Friday night the Blackhawks earned a big two points with a shootout victory over the Edmonton Oilers in a game that turned out to be much closer than anticipated. The Oilers gave the Hawks all they could seemingly handle, but were never able to get a two-goal lead in the game. The Blackhawks ended up tying it late in the third before Antoine Vermette scored the shootout winner giving the Hawks a 2-1 victory.
It’s been two games now since the trade deadline has passed, and we have gotten a good look at the Blackhawks’ acquisitions in those games. Here’s what I have noticed from them, and the team, over the last two games.
- Tuesday against the Hurricanes was the Blackhawks debut for both Kimmo Timonen and Antoine Vermette. Each player looked a bit lost out there at times, which was to be expected, but the Hawks as a team looked excellent. All four lines played great. You could tell the team was energized by the trades Bowman made.
- Friday night, in a much faster paced game than against the Hurricanes, Kimmo Timonen was noticeably struggling to keep up. I’m not too concerned with it. The guy hasn’t played in a year, and he’s almost 40 years old. Give him a few more games to get back into the swing of things before really making any judgments about him.
- Antoine Vermette was one of the best players on the ice against Edmonton. He had easily 2-3 great scoring chances, but couldn’t find the net on any of them. He also set up his linemates for great chances a few times, but no one converted on those either. In the shootout, Vermette scored the game winning goal after misses from both Toews and Sharp. That had to be a huge moment for him. These are positive indications, and ones that hopefully continue.
- Corey Crawford has bounced back very well after being pulled against the Bruins a couple weeks back. He made a career high 46 saves against the Oilers on a career high 47 shots against. Pretty impressive.
- All four lines of the Blackhawks looked really good against Carolina on Tuesday. Against the Oilers, however, the Hawks didn’t get as much production from top to bottom. Andrew Shaw definitely makes the fourth line better now that he’s on the wing there, but I think Teravainen needs to be playing every night to really give the Hawks an advantage depth-wise over most other teams. He was scratched against the Oilers, and his vacancy on the ice was noticeable.
- Speaking of Teravainen, it looks like he’ll be playing tomorrow night against the Rangers on the second line, as well as on the second powerplay unit.
- In practice today, Patrick Sharp was skating with Richards and Carcillo on the third line. I have two problems with this. First of all, Carcillo looks like he might be playing tomorrow night in place of Bryan Bickell. Bickell has been underperforming, but I don’t think he should sit so that Carcillo can play. Car Bomb is not good. Secondly, I would move Sharp to the top line with Toews and Hossa to try and get him going offensively. He always seems to do well with 19 and 81, and the Hawks could really afford for his production to pick up.
With the win over Edmonton, the Hawks now find themselves just 2 points behind the Blues, who have a game in hand, and 6 points behind the Predators, who have lost 5 straight. The Hawks have a game in hand on Nashville. The Blackhawks also have Minnesota breathing down their neck now. The Wild have won 5 straight games and sit just 4 points behind the Hawks.
With about a month left to the regular season, a lot can still happen. Nashville’s once comfortable lead in the division is now not so comfortable, and the Hawks are now not that far off from being in a Wild Car position. Every game from here on out is a big one because you can expect the other top teams in the Central to win almost every night.
The Blackhawks need to ramp up their level of intensity starting Sunday against New York if they want to keep pace with the rest of their division.