The Chicago Blackhawks are off to an incredible start to the season banging off seven wins in nine games with the only blemishes on their record being two shootout losses to Minnesota and Vancouver, respectively

With a match up coming against San Jose on Tuesday, there have been a few questions on who should start in goal against the Sharks.

Corey Crawford who boasts a 5-0-2 record with a 1.66 G.A.A and a save percentage of .934 or Ray Emery who came off the best performance from any goalie so far this year who is 2-0-0 with a 2.88 G.A.A. and a .921 save percentage. Many coaches would go with the hot hand but the issue here is, both goalies are hot to start the year which is obviously a great problem to have.

For me, there is no question on which of the two you would go with in goal. With these being the top two teams in the NHL you have to go with your best and that would be Corey Crawford. Amongst goaltenders who have played at least 7 games, Crawford ranks second in goals against, tied for third in wins and fourth in save percentage.

 

Rookie Brandon Saad has stepped in and played his position remarkably well filling in for the injured Daniel Carcillo.

The subtraction of Carcillo had me worried for the wellbeing of Toews and Hossa simply because of how opposition would feast on those two considering there is no tough guy on a line with them. We did see both players get pushed around in the first game having Saad on that line but surprisingly Toews and Hossa have been left alone in that regard.

What happens when Carcillo comes back? Well, someone has to sit in the press box or be moved to Rockford of the AHL. Stan Bowman recently said that Brandon Saad will be with the team the entire season but the bottom line is that he has to produce. He is a bit snake bitten, similar to Michael Frolik last year, but it’s not rare that this happens to a rookie. Again, he’s played extremely well and he is getting scoring chances. One thing to remember is a GM’s word is never bond, remember Bowman’s comments when it came time to sign Niemi and Hjalmarsson? Stan said they weren’t going anywhere, well, he made a promise he couldn’t keep, obviously.

Let’s hope the Blackhawks can step their game up and keep their unblemished regulation time record unscathed!

Hat tip to Zimbio.com for the use of your photos.

Thanks for reading,

TK0N

 

 

 

It was a great game played by the Chicago Blackhawks today in the first game of the NHL regular season, defeating the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings 5-2.

Patrick Kane scored the first goal of the year and added an assist later in the game. Jonathan Toews, coming off a bout with the flu, was arguably the best player on the ice which is incredible considering the lingering after effects having the flu. Toews also added a goal and an assist. Marian Hossa, in his first game back from his concussion, had a great game adding two goals and one assist. The highly criticized Michael Frolik got off to a good start by scoring for the Hawks, too.

Another often criticized player is goaltender Corey Crawford. Crawford played extremely well. Goals scored against him were basically unstoppable, the first goal he was screened on and the second goal he was pushed over in his crease. Crawford was always in position, square to the puck at all times and his movement was very fast. This is what we want to see from Corey from now on and with it only being one game after his sub-par season, he’s definitely on the right track.

There was some bad news with the Blackhawks victory tonight. Dan Carcillo was caught in a “collision” as a lot are saying with Kings star D-man Drew Doughty and ended up injuring his leg in the process. Head coach Joel Quenneville expects Carcillo to be out for a lengthy period of time.

How do the Hawks replace Carcillo? It’ll be tough as Carcillo was out there as a player who could protect superstars Toews and Hossa. With “Carbomb’s” presence it allows Toews and Hossa to do more freewheeling on the ice, as seen in today’s game, plus he can actually play not too bad compared to a lot of so-called “goons” out there.

It sounds like rookie Brandon Saad will replace Carcillo on a line with Toews and Hossa. Saad is an unproven rookie with big upside (which we’ve seen with many young Hawk players); he notched eight goals and twenty one assists in Rockford and has played two games with the Blackhawks last season before being sent down. One can understand the excitement for Saad to play but people need to remember he’s just a rookie and he may not blow people away like Andrew Shaw did last season. Saad also doesn’t add much of a “toughness” factor so we could very well see “open game” on Toews and Hossa as early as tomorrow night against the Phoenix Coyotes.

All in all it was a great start for the Chicago Blackhawks and it’ll be a tough test tomorrow night against the chippy and defensive Phoenix Coyotes.

Thanks to Zimbio.com for the photos.

 

The Chicago Blackhawks have had nine rookies in the lineup this year and they have been impressive thus far in the 2011/2012 season. The forward depth for the Blackhawks has been questioned since the dismantling of the team after their 2009/2010 Stanley Cup victory in which they’ve lost the following players seen in a line-up view:

Forwards

  • Ladd/Kopecky/Versteeg
  • Brouwer/Ebbett/Eager
  • Dowell/Johnson/Pisani
  • Skille/Madden/Burish/Scott/Fraser

Defence

  • Byfuglien/Sopel
  • Campbell/Barker
  • Campoli/Hendry/Boynton/Cullimore

Goaltenders

  • Niemi/Huet

Looking at the Blackhawks departures as a team is almost comparable to a few teams currently in the NHL with one solid line and a good defensive core. Not too bad. Anyways, this isn’t a piece looking back at the departing players of the Blackhawks but a look at what the rookies have done so far for Chicago.

  • Marcus Kruger 59 games played, 8 goals, 12 assists, 20 points, +2, 20 Pims, 14:51 min/game
  • Andrew Shaw 24 games played, 7 goals, 4 assists, 11 points, -7, 27 pims, 14:20 min/game
  • Jimmy Hayes 24 games played, 5 goals,  4 assists,  9 points, -1, 11 pims, 10:49 min/game
  • Dylan Olsen 17 games played, 0 goals, 1 assist, 1 point, -2, 2pims, 15:33 min/game
  • Ben Smith 13 games played, 2 goals, 0 assists, 2 points, -5, 0 pims, 09:48 min/game
  • Brandon Pirri 5 games played, 0 goals, 2 assists, 2 points, +2, 0 pims, 13:31 min/game
  • Brandon Bollig 5 games played, 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 points, -1, 19 pims, 5:01 min/game
  • Jeremy Morin 3 games played, 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 points, -1, 0 pims, 8:51 min/game
  • Brandon Saad 2 games played, 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 points, 0, 0 pims, 14:01 min/game

For the fans that do not follow the Blackhawks closely, well, these stats won’t blow them away but for the loyal dedicated Hawks’ fans they will surely be appreciative as to what these youngsters have come in and accomplished during this rebuilding time for Chicago.

Marcus Kruger has filled in admirably at center throughout the entire season and has a respectable 46.3 faceoff percentage while playing in every situation for the Blackhawks numerous times this year.

Andrew Shaw has scored some huge goals for the Blackhawks this season and while not being a physical imposing player, he’s dropped the gloves on more than one occasion this year and at the same time he’s relentless in the corners on the forecheck.

Jimmy Hayes is a big kid, he stands at 6’5” and weighs in at around 210 pounds and has also chipped in offensively. Chicago would like him to use his size a bit more and become even more of a physical player; they’re also hoping he is the tough power forward that they have been searching for. Not a bad pick up considering Chicago traded away a 43rd overall 2010 draft pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs to acquire him and with that pick the Leafs selected Bradley Ross.

Dylan Olsen has been very good since being recalled because of the numerous injuries to the Blackhawks defensive core. While many mock him for being a slow footed skater, they fail to see the excellent ability he has for lateral movement and it’s quite impressive. Olsen has made some visible mistakes since being called up but he’s also made a ton of strong defensive plays and more often than not he makes the smart play.

Ben Smith was thought to be a shoe in on this year’s team but he just was not ready to crack the big club. He’s had a good year in Rockford up until suffering a right hip labral tear and a hernia and has recently had year ending surgery.

Brandon Pirri has had an excellent year in Rockford so far and played very well in his short stint with the Blackhawks. Pirri has all the tools to play in every situation for Chicago. He currently has 50 points in 58 games for the IceHogs.

Brandon Bollig is already becoming a fan favorite for Blackhawks fans, he plays a very physical game and if he’s on the ice and a scrum occurs, he is the first player in that scrum to protect his players. He isn’t the top enforcer in the game like John Scott is but Bollig is defensively responsible, he can skate, fight and is most definitely a physical presence. Bollig will bring the Hawks’ fans to their feet a lot more than Scott did simply because he has more tools than Scott and no one would fight John anyways.

Jeremy Morin, like Ben Smith, was also figured by many to make the Blackhawks opening roster but he’s been dealing with injuries a lot and has yet to get in a full year in Rockford. Morin has had a decent year in the AHL so far with 31 points in 50 games and a surprising 95 penalty minutes. It is only a matter of time until he is on Chicago full time but he’s just got to keep away from that injury bug.

Brandon Saad is probably the Blackhawks most prized prospect and he actually cracked the opening night roster and stayed with the big club for two games. He wasn’t quite ready at that time but he is currently ripping it up in the Ontario Hockey League with a remarkable 71 points in only 41 games and sits tied for 18th in the OHL scoring race. Brandon has also outscored projected number one pick in this upcoming NHL entry draft, Nail Yakupov, in the same amount of games. Saad has played 20 + less games than many of the scorers ahead of him in that scoring race.

Looking at all of these rookies and what they’ve done so far for Chicago, one wonders how active the Blackhawks will be this upcoming off-season. Sooner than later these youngsters will all be full timers in the NHL.

With the other promising prospects such as Kevin Hayes, Kyle Beach, Adam Clendening, Shawn Lalonde, Mark McNeill, Ludvig Rensfeldt, and Maxim Shalunov to name a few, the Blackhawks are looking good for young prospects. While some of the aforementioned players are still a few years away from being considered NHL ready, don’t be surprised if one or two of them are moved for an upgrade somewhere in the organization with it being a second line center, defenseman or goaltender or some sort of combination of those three positions.

It would not be surprising if the Blackhawks did nothing in the off-season and let the kids play but no matter what the Hawks’ brass does, the future is undoubtedly very bright for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Kudos to Zimbio.com for the use of the Brandon Saad, Jimmy Hayes and Brandon Bollig photos.

Thanks for reading as always,

TK0N

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