Three games are already in the books for the Hawks as they find themselves sitting at 2-0-1. Even after just three games, there are already some things sticking out at me about this team, both good and bad. Starting the year with three straight games without a regulation loss is obviously a good thing, but the Hawks play in the NHL’s toughest division and will need to continue earning points on nearly a nightly basis. With that, here’s what I’ve noticed through three games:
- First of all, don’t get too upset over the loss to the Flames in OT the other night. The Hawks outshot Calgary 50-18 and dominated the game from start to finish. This was one of those fluke occurrences much like we saw two years ago between these same two teams in Calgary. Only that time, it was Ray Emery and the Blackhawks stealing the victory and not Jonas Hiller and the Flames.
- The third line needs to wake up. The coaching staff moved Brad Richards from the second line to the third line shortly before the season began, and it has not worked out very well thus far to say the least. That line of Bickell, Richards and Smith has done very little in terms of generating momentum and scoring chances.
- Speaking of Richards, he has been pretty awful through three games. He looks slow, he’s made a few horrible turnovers at the blue line on the powerplay, and he isn’t doing anything to make his line better. The best he’s looked so far has been on the back-check after turning the puck over. Not the kinds of things we were hoping to see from him. Hopefully he just needs a few games to finally get it going.
- Special teams. The Hawks have been decent on the penalty kill, having killed 10 of the 11 penalties they’ve taken. It’s the powerplay that has not done much to impress. The Blackhawks are 3 for 16 with the man advantage, which may not look so bad on paper, but the fact that they were just 1 for 7 the other night against Calgary is not good. Had they converted just one more time in that game, they would have won. They need to quit trying to make the extra, cute passes and just shoot the damn thing. It’s that simple.
- Why is Jeremy Morin still not getting playing time? He played a team low 5:48 against the Flames, one of the worst teams in the league. While guys like Carcillo have been playing pretty well here early on, there’s still no excuse to give Morin less than 6 minutes of ice time. Quenneville needs to get this idea out of his head that Morin is more of a liability than anything else. The guy goes 110% every time he’s on the ice, which creates scoring chances and momentum. Plus, if Q would give Morin the chance to prove he deserves more minutes (instead of providing Carcillo with ample opportunities), he’d probably show that he does deserve more ice time.
Okay now the positive stuff.
- Corey Crawford continues to look great in net. Sure he only saw 18 shots against the Flames and still lost, but you can’t really pin either of those goals on him. The first was a crazy deflection that no one could have stopped, and the second was just a great wrist shot that beat him. He has made big save after big save so far, including multiple saves on breakaways.
- The Saad-Shaw-Kane line has been unstoppable the past two games. There’s not much more to say about them than that. The chemistry that this line is showing will make it tough for Quenneville and the coaching staff to break them up, meaning Brad Richards might get demoted to the fourth line before he gets promoted to the second line where we all thought he’d be… Shows you how much us fans know.
- Trevor van Riemsdyk looks to have solidified a spot on the team after the Hawks sent Kyle Cumiskey down to Rockford yesterday. When Rozsival comes back from injury, the d-pairings should look something like Keith-Seabrook, Hjalmarsson-Oduya, and Rozsival-van Riemsdyk with David Rundblad as the seventh defenseman (if it were up to me, I’d have sent him down instead of Cumiskey). TVR has shown a lot of poise, confidence, and awareness through his first three games as a pro. If he continues to improve, the Hawks may have hit the lottery with this kid.
- Another decent surprise so far has been Dan Carcillo. I’ll be the first to admit that I did not agree with the Hawks when they signed him right before the season started. Now, it’s starting to like like somewhat of a decent move. Carcillo looks like a completely different player than the one who left town after the 2013 Stanley Cup parade. He’s added some physicality and skill (something Brandon Bollig didn’t have) to the fourth line this year, which has made that line quite effective up to this point. When Kris Versteeg comes back, the Hawks will most likely rotate Carcillo and Morin in and out of the lineup of the fourth line. Already I’m noticing more depth on this team than last year’s team, and we all know depth is a huge factor in winning the Cup.
Coming up, the Blackhawks host the Predators and Flyers before heading to Nashville and St. Louis. They really need to get two points in each of these last two home games to keep themselves in a good spot in the Central.