Let’s have fun with small sample sizes, yeah?
- Through two games, the Blackhawks have yet to surrender a 5-on-5 goal.
- Through two games, the Blackhawks have surrendered 6 power play goals.
- Through two games, Ryan Hartman, Dick Panik, Marcus Kruger and Niklas Hjalmarsson have scored goals.
- Through two games, Patrick Kane, Artermi Panarin, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa have yet to score.
And through two games, the Blackhawks are 0-2.
In the preseason, I mentioned the two most encouraging developments for the Hawks were that their team speed was much improved and their defense was significantly better than the one that finished last season.
Tonight, both improvements were on display. Last season, matchups against the Predators (particularly later in the season) got pear-shaped in a hurry because the Hawks were often unable to keep up with the Preds pace. Tonight, the only time Nashville could really crank through the neutral zone was when they had the man advantage.
While the Hawks are much faster, it still looks like a team that hasn’t spent that much time together. That sort of thing happens when 10 players spend the majority of training camp participating in an imaginary tournament. Several times the Hawks misfired on passes or plays because they were expecting a guy to be somewhere and they were either a step too quick or a step too late.
If the Hawks coaching staff is patient, you’d like to think it will get sorted out.
Defensively, they look like they may be the deepest unit in the league. For all the justifiable hype about the Predators defense, they are still only 4 defensemen deep. Even with Jordin Tootoo knocking out Anthony Bitetto, he only played 4 minutes halfway through the game. Matt Carle only played just under 13 minutes. Their top 4 all played well over 20 minutes.
The Hawks were able to play all six defensemen at least 15 minutes. Only Kempny was under water in possession and he hardly offended the hockey sensibilities based on the eye test.
So that’s all the positive.
As for the negative, well, you know. The Hawks penalty kill looks quite meh to start the season. Three goals tonight came from shots from the point. The first one, you probably just tip your cap to Nashville and Subban.
Nashville’s second goal came as a result when the Hawks had a few opportunities to clear the puck and didn’t. Tyler Motte’s half-hearted backhand sticks out as the main culprit.
Then on the third, the Hawks could have done a much better job closing down the shooting lanes as they had just seen Nashville score two goals from the exact same spot. Yet there it was and there it went behind Corey Crawford.
Six penalties is also way too many for the Hawks to be taking. Part of it seems to be the officials calling the game much closer in the early part of the season. The other part seems to be bad penalties. Cleaning that up will go a long way towards the fixing the first part.
Prior to the third, the Hawks had a hard time finding any kind of sustained pressure. The third was their best of the season thus far and is hopefully a sign of things to come (Assuming the Hawks and their staff remain patient). Nick Schmaltz had his best period and seemed to gain a lot of confidence as the game wore on.
Hinostroza also started to play the type of game he needs to have success. What I mean by that is he can slip through the cracks and create passing lanes in tight scoring areas where other players simply cannot. Lo and behold, he had two of the Hawks best chances in the third. Pekka Rinne was the only difference.
Other things to note:
–The Hawks have added a new wrinkle to their breakout and the early returns are quite good. We’re all familiar with their stretch play they’ve used since 2009. The new wrinkle this year is a player streaking from behind the play so when they complete the stretch pass, it’s a simple redirection to the guy flying through the neutral zone. This forces a decision by the defense to either step up on the play and therefore leaving the potential for an odd man rush. Or they have to back off allowing an easy zone entry for the Hawks.
This will start leading to goals. Book it.
–There goes Ryan Hartman for a little bit.
–Dick Panik cannot be that invisible if he wants to stay on the top 9. I’ve always thought he’s sort of Stalberg-ian in his speed and inability to score. Tonight, the only time you noticed him was when he was going offsides.
As Sam said, this is a pretty tough schedule to start the season. 0-3 should hardly be cause for air raid sirens but we all know better by now. If they start off tomorrow as they did the third, that will be an easy way to collect their first points of the season.