Chicago, IL — With a new year we are all compelled to look back at the past year and what we accomplished or what is still on our to do lists.
The Chicago Blackhawks are no different. Last year saw plenty of injuries but also there were career milestones achieved by Marian Hossa reaching 500 career goals and Patrick Kane reaching 700 points. Congrats guys those are truly remarkable numbers.
It saw the Hawks re-sign what has to be the most unexpected and exceptional talents in Artemi Panarin which will keep him sticking around Chicago for a little while longer thankfully.
It saw so far the best year statistically from Artem Anisimov and insane goaltending from both Corey Crawford and Scott Darling.
It also saw for probably the first time in a long time the beginning of so many’s NHL careers in Vinny Hinostroza, Tyler Motte, Ryan Hartman, Gustav Forsling, Michal Kempny, Nick Schmaltz and some how they have all managed to fit in and play their roles without the team skipping a beat.
So here we sit a day before the Winter Classic where the Hawks will take on their divisional rival the St. Louis Blues and they are sitting tops in the West and their division with the Minnesota Wild nipping at their heels with games in hand.
Still considering all they had to overcome and what they have accomplished it is impressive they are 5th in the entire league in points with only Eastern Conference teams ahead of them which is strange to say the least that it appears the tables flipped in 2016 from West to East being the dominant conference.
Now however it is time to look forward and improve as the NHL schedule is hurling towards the second half and that will determine not only who will make the playoff but who opponents will be.
So if I could request a gift from the hockey Gods for the Blackhawks it would be several things as we all can improve. I have a very long list for myself as well.
These are some from my observations and I’m giving them to help if they don’t already know themselves not to cast blame.
If I could give the Hawks anything I would give them wake up juice. Remember from Back to the Future III the saloon scene well here it is.1
I know I am not a morning person myself but the Hawks have to somehow find a way to start on time. It is not a formula for success that can be sustained especially against good teams to always be chasing the game from behind.
When the Hawks play a full 60 minutes they are almost unbeatable. If it means shorter shifts so every one is fresh and ready to go or maybe they do need wake up juice.
The only problem is shorter shifts require more line changes and that is another area that could be improved upon. Need to work on that as well.
There have been several times the Hawks have gotten burned on this or caught on 2 on 1’s. Better decisions for those coming off the ice please. So I would ask for improved line changes.
Both sides of the special teams could use some work. This is a problem the Hawks continually seem to have but I think I will address this in a separate blog at the end of the year to get a full picture as this is still an ongoing work in progress.
The one thing I would desperately like improved is the Hawks in their own zone are a disaster sometimes. They can not get the puck out and are pinned in for too long. The Defensive zone clears need improvement.
Forwards you may need to come back and either help or be better options for outlets. The Hawks are giving up way too many shots against which is putting undue stress on the goalies.
Part also of this is not winning faceoffs in their own zone or in the neutral zone which is an area again the Hawks have struggled with over the years.
Outside of Jonathan Toews the team as a whole needs to get better including the wingers. If you start off losing possession in your own zone then you are running around.
Overall I would say though the Hawks as a team need to improve in their battles along the boards and their positioning in their own zone and not giving away the puck so much in your own zone.
Don’t believe me both their Corsi and Fenwick against is not great. If your going to give up that many shots then you at least need to take more shots than but that really isn’t the issue.
I believe the Hawks are like 23rd in the NHL in shots against per game so need to shore that up and help both the defense and goalies out.
Turning to the offense I’ve not seen enough net front presence and I would suggest all the Hawks practice tips, deflections and batting the puck out of the air around the net more. Sidney Crosby is racking up a career year with just getting to the net and batting pucks.
Also Goalies now are too good you need more deception like using backhanders, snap shots, tips, deflections, wrap-arounds these all take less time to get off and in today’s game speed is paramount not only in skating but in shooting as well.
I believe the Hawks are close to the bottom of the league in all of these types of shots so vary it up and keep the goalies guessing.
Artem Anisimov is so successful because he is becoming a master around the net. More please from everyone. Remember too your opponents study you and your tendencies so mix it up.
Overall though the Chicago Blackhawks have put themselves in an excellent position. Just clean up these things and then the rest of the league needs to look out.
Happy New Year to all go get them in 2017. Here is to starting the New Year off good with a win in the Winter Classic against the Blues. GO HAWKS!
- Back to the Future III – released 1990 through Universal Pictures produced by Neal Canton and Bob Gale, directed by Robert Zemeckis.