two things, one of which we’ve seen in the past from them maybe too much confidence bordering on arrogance. The second injuries on their blue line.

The Hawks have never disrespected an opponent and have not so far in this series. What they have done though is maybe lose a little bit of composure and made ill advised decisions and actions. In order to move on those things must be alleviated or they will suffer the same fate as the Kings but for different reasons.

Keep your cool, don’t take penalties and practice patience, don’t get frustrated. Milan Lucic is right frustration is a useless emotion don’t like something change it with execution.

The Blues are a good hockey team but they are beatable. The Hawks have to move the puck out of their own zone as quick as possible and use the middle of the ice.

The boards are where the Blues excel and want to play so avoid them if possible. If you can’t the Hawks have to win board battles which won’t be easy but can be done with support at the appropriate times and place.

The Hawks also have to remember that they are the champions. While Alex Pietrangelo’s comment about looking forward to dismissing the Hawks in Chicago is a psych, it is the Blues that will have the pressure if the Hawks can win Saturday. There is no way the Blues wanted to come back to Chicago so Mr. Pietrangelo can spin this anyway he wants but that’s just what it is, a spin.

That being the case it means the Hawks have already gotten into the Blues heads a smidge and that is where the Hawks excel. Place doubt in their minds but in order to do that you have to execute on the ice yourselves. You can not rely on just the mental edge.

Passing needs to be crisper and skating faster, keep the legs moving boys you’ve got nothing left to save it for now. Get to the Blues net and just be a nuisance.

There is a saying I love and I think it is appropriate in this situation something like “half of being is belief”. I’m not sure where I heard it from but if you believe enough that you can do something you will.

The Hawks know all about this I mean look at their mantra One Goal, which gives me confidence there will be a game 7 where anything can happen in a series and you have to believe all the momentum will be on the Hawks side if they can get there. So the focus now is game 6 and winning it any way you can.

So they really do just need to play one game at a time. Win one game and all bets are off ask Vegas how the odds will change if the Hawks can win Saturday.

The one thing is too if you get a lead do NOT sit back keep pressing but in a smart way don’t give up you solid positioning or make mistakes in your end of the ice.

This year was flawed with inconsistencies and struggles against the Central division. The Hawks know the Blues well just as the Blues know the Hawks well. Now is the time to go to that next level to see if they can keep up. I know the Hawks have other levels I’m not sure the Blues do so push them there, make them try to keep up with you.

The good news is Andrew Shaw is coming back, Jonathan Toews is due to bust out and Patrick Kane is finding space on the ice and Q will get last line changes so the Hawks have to take advantage of this.

The other good things that revamped second line of Panarin, Anisimov and Teravainen is getting more space as is the rest of the lines. The third line with Hossa, Kruger and Ladd have to shut down the Tarasenko line if possible. If they can do that you gotta like the Hawks chances.

So for the Hawks they need to execute and not surrender anything. For us fans we have to believe that the bounces will go the right way and just know somehow the Champs will impose their skill and speed and their will when it matters the most. They always have. If they do we will have Blackhawks hockey on Monday.

GO HAWKS!

 

 

 

 

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Chicago Blackhawks – Guess who’s back, back again


Photo by Maggie Avila

Photo by Maggie Avila

Chicago, Il — The Blackhawks don’t have an alternate ego like Eminem’s Slim Shady, but they can sure use his song as their team anthem after every Stanley Cup.

“Guess who’s back, back again, Shady’s (Blackhawks) are back tell a friend “1 every time people write them off here they come storming back again with a vengeance.

The Hawks may have struggled a bit in the beginning of the season but they are serving the league notice that they are back and they fully intend on battling to defend their Stanley Cup Champion title.

They are the darlings of the league and with very good reason. The Chicago Blackhawks can be summed up in one word – excellence.

When you have opposing coaches and organizations looking at you saying how good you are and saying that is what we want to become one day you’re doing something right.

Currently in the midst of another streak of eleven game wins coming back from the hockey hot bed of Canada. The Hawks left Canadian radio stations buzzing with how far away their teams are and what a Stanley Cup Champion looks like and should look like. Even through all the re-tooling the Hawks are still a force and perhaps one that is even more imposing for several reasons.

The Hawks left Canada with Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock fawning over how great a team they are. The fans got a glimpse of what the Kane, Panarin & Anisimov show is about and left Toronto radio saying it just isn’t fair the Hawks got Artemi Panarin. This maybe true but as a hockey fan it’s good for the game to have that line together.  That line shows you what the highest level of the game can look like.

The Hawks beat the Montreal Canadiens twice in a short span and left Habs coach Therrien saying “We just played the Stanley Cup champion – and I believe they look better than last year.” Montreal fans and radio are now calling for his head because they don’t know what to do with their team after seeing how far away they are.

In mid November the Hawks were not looking all that impressive. At that time they were 9 points out of first and in 5th place the last wild card spot by December they were 11 games back of division leading Dallas but were in third instead of fifth spot. This just illustrates in two weeks how quickly things can change.

Now in mid January the Hawks are sitting atop the West and their division and seem to be rolling.

For all the talk of the Hawks and their inconsistency which, is true sometimes in games and from game to game, they are consistent. They actually have a better record now than they did at this point last year when they won the Cup.

48 games in this year the Hawks are 31-13-4 with 66 points. Last year they were 30-16-2  with 62 points with all the changes and fighting a Stanley Cup hangover and off-season issues it is amazing they are where they are.

That is a testament to the players, coaches, training staff and front office. As a Blackhawks fan I just smile and marvel at what they are doing. I feel very fortunate to be witnessing the golden era of this organization.

When I see that second line do things that are near impossible for most NHL talents pull off with such ease and creativity they make me smile.  When I see Corey Crawford battle like he does to keep his net clean I smile.

When I see Andrew Shaw on the first line running around battling for pucks I smile. Every time I see the scars on Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa’s faces I smile because I know they are leaving it all out there on the ice for Chicago, for me as a fan.

When I see that third and fourth lines battle in corners and be relentless on the puck I smile. When Scott Darling comes in after not playing for days and battles it makes me smile.

When I see the defenseman all of them and how they each bring different elements to the blue line I really smile because I know come playoff time they will ratched it up even more. Their gaps, blocks, stick work and skills are just really sights to behold.

When I see the coaches spin their magic particularly with the special teams and specifically the power play I smile.

When I see the fun they are all having now I get a big smile. Yes I smile a lot when watching and thinking about the Chicago Blackhawks and I do appreciate every moment because I know this is rare.

It is possible that the Hawks are even better than they were last year due to Crawford looking  like he is the same or better than last year and should be in Vezina talks.  Patrick Kane is having another career year and should win the Hart which hopefully this time he will stay healthy for the entire year.

Artemi Panarin should win the Calder he’s a phenom & yes he’s 24 but he has never played on North American ice.

But maybe the biggest contribution has come from the front office in scouting and trading. Stan Bowman bringing in Anisimov and Dano for Saad which, at the time you were just hopeful as a fan would work out. Now I doubt there are many fans that would und0 this trade. Anisimov so far has exceed all expectations and then some.

The scouting staff in Europe finding Gustafsson and even though Panarin was not a secret to most  Stan Bowman still had to close the deal which he did. Both Gustafsson and Panarin have been crucial in this re-tooling.

Why this team maybe even better than last year is because of all the young guys who will be around for a long time have stepped up and in without really missing a beat. Somehow the Hawks keep finding the right pieces and the coaches and the core schools them up immediately.

The Hawks are only just a little over half way through the season and there is a lot of hockey left to be played but they have put themselves in a good position. To make the playoffs as they are currently 18 points above the final wild card spot in the west maybe more important than being atop the Central.

The Hawks have 14 games left against Central division opponents and those will be imperative as this is the division where they have struggled and every game is a four point game rather than two points.

Remarkably the Hawks have not lost yet in 2016 but at some point they will. Unlike most teams though you know they will bounce back and how you know this is Patrick Kane’s comments.

It was Kane’s comment but you know he speaks for the locker room and every player in there when he said the Hawks are happy where they are at but not satisfied and that should make every Hawks fan smile. If they think they can be better, and they can be, there still are other levels they can get to – look out. Yes the Hawks are back again.

1- Marshall Mathers aka Eminem song Without Me from the album the Eminem Show released May of 2002 on Interscope

 

 

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Chicago Blackhawks – coming home


Chicago, IL — The Hawks are finally heading back to the United Center. After two weeks of touring Western Canada and California the team is finally coming back after a moderately successful road trip.

They amassed 8 points out of a possible 12. There was only one game in which they did not get any points which is probably the game they should have won as they dominated most of the game in Vancouver.

There was a little bit of everything games won that shouldn’t have been, games lost that shouldn’t have been and games split that shouldn’t have been. What all have provided the team though are lessons learned.

No team is an easy two points which is what the Canadian leg of the trip showed and you have to play a full 60 + minutes as evidenced in both Calgary and Vancouver. It only takes a couple of minutes of lapses for any team to lose a game.

The California leg was much more successful for the team but there is no question the Hawks probably should not have won the Anaheim game and probably should have won the Los Angeles game. Lesson you can never tell how things will end.

Honestly in Anaheim the Hawks really only looked good in the last 2 minutes of the game and OT most nights you can not get away with that and especially against teams in the Central. In Los Angles only playing good for one period is not enough against good teams. The Hawks were lucky to get out with a point luckily the Kings are struggling themselves with getting goals and having only one line scoring.

The Hawks ended the Circus trip with a 3-1-2 record which is slightly worse than last years 5-1-0 record which was unreal.

In all of this and through all of this Patrick Kane remains the constant. Congratulations to him for continuing his point streak. The man in on a mission and everyone needs to stay out of his way.

Kane skills

Also Duncan Keith has picked up where he left off prior to injury and he along with Kane and Brent Seabrook just know when and how to take over games. Yes Seabrook had the mishap in LA but that is so uncharacteristic it’s a blip. Seabrook was clutch in Anaheim and completely took over that game.

 

Keithpractice

The Hawks are home now for the majority of December but that doesn’t mean the path is easier as they will face their own division foes in 8 out of 15 of the games. The only team they don’t play is the St. Louis Blues. It is more important they do well against these teams than the Pacific division.

There are 16 intra division points at stake and the every point matters it could be the difference come year-end of making the playoffs or not.

The Hawks currently are the only team within the Central outside of the Winnipeg Jets that have a losing record against their own division which is not a recipe for success if you want to make the playoffs. The Hawks need to right this and gain ground.

We are now far enough in the season that everyone should know their roles and what they need to do.

General observations the Hawks need to be a little bit more careful with the puck and cut down on turnovers, play a full game and keep the legs moving and they will be alright. The penalty kill could tighten up a bit as well. The Hawks are last in the division in block shots which is ok just get sticks in lanes and tighten gaps.

The Hawks still need to get other lines going. It is too easy to tee off on the second line and it is only a matter of time before they are slowed down or halted even with all of their skill and talent. Get to the net boys. It is no coincidence the player on the team with the best shooting percentage is Artem Anisimov. Look where he always is parked in front of the net.

All in all the Hawks are in a good spot currently in third in the division but the real work will be in December against the Central. Time to roll of up the sleeves and take control or someone else will.

The Dallas Stars have a seemingly easy schedule until the last couple of weeks of December and the St. Louis Blues have 11 games at home. The Blackhawks have 9 home games and only one back to back so this is definitely the time to take advantage of the schedule and gather those much-needed points.

Here’s to the Blackhawks making the holiday season truly full of cheers!

 

Red Indian head

 

 

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Chicago Blackhawks’ Kane, Anisimov, Panarin – made for each other


Chicago, IL — We are early in the 2015 Chicago Blackhawks season which so far has been filled with inconsistencies, there is however one thing that has been consistent and that is the second line of Patrick Kane, Artem Anisimov & Artemi Panarin.

Not only is this line responsible so far for the majority of the Hawks offensive points but they are from a fans perspective flat-out fun to watch. They are entertainment of the highest order and are must watch appointment hockey viewing.

Even if  you are not a Blackhawks fan you have to watch this line and appreciate the skill and chemistry they have.

There also seems to be emerging a special bond between Kane and Panarin. Even though they may come from worlds away they seem to be kindred spirits in several aspects. They see the game the same way on the ice and their skills are similar and compliment each other.

The stick work, passing and as Kane has said of Panarin the edge work in his skating is unreal. Their hands are so quick they are like magicians.

Even though both grew up thousands of miles away they were both told early in their playing careers they were too small to play high level competitive hockey and maybe that is another reason why they have bonded so quickly as they both universally understand without language what the other has had to go through to get where they are.

They both understand the struggle to overcome other’s incorrect perceptions based on size. Now the NHL is changing and sees the values of skill and skating but traditionally size was always thought to have been needed to make it to the NHL and I suspect the KHL was not different in this regard.

The uncanny thing as well with Showtime and the Breadman is they are like mirror images of each other. One is a lefty that plays Right Wing and the other is a righty playing Left Wing so they literally are mirror images.

What is also funny is how their personalities also seem to mirror each other. Kane has already stated that Panarin is funny and has the one liners down and Kane is no slouch himself to chirps and one liners.

They also seem to have overcome any language barriers and found ways to communicate in what I call PanKan or KanPan speak.

Not sure if that is half English half Russian or hand gestures or telepathy, whatever it is as long as they understand each other who cares.  The two just seem to be in sympatico both on and off the ice.

They also share an on ice creativity & an understanding of what it takes to be not just a great athlete but an entertainer. Both Kane and Panarin seem to understand that sports are fun and people go to see their unique special skills. I can not think of a city or a team that can better showcase & appreciate these talents.

There is no question though the glue in the middle Artem Anisimov gels this line. For years the Hawks have searched for the right second line center and even though it took losing a great young winger in Brandon Saad it appears to have been well worth it.

Anisimov brings size and grit and grind to balance the line with two masters of prestidigitation on his sides. Make no mistake without Anisimov battling along the boards or providing net front presance Kane and Panarin would not be as successful.

This line has a chance this year to accomplish special things both for the team and for each other. If they continue meshing and creating magic it’s possible that Artemi Panarin could win the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.

Patrick Kane could win points leader trophy Art Ross and possibly league MVP honor Hart Memorial trophy which he was on pace for consideration last year until his clavicle injury derailed that.

And for Anisimov he could be on pace for having the best year of his career and could put up the most points he has had offensively.

He was asked by Chicago media had he ever had instant chemistry with linemates like this and he said only twice before with his National team and during lock out back in Russia. See below interview taken from Blackhawks website:

http://video.blackhawks.nhl.com/videocenter/console?id=869800

Currently the three are in top four on the team in points with only Brent Seabrook in between. Patrick Kane leads followed by Artemi Panarin and in fourth on the team is Artem Anisimov.

The other thing which probably surprises some is the line is very good defensively as well. Their =/- numbers are pretty good for a supposedly offensive line. In fact Patrick Kane leads the team in +/- with 13 which is a testament to his dedication to the 200 ft. game.

The one thing though I bet all three would agree on is they all would forego individual accolades for another Stanley Cup. It would be great for Anisimov and Panarin to get their names on a Stanley Cup. For Kane more so than any other year I think he wants to prove what he is all about.

Most people do not think of Kane as a leader but he is. He told his linemates from the beginning if they wanted to stay together they had to play the right way and not let up and keep contributing. They were separated when Hossa went down and Panarin was moved to Toews line. Now they are reunited and they have not looked back.

In fact that line has such chemistry that coach Q is using the entire line on the power play in tact with Keith and Seabrook. You know your line is on fire when the entire line is being used on the power play.

Bringing in both Anisimov and Panarin again makes Stan Bowman look like a genius but for different reasons. Getting Anisimov in return for Saad in a tough situation was absolutely the best possible return for the Blackhawks probably better than anyone including Bowman could have hoped for.

Getting Panarin makes the Blackhawks scouting staffs look brilliant. How, and I do mean how, did other teams not all flock to get this kid? Bowman did have a couple of advantages. I’m sure being champions the past 3 out of 6 years didn’t hurt nor being able to have him play with players like Kane didn’t hurt either.

Panarin also has stated Barry Smith sold him with what the Hawks are about and lets face it the style of hockey the Hawks play is flat-out sexy for a skilled offensive talent which also I’m sure sold 72.

As a fan there was all kinds of chatter if Panarin could make the jump from the KHL to the NHL mostly from other fan bases.

I really didn’t think that would be a problem as I saw his skills similar to Patrick Kane and we see how successful he is so I never thought that would be a problem.  He has adjusted though quicker and better than I thought. It also helps he is with Kane and Anisimov to assist him if he has questions.

I’ve stated in previous blogs Panarin has the “IT” factor like Kane. He also seems to have something else like Kane, the desire to prove his detractors wrong which is a powerful motivator.

Panarin and Kane share that as well and can help each other. They both seem to get more fueled and determined if you tell them they can’t do something which also bonds them.

Blackhawks fans have fallen in love with both Anisimov and Panarin and are very happy they are now both in Chicago. Finally Patrick Kane has a line with line mates that can keep up with him and compliment each other. They really do all seem to be made for each other.

What this line can accomplish and how far this line can go in achievements will be fun to watch this year.

I’m greedy I want another Stanley Cup, a Calder, a Art Ross & Hart Trophy. The best thing is I have a feeling these three guys will do everything in their powers to achieve this as well.

They may not succeed in getting all of those things but then again would you bet against them?

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Chicago Blackhawks – Battle Central


Chicago, IL — We are fourteen games into the 2015-16 and the Hawks are sitting in 6th place in their division which, would mean that if the playoffs started today they would miss the playoffs. The playoffs however do not start today and there is still a lot of hockey left to be played.

Before panic sets in the Hawks record of 7-6-1 is exactly the same at this time last year and we all know how that year ended. Still it is a slight cause for concern.

Have the Hawks changed yes but maybe what has changed more is their competition in the Central Division which is the best division in the NHL. That means the Hawks do not have the luxury of taking any games off.

Last year at this time the Hawks with that record were in fourth in the division, same record now they sit at sixth and the Dallas Stars sit atop the division.

Taking a cursory look over the Stars schedule it does not really get that difficult til February which at that point this whole race maybe over.

The Stars are a much better team ironically because of the additions of former Hawks like Sharp, Oduya & Niemi. Couple that with two dynamic superstars in Jaime Benn & Tyler Seguin and it has spelled success so far.

The one thing though is the Stars have NOT played a Central Division opponent yet so lets see how they do against them.

Who is scary is the St. Louis Blues simply because they are missing so many of their players due to injury and are still finding ways to win particularly against their own divisional opponents.

Then again this is the regular season where the Blues always do well it is the playoffs where they struggle. Still the Hawks have no excuses if the Blues can win without key players you know the Hawks can.

While it is still too early to panic for the Hawks there are several things that need to be cleaned up.

One – the showing up to games late. By the time the Hawks wake up the game is over because the opposition has scored too many goals for them to overcome.

Two – with a bunch of young new players it is understandable that defensive positioning and awareness might suffer but you can’t say it is just the youth making the errors. As Nik Hjalmarsson said he made a big boo boo. It’s ok Nik you’re not alone and that unfortunately contributes to the problem.

Three – Goaltending the past couple of games needs to be better and they know that. I have no worries the Goalies will bounce back, but they need help they can not do things alone.

Four – Scoring outside of Patrick Kane has been sketchy at best. Why? Partially, youth deferring to passing to others instead of taking shots, no net front presence and not getting to the middle of the ice have all contributed. It also is harder to score when your chasing from behind.

Five – You’re the champs so everyone wants to beat you to validate their own position. Watching a Blues game and listening to their announcers, which by the way was not against the Hawks, they were talking so much about what the Hawks do it was uncanny.

If their announcers are that lock scoped on what the Hawks are doing what do you think the Blues and ever other team in the Central are doing then. They have studied them and their tendencies so much the Hawks need to be less predictable.

Six – This could be an anomaly but for whatever reason they can’t seem to find their mojo on the road. I know the team knows Chicago fans love them and maybe they miss the Hawks fans but guys you gotta figure this out because only winning home games will not get you to the playoffs.

In his post game presser Captain Jonathan Toews addressed all of the issues they know what they need to fix starting with showing up to play from the start and minding your defensive awareness particularly in your own end and neutral zone.

With Duncan Keith and Marian Hossa gone there is no question the impact on the defensive side of the game has missed them but everyone then needs to step up and we all know they can with those back to back shut outs against some very good teams. Everyone just needs to get their head in the game and think defense.

The Hawks know what they need to do which doesn’t have me too worried. Now though they do have to go execute it and they should be fine.

The Hawks do need to wake up though because they have already dropped a couple of games to divisional opponents in the Jets, Blues and Wild. That more than anything needs to change but they all know that.

The positives that are occurring is that the young players are getting invaluable playing minutes and experience. This is what is called growing pains, if the Hawks can get through this still close to their opposition in this division they will be alright.

I’ve always appreciated the skills and talents of Patrick Kane but I think this year more than any I really appreciate it. He can score goals and get points with any line mates.

Also I have seen a developement in his game as well. Yes even superstars get better. His backchecking and checking along the boards has improved. His defensive game is solid. Believe it or not he leads the team in +/- with 9 and he is not as predictable with the puck.

That last statements are what the young forwards need to do. Watch Patrick Kane you have no idea what he is going to do shoot, pass, skate, spin who knows fly, disappear he just leaves you guessing. Try to be a little less predictable it will make it harder on defenseman and goalies. Mind your defensive positioning and you must try to win board battles even if it means sacrificing offense.

Same thing could be said of Jonathan Toews you have no idea what he is going to do shoot, pass make a power rush to the net – mix it up and keep them guessing.

What has me optimistic though is some of the young players like Tanner Kero, Ryan Hartman and Marko Dano all have gotten their first points with the Hawks so that will go along way if they can continue and contribute to a more balanced attack.

The young defenseman like TVR, Gustafsson & Svedberg are all learning a very difficult position on the job. One mistake at this position and the puck could be in the back of your net. That’s ok learn, develop and in the long run the team will be all the better for it.

I have to say I have been very impressed with all of these defenseman for young guys they have a very good understanding of what they need to do which is why forwards you need to help a bit here. Mind the gaps, get sticks in lanes and take the body you’ll be fine.

I have no doubts that the Hawks just need to clean up some sloppy defensive play and things will turn around just don’t wait to long to do this. I also would love it if Patrick Kane got points leader in the league since his injury derailed him last year but I digress.

The Hawks will be forced to face their road problems soon with the circus trip upcoming because if they don’t they could be in a world of hurt but coach Quenneville will not let them slack off and will get them right defensively.

Maybe look at your selves and what your tendencies are and change it up a bit. Don’t change who you are but mix it up a little that’s all depending on opponents.

The good thing is there is tons of hockey left, next up the Oilers so the Hawks better have their skating legs with them.

GO HAWKS!

 

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Chicago Blackhawks – The banner is raised, a new season begins & new Hawks to love


Chicago, Il — Last night the Chicago Blackhawks celebrated with the fans the banner raising at the United Center and put an exclamation point on the 2014-15 season in a magical night.

The Blackhawks are retooled and reloaded to try and accomplish something that has not been done in awhile – repeat as Stanley Cup Champions.

Their road will hard for sure but if there is any team that can do it it is the Hawks. They got off to a rough start dropping their season opener to the New York Rangers but after an emotional ceremony it is understandable.

Some take aways from the game:

The new Hawks will need to catch up with systems and just how the Hawks do things. This may take some time especially for the defenseman.

New Hawks defenseman from the Dallas Stars, Trevor Daley has noticeable offensive talent. It may take him some time to get the Hawks system on D down.

The Hawks needed to get their legs under them which hopefully won’t be the case going forward.

Again the Hawks had a missed call by officials which, hopefully this doesn’t continue all season long. If it does this could be a long season. The Hawks though have to take some blame they should not have put themselves down that early and probably won’t going forward.

The line of Panarin, Anisimov & Kane were lethal and are finding chemistry quickly, maybe even quicker than anyone had thought. It also seems this line truly enjoys playing with one another. This should make the rest of the NHL very scared.

Teuvo Teravainen for not playing a good game in his words still impacted the game. If he continues to do this and takes more control of the puck again look out.

Ryan Garbutt has impressed with his speed and positioning especially defensively that many probably ddn’t anticipate. We all knew he had the grit but there is more skill there than many knew.

Coach Q didn’t sound too upset after the game and for a guy that loves to win that’s saying a lot. I do think though this game he gave everyone a long leash but going forward I don’t see that continuing as he knows it is imperative the Hawks are in a good position come December break if they are to repeat.

What has me excited is the two young guns Teuvo Teravainen and Artemi Panarin. It will be good to see how much more Teuvo develops throughout the year. We all saw in the playoff how much he grew and for that development to continue is exciting for Blackhawks fans.

Teuvo is on the top line with Toews and Hossa for now at wing. If he stays there or gets moved to Center will be something to watch going forward. In either position Teuvo is a playmaker with a deceptive shot.

Artemi Panarin may not speak English well at this point, but it seems he and Patrick Kane speak the same hockey language and that’s all that matters. If they ever really do understand each other verbally woo buddy look out.

Even though you don’t speak Russian you can see both on and off the ice Panarin has the “IT” factor. He is personable in any language and can shine if he just continues developing and learning. He has the wow factor and came to the right team to showcase it.

Panarin is going to be thrilling for fans to watch. Chicago is spoiled with having witnessed some great talents including his linemate Patrick Kane now to have both of them together seems surreal. Welcome to Chicago kid.

Artem Anisimov is making this line gel both verbally and with getting the puck to these two magicians. He too has the opportunity to maybe get more offensive props being on a line with those two.

The core is still the core which again is great for the Hawks and maybe not so much for the other teams.

This year most definitely will be a challenge with every team gunning for them. As we all saw last year with the LA Kings if your not careful you can miss the playoff completely so the task now is just to make the playoffs and worry about everything else later.

It will be interesting as well to see what line combos come out of the Q blender throughout the year. I know some Hawks fans get upset but I find it rather interesting. You have to see what you have and how players click or don’t.

Special teams will be a work in progress both the PP and PK so that will be interesting to see as well in practices. I believe today it was reported that a PP unit of Panarin, Tikhonov, Teravainen, Anisimov and Daley were looked at and this is what makes line mixing and blending fun to see what clicks.

In any event the Blackhawks are back which makes this Hawks fan thrilled. GO HAWKS!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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