The Chicago Blackhawks are the best team in the NHL. Let that sink in. They currently have the best start in the storied history of the team and are working closer to some of the best starts of all-time in the NHL.
This team is impressive. Not only are they the best team in the league but they have won while playing 10 of their first 12 on the road against tough competition. Prior to the start of the year I said this team could be real good depending upon how good the goalies are. So far, Crawford and Emery have been outstanding. Most of the time, they havent needed to be.
The Hawks look dominant. All four lines are producing, the goaltending is solid and the penalty kill has been among the best. Everyone on the team looks faster and quicker than the opponent just about every night. Depth at this point, is not a concern. Hossa, Toews and Sharp all sit with 11 points in 11 games, while Kane leads the team with 18!! Where are all of the “Trade Kaner” people now? Probably taking a dump and reading TMZ cuz they are fucking stupid. The kid looks dominant. He creates every shift and does something amazing each night.
Brandon Saad has stepped up and taken over for Carcillo who got injured earlier than I thought he would. Saad looks special too. He doesnt have the points yet but hes explosive and has great awareness. Q seems to like him on the top line as well. Itd be nice to see him stay there when Carbomb comes back. Send Bollig back down to Rockford and throw Carbomb on the 4th. The D looks good as well and Keith looks back to old Norris form.
The team is firing on all cylinders while playing 80% of their games on the road thus far. Very impressive. When the Hawks play like they have been, its tough for anyone to beat them. They have superior top end scoring, depth scoring and 6 solid D who can play quality minutes. Obviously evening out the minutes on the back end will keep everyone fresh longer and thatll be good for a deep playoff run.
Two tough tests await in the Preds and Ducks, both of whom have been on fire of late. Rinne looks to have straightened out his game and the Ducks always give the Hawks a tough time. No matter how long the unbeaten streak lasts, the rest of the year will be awesome. A deep playoff run awaits. Let’s watch how far they take us.
|2013 Shortened Season – Game 5 (4-0-0)|
|Chicago @ Columbus|
|Nationwide Arena – Columbus, OH|
|1/26/2013 6 P.M. CT|
The Hawks travel to Columbus today to play a terrible Blue Jackets team. The Jackets traded their best player over the summer and the new comers have yet to gel with the rest of the garbage in Columbus. The Jackets have scored 1 goal in the last 2 games and have given up a goal in the opening minutes of a game twice already this year. Chicago should be able to walk in, impose their will on Columbus and walk away with 2 points.
Both of these teams are playing on opposite ends of the spectrum early and this game should favor the Hawks. Columbus doesn’t have much speed and is slow on the back end with the exception of JMFJ. The key to winning this game might be as simple as triple shifting Viktor Stalberg cuz you know he’s gonna go off for about 4 goals tonight. Four should win this game. I kid, I kid but this team sucks.
A 5-0 start to a brutal early schedule leaves me fuzzy inside. Hawks come out flying, bury a couple in the first and then coast to a win.
Prediction: Hawks win 5-2
Let’s Go Hawks!
The Blackhawks started this year on the road and drew the defending Cup Champs. They dismantled them in their own building, on national TV and made it look easy. The game was more or less over after the first period as the Hawks blew the doors open early in the game.
The next task was to beat the team which eliminated them in the Playoffs last year. Once again, the Hawks dismantled the Coyotes in their own building to the tune of 6 goals.
How about the best team in the West last year, the Blues? Hawks home opener, guys are jacked, big game to start the year….measuring stick game if you will. Not to mention it was potentially a 4 pt game. Hey Blues, get the fuck out. Hawks win again 3-2, making the game much closer than it should’ve been and Elliot was a stud in net as well or it couldve been 10-2.
On Thursday, the Hawks beat the Dallas Stars…in overtime. But shit, they had to take 1 game to OT and make it interesting. If you win every game in regulation people may begin to think you are cheating.
All in all the Hawks are rolling. All 4 lines are producing, the Power Play and Penalty Kill are rock solid. The Hawks have scored at least 1 PPG in all 4 games and had 3 on Thursday. The PK was about 10/10 to start the year before they finally gave one up. All of the units are firing and every guy who could’ve been better in the past 2 years has been fantastic. Kaner is rolling and looks sharp, Hossa is on fire, Hammer and Frolik look like they remember how to play hockey, Dunc looks similar to Norris Trophy Dunc and Crawford is on his game as well.
This is best case scenario, especially early in the year with the schedule set up brutally. The Hawks get Columbus later today and its another 4 point game. Another win would be nasty and it should be attainable going against a shitty Blue Jackets Team who were shutout at Colorado on Thrusday. Starting 5-0 with 2 wins against Division opponents would go a long way down the road.
The guys look confident, fast and decisive. They are throwing everything at the net and getting rewarded with big goals and team wins. The mainstream media is already comparing this team to 2010 and there are comparisons to make. Let’s just pump the breaks a bit and watch this team grow as the season unfolds. Its a great start but were only a week in.
Yesterday was about the best possible outcome the Hawks could’ve asked for. After waiting and watching the defending Stanley Cup champs raise the banner, the Hawks stormed out of the gate and used their speed and skill to open the scoring. You’ve probably seen all of the write ups by now so just a few bullets.
- Good to see Kaner, Hossa and Toews get off to a good start
- Kane looks focused, fast and determined – sample size applies
- Toews, sick with the flu, still dominated the faceoff dot and looked great in all other aspects as well
- Keith and Seabs had limited minutes. How much of that is cuz the game was in the bag early?
- Hammer had a good game and looked calmer than last year
- Hossa looked great in his first game action since the Torres incident. 2g, 1a
- The team looked quick, focused and took care of business in a tough road test, another awaits tonight
The Blackhawks enter the 2013 season with a solid roster and one that looks, on paper at least, to be able to make a deep run in the Playoffs. This team has more depth up front and on defense than they did last year and all indications from Hawks camp say Hossa and Toews are back to 100% from their concussions.
The forward lines look even with a good balance of scoring, aggression and playmaking mixed in to the top 3, while the 4th line should be around to punish opponents. If both Hossa and Toews are back and playing up to their potential, they should be able to create on the top line. Bolland will get a good, long look on the second line and should be able to contribute and put up good numbers skating between the 2 Patrick’s. If Bolland doesn’t work out as the 2nd line center, what happens? Does he get shipped out or dropped to the third line role again? Can Stals continue figuring out his game and piling up the numbers? How long will Carbomb be in the lineup?
The Hawks sent Ryan Stanton, Jimmy Hayes and Brandon Pirri back to Rockford yesterday, which means both Brandon Saad and Brandon Bollig are on the opening night roster. Where they fit in is anyones guess, but I wouldn’t mind seeing what Saad can do on the top line with 19 and 81.
On defense, the Hawks finally have some depth. The short season should keep Keith and Seabs relatively fresh and the depth on the back end should limit their minutes. The play of Hjalmarsson and Leddy will be interesting to watch. If Leddy can continue progressing, he may find himself in the top 4 d pairings while Hammer slides down (or out). The organization is high on Ryan Stanton, Dylan Olsen and Adam Clendenning, the latter who just made the AHL All Star Game in his first season. Keith and Seabs need to be more consistent night in and night out but shouldn’t have to carry this group like they did last year. If the group as a whole can be more consistent, keep guys to the outside and step in front of a few more pucks it should help the goaltending situation.
The biggest question on this Blackhawks team is once again the goaltending. Crawford has been inconsistent at best and Emery is not the answer as a #1 goalie. The Hawks are failed to record a shutout last year and were terrible in 5 on 5 play, mostly because they relied too heavily on the forwards to score goals and the backchecking was lacking. Not all of the blame can be put on the goalies but they obviously have to be better. A combined .901 save % last year was one of the worst in the NHL. The only reason the Hawks were one of the best teams in the league with such uh…inconsistent goaltending is because they can score. This team will go as far as Crawford can carry them as scoring goals will not be a problem. There has to be more of a commitment to team defense – backchecking, keeping guys wide and jumping in front of shots. If the Hawks jump out of the gate hot and Crawford can get some confidence, that could go a long way. If he struggles early look for the Hawks to make a move.
Coach Q finally has all of “his” guys in place as Haviland is gone replaced with Mike Kitchen and Jamie Kompon. These guys know each other well and worked together in St. Louis. Will this be the year the Power Play and Penalty Kill kicks in and contributes or will it continue to be a cluster or dicks?
The short season is going to make for some great hockey. Teams will probably play a more tight, defensive game because every game matters so the games will look more like Playoff games most of the year. The Hawks schedule is brutal and they open tomorrow against the defending Cup champs. It’ll be a great test and a good measuring stick for where the Hawks stand cuz the Kings should be able to put the puck in the net this year. The Kings raise the Cup banner and also get their rings tomorrow.
Hockey is finally back and I can’t wait.
Bold Season Prediction: 27 wins, 16 losses, 5 OTL, 59 points in 48 games. 2nd in the West and 1st in the Central.
Starter – Corey Crawford
Backup – Ray Emery
Corey Crawford has shown he has what it takes to be a solid goaltender at the NHL level. He performed great in his first Playoff action in Vancouver a few years ago but then slumped badly last year. His save percentage fell and his goals against average went up. He lost confidence in himself and both the team and coaching staff lost confidence in him as well. In saying that, Crawford has played in 57 games the past 2 years and is the first Hawks goalie since Belfour to post back to back 30 win seasons. Crawford needs to be a rock this year or itll be his last in Chicago. 2012 stats: 57g, 30 wins, 17 losses, 0 shutouts, 2.72 gaa, .903 save%. (2013 Bold Prediction: 33g, 21 wins, 9 losses, 1 shutout, 2.5 GAA, .908 save%)
Ray Emery still has the ability to be a capable backup in the NHL. At times last year he looked great and other times, he looked like a backup goalie.The coaching staff even annointed him the #1 goalie halfway through the year because Crawford was slumping. Emery doesn’t have the endurance or athleticism to be a starter anymore and if the Hawks have to rely on him for more than a backup role, forget about a run in the Playoffs. Emery should only be used to spell Crawford in order to keep Corey fresh all year. 2012 stats: 34 games, 15 wins, 9 losses, 2.81 GAA, .900 save% (2013 Bold Prediction: 15 games, 9 wins, 4 losses, 2.75 GAA, .902 save%)
Line 1 – Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook
Line 2 – Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmersson
Line 3 – Nick Leddy and Sheldon Brookbank
Extras – Ryan Stanton, Michael Roszival, Steve Montadoar
Duncan Keith had a solid year last year but still didn’t live up to many Blackhawk fan’s expectations. At times last year he looked like the Norris Trophy winning defenseman blocking shots, making great outlet passes, ripping shots from the point and playing great angles. Other times Keith seemed impatient at both ends of the ice firing breakout passes into teammates shin pads or taking contested shots from the point into oncoming defenders. Dunc doesn’t need to revert back to form in order for this team to excel but being more consistent would be a great start. He’s a reliable defender who plays all the time, more than 30 minutes a game last year, and decreasing his minutes should be a priority for Q and staff. Less minutes should mean a healthier, steadier Keith. 2012 stats: 4g, 36a, 40pts in 74 games. (2013 Bold Prediction: 4g, 25a, 29pts in 46 games)
Brent Seabrook has emerged as one of the best defenseman in the NHL. He has a cannon of a shot, uses his body, is intimidating and is on the ice nearly as much as Keith. Seabs might be the best defenseman on the team at this point. If he continues to improve as he has the past 3 years, he could be a Norris finalist himself. (He probably won’t have enough points to contend but the Norris is about defense, not offense). 2012 stats: 9g, 25a, 34pts in 78 games. (2013 Bold Prediction: 2g, 17a, 19pts in 47 games)
Johnny Oduya played great during the last half of the regular season and seemed to be the piece the Hawks back end had been missing since the Cup run. He was steady in his own end, quick, knew what to do with the puck and always put the puck on the tape during breakouts. Then, in the Playoffs, Oduya turned into a nightmare. He looked rattled, like the big stage finally got to him. He was uneasy, left pucks at wingers feet, and generally didn’t look comfortable in the defensive end. The Hawks need him to be the same guy he was at the end of last year prior to the Playoffs. Possible tradebait. 2012 stats: 3g, 15a, 18pts in 81 games. (2013 Bold Prediction: 1g, 10a, 11pts in 45 games)
Niklas Hjalmarsson has been feeling the heat in Chicago for a few years now. During the Cup run he was solid, blocking shots, playing great angles and comfortable on the back end. Since then he doesn’t look like he fits. His shots never seem to make it to the net and he sends pucks up the boards blindly too often. He needs to be steady and calm as well or he could be shipped out early. 2012 stats: 1g, 14a, 15pts in 69 games. (2013 Bold Prediction: 1g, 10a, 15pts in 45 games)
Nick Leddy had a solid year last year and should continue to build on his success. He set a career high in assists and points and looks like he could take major strides and become a top 4 defender soon. He has good speed, vision and awareness though he tends to get rid of the puck too quickly in his own end at times. Another year learning, especially with a couple of veteran defenseman helping him along, could be just what he needs. 2012 stats: 3g, 34a, 37pts in 82 games. (2013 Bold Prediction: 1g, 20a, 21pts in 48 games)
Sheldon Brookbank is a new addition to the Hawks blue line as he was picked up in the offseason. Brookbank is a big body and a steady 6th dman. Brookbank loves to use his big body for either mashing dudes or blocking shots. Thus, he should play heavy minutes on the PK this year. 2012 stats: 3g, 11a, 14pts in 80 games. (2013 Bold Prediction: 1g, 5a, 6pts in 48 games)
Ryan Stanton is waiting in the wings and should get a decent look this year. He is about ready to make the jump to the NHL either with the Hawks or another team should they look to move him. He has spent 4 years in the AHL.
Michael Roszival is another new addition to the roster, recently acquired from Phoenix. He is a veteran presence and should calm the back end. He is nearing the end of his career and isn’t as fast as the Hawks would like their dmen to be. He will probably get a few games but nothing major.
Steve Montador might be done playing hockey as he is still not cleared to play after sustaining several concussions last year. Speedy recovery Monty.
Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)
Line 1 – Dan Carcillo and Marian Hossa
Line 2 – Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp
Line 3 – Bryan Bickell and Viktor Stalberg
Line 4 – Brandon Bollig and Michael Frolik
Extras – Brandon Saad, Jimmy Hayes
The Blackhawks have arguably two of the best lines in hockey with 5 of the 6 guys already achieving more in their careers than most will. Depth scoring and physical play will be they key for the bottom 4 wingers again this year. On paper, the Hawks have enough up front to make a deep playoff run but will the guys play as they are capable or continue with their mediocre play from the last 2 years?
Dan Carcillo is coming off a shortened season due to an injury he sustained while making an illegal check to an Edmonton Oilers player early in the 2012 season. Carbomb plays a mostly controlled yet reckless game, throwing his body at anything that moves and creating havoc all over the ice. At times it works fine because it opens up lanes for Toews and Hossa while the other teams duck out of the way of the flying Carbomb. He is aggressive, physical and talented. Putting all of that together in one shift and repeating is a problem though. Carcillo tends to have a good shift or two where he is all over the ice doing exactly what he’s supposed to be doing and then follows it up with a dumb penalty. He needs to control his emotions and minimize the penalties. If he can do that, he should be a productive fit on one of the Hawks top lines. Prior to getting injured last year he had 9 assists and was a plus 10 in 28 games. 2012 stats: 2g, 9a, 11pts in 28 games. (2013 Bold Prediction: 10g, 10a, 20pts in 38 games)
Marian Hossa had another Hossa year averaging just under a point per game with 77 points in 81 games. He’s a beast with the puck on his stick, fends off defenders like they are children, has a precision shot, creates opportunities every time he is on the ice and is a team player. One issue arises though…is he fully recovered from the vicious, illegal check he sustained from Torres in the Playoffs? Hossa was concussed and though he’s had a long time to recover, is he 100% yet? Hossa is the wildcard this year. If he is 100%, he should provide enough offense to propel the Hawks to the top of the Conference. If not, the Hawks will struggle. It seems as Hossa goes, so do the Hawks. 2012 stats: 29g, 48a, 77pts in 81 games. (2013 Bold Prediction: 15g, 20a, 35pts in 45 games)
Patrick Kane had the worst year of his career last year. During the year trade talks were rampant, rumors flew (and not just trade rumors) and Kane looked out of his element. He brought it all on himself and the organization called him out on it. He knows what he did wrong and vowed to take corrective actions. During the lockout Kane signed a contract to play in Switzerland. While overseas, Kane dazzled with great shootout goals, game winners and looked to be back in old form. Last year Kane didn’t seem to shoot enough early on, always looking to pass, and it hurt his game. Towards the end of the year he began shooting more but the shots were not high quality in the slot type shots, more toward the outside. He ended up with the worst shooting percentage of his career at a mere 9.1%. In saying that he still reached the 20 goal mark for the 5th consecutive year. Look for Kane to have a big year. 2012 stats: 23g, 43a, 66pts in 82 games. (2013 Bold Prediction: 20g, 30a, 50pts in 48 games)
Patrick Sharp was again the “sharp shooter” (ha) for the Hawks last year posting yet another 30 goal year – his second consecutive and 6th consecutive with at least 20. Sharp has been as steady as any Blackhawk over the past 3 years. He’s a sniper, can dish, plays the body when he needs and is a great leader. There’s a reason the man wears the “A” on his sweater. He plays consistent night in and night out, works on both the PK and PP and is generally an ice time leader. If Sharpie can play the way he has the past three years, it should keep the Hawks amongst the elite. 2012 stats: 33g, 36a, 69pts in 74 games. (2013 Bold Prediction: 25g, 20a, 45pts in 48 games)
Bryan Bickell is a guy who could add great depth to the Hawks lineup if he can play up to his size – 6’4 233lbs – and potential. He had a solid rookie campaign with 17 goals and then slumped in his sophomore season. Bickell needs to use his size to take the body when the puck gets in deep and then set up in front of the net similar to what Byfuglien did. Bickell has that sneaky quick wrist shot which he usually lets go from about the top of the circle. Though he doesn’t get it off quickly, it tends to catch goalies off guard. Get in a bit closer and let those go! 2012 stats: 9g, 15a, 24pts in 71 games. (2013 Bold Prediction: 7g, 9a, 16pts in 47 games)
Viktor Stalberg had a breakout season last year. He demonstrated good awareness, quickness and a solid shot to go along with his blazing speed. Stals found himself playing a bigger role on the team and even got some Power Play time. Early indications are that he will get more PP time this year, at least to start. His speed is his biggest asset and it looked like he started to figure it all out last year. At times he would almost be going to fast to get a good shot or would fly past the puck completely but that looked to diminish later in the season. He will most likely start on the 3rd line but could get a shot at the first line if the Carbomb experiment doesn’t work out. He could also be potential trade bait. 2012 stats: 22g, 21a, 43pts in 79 games. (2013 Bold Prediction: 12g, 12a, 24pts in 48 games)
Brandon Bollig will get another shot at the big club this year. He got a call up towards the end of last year when the Hawks shipped John Scott out of town. Bollig is like John Scott except he can skate – so not like John Scott at all. He’s a big body, mostly in the lineup to keep the other team in check and make sure nobody fucks around with the stars. His role will be to dump, chase and crash the boards. Tough guy. 2012 stats: 0g, 0a, 0pts in 18 games. (2013 Bold Prediction: 1g, 2a, 3pts in 35 games)
Michael Frolik has yet to live up to his billing as the 10th overall selection in the 2006 draft. He has the ability to be a 20 goal scorer but has yet to show the ability with the Hawks. Fro is usually in the right place and is quick to the puck but he seems snake bitten the last few years. Last year he only had 5 goals on 117 shots and 11 on 251 shots the year prior. That….is not good shooting. The Hawks will need him to start burying some of those open looks or this could be his last chance in an Indian Head uniform. 2012 stats: 5g, 10a, 15pts in 63 games. (2013 Bold Prediction: 3g, 7a, 10pts in 40 games)
Brandon Saad has been pegged by the organization to be a great one who just needs a little more time finding his game. He’s been developing it in Rockford the past few months and even earned AHL Player of the Week honors last week. Saad has size, hands and speed and has shown the ability to put up points in Juniors and the AHL. He is getting a good hard look by Q and staff now. I think Saad starts the year in Rockford but shows enough to be called up later. 2012 stats: 0g, 0a, 0pts in 2 games. (2013 Bold Prediction: 2g, 2a, 4pts in 10 games)
Jimmy Hayes got the call up last year and had a great start to his NHL career. He fizzled down the stretch but should have showed enough to be on the club again this year. He is kind of a cross between Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell in that he is a monster of a man at 6’6, 221lbs, uses his body well and can skate. His size in front could be a huge help to what was a horrible Power Play last year. I look for Hayes and Bollig to split some time this year. He probably won’t ever be much of a goal scorer but will be useful as a bottom 6 forward which is exactly what the Hawks need. 2012 stats: 5g, 4a, 9pts in 31 games. (2013 Bold Prediction: 3g, 4a, 7pts in 25 games)
Rating: 3 (out of 5)
Line 1 – Jonathan Toews
Line 2 (for now) – Dave Bolland
Line 3 – Marcus Kruger
Line 4 – Jamal Mayers
(Line 3 Audition) – Andrew Shaw
The Blackhawks have one of the best centers in the league and one of the best 2 way centers in the league. Why only a 3 out of 5 rating you ask? Aside from Toews, do you trust any of the other guys to do anything? We are a less than a week away from games and Kruger has yet to practice with the team because he is sick. Jonathan Toews was on pace for about a point per game last year, wins faceoffs, is a rock at both ends of the ice and is the Captain. Is he fully recovered from the concussion he suffered last year? If so, I think he puts up similar numbers again this year, stays dominant at both ends and is in talks for MVP at years end. 2012 stats: 29g, 28a, 57pts in 59 games. (2013 Bold Prediction: 22g, 23a, 45pts in 45 games)
Dave Bolland is expected to take over the #2 center role, a role he can play but hasn’t played in years. He is typically a lock down #3 center taking away the oppositions #1 center. Bolland has been as dependable a guy you can have playing the 3rd line roll. Can he pick it up and pour in some points playing on the 2nd line? He’s going to need to and he should get plenty of help playing the middle of Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp. Bolland certainly has the skill to be a productive scorer but hes going to need to play better than he did last year when he only had 37 points in 76 games. Look for Bolland to have a solid year skating between 2 top 4 wingers2012 stats: 19g, 18a, 37pts in 76 games. (2013 Bold Prediction: 12g, 23a, 35pts in 40 games)
Marcus Kruger is another wildcard in the lineup. The organization seems set on him but hes going to get moved from a potential 2nd line center to at least the 3rd line. He is dependable in both zones and can win some faceoffs but he’s still small and can’t score. At times last year the spotlight seemed to be too big for him (not cuz he’s a wee little man) and he appeared lost. He had 0 points and was a -4 in last years Playoffs and was lost down the stretch run as well. He needs to pick it up or he might lose his roster spot. 2012 stats: 9g, 17a, 26pts in 71 games. (2013 Bold Prediction: 4g, 10a, 14pts in 40 games)
Jamal Mayers is a perfect fit on the 4th line. He is a bruiser who can score if he gets an open look. He will create havoc in front of the net and can win faceoffs (over 50% last year). He is trustworthy, has seen everything an NHL player can see and could work on the PK if needed. 2012 stats: 6g, 9a, 15pts in 81 games. (2013 Bold Prediction: 2g, 6a, 8pts in 47 games)
Andrew Shaw has been getting a good, hard look at the 3rd line center spot. Coach Q has said they will test Shaw there and see how he responds. Shaw seems like more of a winger to me because he is a bigger body, likes to park in front of the net and will scrap if you need him to. If he can win some faceoffs and continue to be a pest in the middle it will be beneficial. He emerged last year and had a breakout start to his career, instantly becoming a fan favorite and media darling. He will need to do the same this year for the Hawks to get deep in the Playoffs. I think Shaw ultimately gets a legit shot at center but isn’t the piece the Hawks are looking for and moves back to wing. 2012 stats: 12g, 11a, 23pts in 31 games. (2013 Bold Prediction: 9g, 10a, 19pts in 45 games)
Three years ago, the Blackhawks put together a remarkable season with plenty of highlights, fan excitement and energy and then capped it off with the Holy Grail of hockey – The Stanley Cup.
Two solid, yet disappointing campaigns later, the Hawks sit with a vastly different team than the one that won the Cup but the core is still intact. The guys making up the current team are still young, but more experienced and a blast to watch. Highlight reel plays occur on a nightly basis and being able to watch six of the most talented NHL hockey players 3-4 times a week is something we take for granted now but won’t in the future. We will look back upon these years and remember Kane’s spin-o-rama pass to Hossa for a tap in goal, Keith taking a slapper to the teeth and Toews lifting the Conn Smythe but being so surprised by the award he had to be pushed over to get the real trophy, Lord Stanley, from Bettman.
These are the things that keep me coming back, keep me undoubtedly invested in this group of Blackhawks. The unselfishness, the team unity, how the guys genuinely like each other and will fight to the end for one another. How the superstars can do something night in and night out that you’ve never seen before.
I remember back to the early and mid 90′s when the Blackhawks were loaded with talent much like they are now. Me and my friends could name every guy on the team, every stat for every player, tell you who they played in 3 weeks and give the Foley goal call from the one Roenick scored the night prior. We went so far as to paint our street hockey goalie masks the same as Belfour’s. We were obsessed, invested.
One particular year, a Chicago paper – maybe the Trib or Sun Times, I don’t recall – began printing different full page player profiles each day in the paper during the Playoffs. This was the first year they did this and of course we cut out each one and put them on our walls. My parents still have the cutouts of Tony Amonte, Eric Daze, Belfour and Eric Weinrich among others hanging in the basement. Obsessed.
The problem with the 90′s teams is they had so much talent and fell short year after year. There was always so much build up and promise only to fall short. Whether it was the Super Mario/Jagr led Pens or the Yzerman/Fedorov Wings, something was always getting in the way of a great celebration in Chicago. Some of the other teams had Sergei Krivokrasov or Alexi Zhamnov or Tyler Arnason and no offense to those teams, but they didn’t have a shot. You know the teams which could take it all early, before the year starts most times. From 2009 right up to today, these guys have a shot.
Not much has changed with us since our street hockey days. Sure, we have families and are older but we are still invested in the team. We’ve traded our painted goalie masks for Adult size jerseys of our favorite players and turned our newspaper cutouts into a blogging hobby.
Although players, coaches, GM’s and owners change, the love for the Blackhawks is still there. There were times when the Blackhawks and organization as a whole were just a shell of their former selves. They had players we liked and watched but we just weren’t as excited and obsessed as we used to be. These things happen and organizations go through transition. The Hawks have been through the worst, rose up to the peak and are now fighting to keep their place in the elite of the NHL.
The window for this great team and these great bunch of guys is slowly closing just as it did for Amonte, Chelios, Roenick, Larmer and Belfour. This group of guys brings me back to those days when listening to Foley on the radio was the highlight of the day. Unlike the Roenick, Eddie and Amonte Blackhawks, this group hoisted the Cup and knows what it takes to get back there, to feel that again. The only thing we can do is watch this group of guys, marvel in what they do everyday and hope they have enough in the tank to start another historic celebration in Chicago. Just like the 90′s teams, these guys are good enough. Will anyone get in the way of our celebration this year?