Chicago, IL – So we start anew, fresh and with a clean slate as does twenty nine other teams what this is an opportunity to once again show what you’re made of and who really is the best. Before a prize can be claimed or bragging rights earned the regular season road begins the journey and for the Chicago Blackhawks the road starts in Dallas, TX against a much improved opponent and one that is typical of the loaded Western Conference.
The boys have all been here before and they and the coaches all know what they need to do and ride they will embark on. As for fans we’re there along for the ride as well.
The Hawks have changed a bit themselves with the departure of Nick Leddy on the blue line and the addition of Brad Richards up front. There are also some new fresh young faces along with some very familiar ones.
I can’t think of any other team that is better than this one as far as the top six forwards. What wins championships however, is the bottom six forwards and how much better they are than the other teams in the league especially in the playoffs. The Hawks are pretty good there too. On paper their forwards should be able to keep up with anyone.
With the addition of Richards it has allow coach Quenneville the luxury of putting in the lines in the blender even more and that is always a good thing. There already has been a change to start one out of coach Q tinkering and one out of necessity.
Andrew Shaw is re-united with his playoff buddies, Brandon Saad and Patrick Kane and will be centering these beauties. That line was every bit the answer to the LA Kings that 70’s line of Pearson- Carter and Tofoli. Brad Richards is now centering Bryan Bickell and Ben Smith who is filling in for an injured Kris Versteeg. Whether it is Smith or Versteeg, Richards on this line provides the play making set up man and balances the play making. We all know who on the second line will be play making.
The first line needs no introduction, but for those that don’t know it will Sharp – Toews and Hossa, need I say any more.
The fourth line will be interesting with Kruger centering what looks to be a rotation on Jeremy Morin, Ben Smith, Daniel Carcillo and possible another winger. The Hawks will only be as strong as this line is. They don’t necessarily need to score just eat minutes and don’t make huge mistakes, if you score that is great but really not needed.
There is distributed scoring but there are a couple of things to note. The face off of this team needs to improve outside of Toews who was the only natural center with over a 50% FOW. There is no question in the playoffs against the Kings this hurt the Hawks. Practice now boys you got plenty of time to get this down.
The two way play of the forwards could improve. This is a long season help out your defenseman and your goalie there are more of you then them and if you need to see how it is done just look for that first line especially young forwards like Jeremy Morin or if any forwards are brought up either before the end of the year or before the playoffs. Speaking of which do not be surprised if we eventually see Teuvo Teravainen or possibly Phillip Danault or Dennis Rasmussen filter in the Hawks line-ups. Teravainen and Danault were pretty good at face-offs so for that reason alone, you never know. The stay maybe permanent or temporary, whatever it is take advantage boys.
I would hope the Hawks would utilize the youth both on the team and in Rockford. What helped the Kings was the addition of the youngsters Tanner Pearson and Tyler Tofoli. The key is they need regular season action to get them ready. Remember to the hockey played in the regular season is not what it is in the playoffs good time to learn and make mistakes and in the process it keeps veterans legs fresh.
The defense last year had problems especially down the stretch hopefully with the arrival of fresh legs with David Rundblad, Kyle Cumisky and the real surprise the youngster Trevor Van Riemsdyk. There will be a rotation of the defenseman again regular season is the time to get the pairs comfortable with each other and will keep the top four fresh.
Last year in the playoffs the defense could not clear out the front of their net and just flat out looked tired hopefully with more legs this should address this problem early. Get those sticks activated and those bodies ready for blocks and hits in the corners.
The offence of the Hawks blue liners is not a concern Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook have numbers that some forwards would desire.
Last year the penalty kill never really got established until the playoffs and could struggle this year as well with all the increased firepower and snipers in the west. Right off the bat it will be good to establish a stingy PK.
The power play you never know what your going to get except the zone entries still need work and don’t over think shoot and get to the net and move and the pp should be ok with the addition on Brad Richards the Hawks now have two solid units. Personally I’m partial to the second unit or as I call it the beefed up power play.
In practice unit 1 has been Toews, Kane, Shaw with Sharp and Keith on the points. Unit 2 has Bickell, Saad, Hossa with Richards and Seabrook on the points like I said that’s a lot of beefcake on the second unit which is a much different look that the light, speedy first one just think of the different rides you get between a 1967 Pontiac GTA and a 2012 Lamborghini Adventador, love the different looks. And these will be tweeked if the power play hits a dry patch.
A couple of lessons learned from last year
Do better against your own division, you don’t need to necessarily win the division but you certainly don’t want to be scratching and clawing for a playoff spot at the end of the year.
Don’t give up last minute in the period or game goals they are back breakers and demoralize the team and take the wind out of the crowd as well.
Become closers. Part of the problem last year was that the Hawks got leads and could not close out the competition. Do this in the regular season and it will be second nature in the playoffs.
Be fluid. The team the Kings were in the playoffs was nothing like how they were in the regular season.
The Hawks have said they are angry that they let that game get away from them last year and let the Kings take away their chance to repeat as Stanley Cup champions and are using it as motivation. Well you have the opportunity now to return the favor.
This one Patrick Sharp can appreciate, “The best revenge is to live on and prove yourself.” – Eddie Vedder
To that I’ll add – now go and reclaim what is yours.
Video taken from youtube created by 12CMags on 8/2014