Chicago, IL – “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves” – Viktor Frankl 1
If you look at the Chicago Blackhawks roster, there does not seem to be much change at all in personnel. There appears to be only a couple of changes on the blue line with off season acquisitions of Sheldon Brookbank and Mikhal Rozsival. Upon further examination the team has the same players but oh how they have changed.
Patrick Kane has stated he has something to prove and wants to be “The Guy”. Whatever it is his focus is singular and clearly on the ice. Fueled by trade rumors Kane is out to prove his detractors clearly know nothing of what they speak. We all have seen his skill and talent so it is hard to believe he has another level but he has. While it is early in the season he is playing more consistently and has even more patience with the puck which is good news for his linemates and bad news for the opposition. He currently leads his team with 7 points (2G, 4A) in four games.
Marian Hossa like Kane also has something to prove. Hossa wants to prove to everyone that he has fully recovered from his concussion last year and proving it he is. He is currently leading the team in goals with 5 goals in 4 games. Guess you could say Hossa is back to his old self thankfully. Hossa stayed in Chicago and practiced with some of his team mates due to his recovering from concussion. Hossa is also playing with an edge maybe even a little bit of anger at being knocked out of the playoffs by the dirty Raffi Torres hit.
Dave Bolland is now playing the second line center role which is a different approach to his normal third line center role. Bolland now has an opportunity to concentrate on the offensive part of his game. He also has an upgrade in line mates to the Patricks. Bolland’s hidden offensive talents will now be given an opportunity to shine. He is cashing in on that opportunity with 2G and 1A in four games. With Bolland stepping up offensively this could be a major change with more offensive skill up front like the Hawks were lacking in that department.
Corey Crawford like Kane is showing more focus and definitely has something to prove if you listen to the media after last years first round playoff exit. He recently revealed to the local media he has changed his pre-game routine and it is paying off. He no longer plays pre-game soccer with the boys. He now stays to himself and focuses on his preparation and focus for the game. If Crawford can regain his rookie form this may be the most significant change on the team.
Daniel Carcillo is a changed man and has gone all Zen on us. He revealed to WGN Radio that due to his off season injury he had much time to, if you will look at the man in the mirror and he did not particularly like what he was seeing. Carcillo decided to make a change in how he approaches the game and focus more on hockey and less on being an enforcer. Carcillo was also slated on the top line with Toews and Hossa, unfortunately Carcillo is once again injured but in that first game he played in there was a much more calm Carcillo. Carcillo always had skill he just chose not to highlight that side of his game. Meditation is a wonderful thing that we should all insert in our lives.
Viktor Stalberg, Bryan Bickell, Nik Hjalmarsson, Michael Frolik all spent time in Europe during the NHL lockout in different leagues and the changes and improvements in the games shows. Some of these guys are also in the final years of their contracts which also provides motivation. All of them are much more confident and their hockey IQ is at another level. If all of these guys stay at this other level that will make it much easier for the Hawks to roll four lines and bring overall balance to the team.
Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are not logging as much ice time which is a good thing. These guys will stay fresher down the stretch and if the Hawks make a playoff run this pay immediate dividends. Keith is playing like a man possessed again dare we say back to his Norris Trophy form – so far yes. Maybe Keith also feels he has something to prove and the chip is back on his shoulders.
Brandon Saad as a rookie in the NHL it can be overwhelming but Saad has looked at home on the first line with Toews and Hossa. Saad was ready to fill in after Carcillo went down. He is playing with a steadiness beyond his years. You have no worries that he will make a crucial mistake with the puck because he is so balanced and solid in his skates. He has not tallied the score sheets yet but it is only a matter of time. He wants to prove he belongs with the big boys .
Nick Leddy, Brandon Bollig ,Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger have all had to adapt to the NHL game pace but having spent time in Rockford has kept them in game shape. The biggest adjustment for them is to play on the edge but not over and not take bad penalties. Shaw is being given third line center duties between Stalberg and Bickell which is a huge opportunity for him.
The Blackhawks will lose at some point but with their new-found patience and confidence there is no worry they will bounce back. The roster is the same but the demeanor, attitude and growth of this team is different. The skills have always been there but now the focus is more defined.
The Blackhawks have always had a good team since winning the cup in 2010, but like a butterfly emerging from the cocoon there is a new maturity and confidence this team now exudes. Whether it is that they feel they have something to prove or having their livelihood taken from them temporarily, it is evident these Hawks are ready to fly beautifully onto another level maybe both on and off the ice.
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- Viktor Frankl from Man’s search for meaning