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.




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