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Time to worry?

October 13, 2017, 8:45 AM ET [472 Comments]
John Jaeckel
Chicago Blackhawks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT

First world problems manifest in hockey when you're a top team—and your last three performances have failed to meet perhaps crazy high expectations set by the first two.

The Hawks sit at 3-1-1 this morning. So what's not to like?

The truth is, you're going to have games like last night's—a 5-2 home loss to a top division rival—in the course of even a Cup-winning season. On the other hand, man, did the air go out of the balloon fast after a highly questionable non-call, review, and subsequent penalty Minnesota scored on that made the score 3-1.

(One, and only one, comment on the non-call: the NHL remains the WWE of "top" pro sports. What a joke. Get your act together, please.)

So far, this young Hawks season can best be described as schizophrenic. In Games 1 and 2, against top Eastern teams, the Hawks looked like the '83 Oilers. Overwhelming. The last three games, they've looked a bit more like the 2017 Hawk team that gor swept out of the playoffs in the first round (by the team's next opponent, Nashville).

Last night was the season in microcosm. The Hawks were dominant at times, coming oh so close to scoring on several grade A chances in the second period. Recent slumps in shots for and against and faceoffs were reversed. The Hawks outshot Minnesota 38-34. They won 54% of the draws.

Actually, aside from a series of puckhandling blunders by rookies, the Hawks did play well enough to win. Joel Quenneville can rage at the officials all he wants, but the reason the Hawks lost was mostly inopportune turnovers, some bad bounces and a few big saves by Devan Dubnyk.

Good news, this still appears to be a better team than last year's. Bad news: it's yet again a team relying too heavily on players who might not be fully ready for NHL hockey.

So, cue the pushback: "every team has to rely on rookies in the salary cap era." My answer: "To a degree, but only one team wins the Stanley Cup."

If you feel redeemed because the Hawks are "playin' the kids," great. But then don't complain when you're watching St. Louis and Minnesota in the second round.

By now, the strong suspicion is that Nick Schmaltz suffered concussion symptoms (his second in the last 18 months) after taking a hit from Jack Johnson in Game 2, but he will be back (hopefully) for tomorrow night's game against Nashville. That's good, because it's hard to say if there was a direct cause and effect, but the Hawks were a fairly dramatically different team when Schmaltz was in the ice in games 1 and 2.

So different, that you can get away with an egregious turnover a night by a Gustav Forsling or an Alex DeBrincat.

Anyway, I'll preview the big grudge matchup with the Preds tomorrow.

Until then,

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