Time: 7:00 pm CST
TV/Radio: CSN / WGN 720
The Enemy: Blue Note Nation
After only what—four days?—the Hawks once again meet one of their Central Division rivals in the St Louis Blues, although this time the battle will be taking place in the city Chicago would be if it sucked.
As of this writing, I’m not yet sure who Q will be starting in goal. Conventional wisdom may have Turco in net tonight while Crawford plays against Columbus at home tomorrow, maybe to give Crawford a chance to earn his first home win, but conventional wisdom doesn’t actually necessarily mean much when it comes to Q and the way he handles his goalies.
Not that it would matter either way. From what we’ve seen of both, Crawford or Turco have both been decent in net, doing what they had to do while the Hawks figured out this whole ice hockey thing.
And it’s been an interesting journey thus far, too. While the start of the season was rocky, the Hawks have slowly found ways to win. Not all wins had been pretty, but they’d been wins, eked out one way or another, and this is the kind of thing that we want out of the Hawks while the blueline is waiting for Campbell and the bottom-six players are just starting to develop chemistry with each other. Hopefully, over time, we’ll have more of those dominant performances that result in flat-out wins, but it would be good to remember that knowing how to win the tight ones, the nearly-hopeless ones, are even more important, especially come playoff time.
What I want to see from the Hawks from tonight and going forward is some sort of improvement. While I’ve been more than happy to let Hossa and Sharp carry the Blackhawks through most of the games, history will tell us that it’s not likely for them to continue doing so over the course of the season. They’ve been able to buy other players time, but I have a feeling that’s run out. Players need to be taking steps forward in their development, and we’ve seen a spark coming from the so-called fourth line, Stalberg in particular. There’s nothing at all wrong with how Skille and Stalberg have been utilizing their minutes, but if there were any players who just need to break through and start scoring, it would be Skille. And fine, Kopecky too.
But guys like Bolland and Brouwer and you know what, even Toews (of middling October fame) have to step up too. Bolland’s slow start may have been a little dismaying at first but he’s been better lately, at least in terms of getting takeaways, generating chances and fucking up fewer times (that I could see). His faceoff numbers have dipped into laughable percentages, however, and that’s an important aspect of the Hawks’ puck possession game. Brouwer’s been mostly solid, albeit it’s hard to tell when he’s in Q’s doghouse, but he needs to be a more dominant force on the ice especially now that Byfuglien has gone. Understandably his role in the checking line means he’s probably seeing less time on the offensive zone, but he’s one of very few Hawks players who would willingly stand in front of the net.
I could go on and on about the various things I think the Hawks should be focusing on, but that’s the beauty of an 82-game season. Even now I know that the team we ice is not the finished product. They’ve got all year to figure everything out.
In any case, they’re facing St Louis tonight, and the Blues might be out with a vengeance tonight. The last time both teams met—just last Monday—the Hawks stole a game that the Blues had in the bag as late as halfway through the third period. They’ve had four days free since then, and you can bet those four days have been spent stewing. The only thing I’d worry about right now is if Quenneville decided to bench Skille or Stalberg again in favor of putting John Scott as a forward. (For the record though, I don’t think he will. I think he’s satisfied with placing Scott on the blueline while Hendry watches from the press box, and while I don’t fully agree with this move it causes me less heartburn than watching Scott attempt to skate, so I’ll take my wins where I can.)
I’m hopeful we’ll see further progress from the team that played one of their better games of the season against Vancouver just a few nights back. My fingers are crossed that tonight is the night some Hawks finally break through. (Or, you know, Hossa can just dominate the game again. I’ll take that too.)
Bottom line: I want the Blues to keep seething.
Make it so, Hawks.