Blackhawks Update 12/11/2011

Seeing the lack of Blackhawks game previews for the past few games I have decided it would be more worthwhile to write a weekly to bi-weekly analysis on the team. This is coupled with my schedule that does not leave much time for writing cohesive previews as well as the tendency of the Hawks to lose whenever I predict them to win.

Over the past 7 games the Blackhawks have a record of 5-1-1. It has probably been the quietest, most ridiculed 5-1-1 streak a team has ever gone through. By the way fans and other writers have looked at it, you would figure the Hawks to be in a free-fall. While this team does have several holes to fill and is showing a lot of concerning signs that plagued the team last year, the fact that they are second in the Western Conference and have been winning games albeit in an ugly manner, is a sign for optimism.

Take a look at the problems that plagued the 2010-2011 Hawks. Not playing a complete game, frequently on the losing end of be goal games, and the inability to comeback from behind. The lack of playing a complete 60 minutes has hurt this years Hawks team, however, they have found a way to not only win the tight games, but also win them when trailing from behind. A perfect example of this is the recent 4-3 shoot out loss against Phoenix. After trailing 3-0 early in the second, Jonathan Toews led an inspired comeback that took the Coyotes to the shoot out. If it wasn’t for Keith Yandle’s great bailout of goalie Mike Smith on a Marian Hossa open net shot, the Hawks would have come out as winners and everyone would be praising this teams comeback abilities.

Still, for Hawks fans it has to be encouraging that the team didn’t quit after being down early. I think the main problem for the Hawks so far is still their motivation. As we saw even with the great Stanley Cup team of 2009-2010 the Hawks are frequently guilty of mailing in some games. If you remember the first games of the Nashville and Vancouver series’, the Hawks treated those games more as an exhibition than a Stanley Cup playoff matchup.

This tendency to not show up for games is not new for the Hawks. It has been an issue with the team for the past couple of seasons. However, they have shown time and time again that when they show up, they are one of the toughest teams in the league to beat. This year is no different. Come April the Blackhawks will be fine. When the game is on the line, the Hawks show up to play. Their core has the championship mentality that will not quit and it carries over to the rest of the team. This was only reinforced after the Hawks took the Canucks to game 7 overtime after being down in the series 3-0.

Which brings me back to the current situation the Hawks are in. For all the struggles and fears fans have about Crawford not being reliable, Duncan Keith being inconsistent, the team being to soft and unfocused, the Hawks have still managed to get 11 points out of a possible 14 in the past seven games. I’ll take that stretch anytime of the year no matter how they attain it. The issues this team has will get resolved. It’s better that they are going through this funk now earlier in the year. It’s even better that they are still able to win games while not playing at the level they could be at.

The key difference this year is that the newcomers to the Hawks for the most part are all veterans with playoff experience. Looking up and down the roster, there is no player on it that hasn’t appeared in a playoff game. Last year you had Viktor Stalberg, Michael Frolik, Nick Leddy, Ben Smith, Marcus Kruger making their playoff debuts while having deadweights like Fernando Pisani, Jake Dowell, and John Scott in the lineup.

Stan Bowman has received criticism for his moves this past offseason because they all haven’t panned out the way Hawks fans hope they have. Bowman has to receive credit though for picking up players that have experienced the grind of the Stanley Cup playoffs and know what it takes to be successful in the post season. This is the biggest advantage the Hawks have moving forward. Unlike last year the Hawks will not have to worry about making the playoffs barring an epic collapse. Rocky Wirtz had a quote recently discussing the state of the team basically saying that he has full faith in the players because they know when to turn it on and to take their game to the next level.

This team is fully capable of it. Yes they have had their struggles the past few weeks, but Hawks fans should be encouraged that despite all of these struggles, they have managed to win games. If they keep winning, I can deal with the weaknesses of the team. Two points is two points whether you win 10-1 or win 7-6.

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