Tonight the Blackhawks will take the ice in Sunrise, Florida against a very mediocre Panthers team. Then on Thursday, the Hawks will be in Tampa Bay to take on the Lightning for what should be a good game. Coming into tonight’s game, the Blackhawks should feel pretty confident after the way they handled the Toronto Maple Leafs in their last game on Saturday night.
The Leafs came into that game playing pretty well with a record of of 6-2-0. The Blackhawks came into that game coming off of a loss at home to the St. Louis Blues in a shootout. Needless to say, they weren’t playing very well leading up to Saturday night. However, the Hawks absolutely dominated the Maple Leafs and won by a final of 3-1. The game was not as close as the score might indicate. The Blackhawks controlled to puck almost the entire night and put 40 shots on goal, compared to Toronto’s 20 shots.
I saw a few different very encouraging signs in that game.
- Brandon Pirri looked really good again and scored for the second game in a row, this goal coming on the powerplay. He also added an assist. The more playing time he gets, the better Pirri is looking.
- Michael Kostka had a couple of grade-A scoring chances early on in the game, and finally found the back of the net in the second period for his first career goal. The puck just seemed to be finding him in good spots all night long.
- Corey Crawford was solid again. If anyone was still unsure about him even after he won the Hawks the Cup last season, they should realize now that Crawford is the real deal.
- Bryan Bickell finally recorded his first goal of the season. The Hawks could really benefit from him getting hot. Now, the pressure is on Shaw to get his first goal.
Going back to Pirri, if he can stay consistent on the offensive side and continue to improve his defensive game, he will find himself as the number 2 center on this team. I’ve been saying it all year, and I’m sticking to it. He has the skill to play on that line with Sharp and now Kane, but it’s his defensive game that is holding him back at the moment.
Something concerning that I want to bring up is the amount of ice time that certain players are and are not receiving. Jonathan Toews on Saturday night played 23:08. That was good for third on the team behind Keith and Seabrook. Meanwhile, Bollig (5:27), Nordstrom (7:42), and Pirri (9:37) were all on the ice for less than 10 minutes. Yes, they were the fourth line, but this is the time of year to spread out the minutes. You don’t want your top players like Toews, Kane, Sharp, or Hossa to be logging anymore minutes than they need to be right now, especially coming off of a very short offseason. I noticed Toews, Kane, Hossa, and Sharp all playing full shifts near the end of the game against Toronto with a 3-1 lead. If Quenneville has such little confidence in his lower lines’ ability to hang onto a two goal lead with only a few minutes left, then those guys shouldn’t be on the team. There are going to be players who you limit in close games, but more than once this year the Hawks’ top players have gotten too much ice time. If Brandon Bollig is only worth 5:27 of ice time, then why is he on this team?
Changing subjects, the Blackhawks sent Joakim Nordstrom back to Rockford on Sunday. No one was recalled from the Icehogs. This pretty much ensures that Ben Smith will be in the lineup on a nightly basis from now on barring injury. Nordstrom wasn’t bad while with the Hawks, but he wasn’t doing anything that stood out. Plus, the organization wants him to get more ice time down in Rockford than he would in Chicago. He could very well end up back in the NHL at some point this season.
That’s all for now.