Back to Life, Back to Reality
Joel Quenneville foreshadowed last night's poor performance when he was heard screaming explicit obscenities at his players early in the day at practice.
The coach wasn't happy then and he sure wasn't happy after the game, "I was looking for better than tonight. It was a decent first period. When I say decent, not great. But at least we didn't give up much. Second period was tough and the third period was tougher." (as per @ByScottPowers).
Joel knows it's crunch time and with the regular season around the corner, his team does not look ready in his eyes.
It would appear that last night's game was the determining factor in where Dylan Sikura is going to be starting his season. Sikura began on the 2nd line and then found himself bumped down to the 4th line in favour of John Hayden.
It wouldn't be a surprise to see Dylan get sent down today or tomorrow to join his brother in Rockford. It will be a good spot for him to get some confidence as a pro to help him climb his way back up to the NHL. It's the right decision.
So, assuming that's the case, the 2018-19 team is set (for now).
Considering the poor play in last night's loss, their 1-4-0 preseason record and Coach Q's tendency as a coach, you know what we can expect, right? Yep! You got it… more line changes.
Brandon Saad looked off again last night and I really think they need to get him back up in the top 6, possibly with Toews and Debrincat.
I will also say that I was happy for Anton Forsberg for having a solid game. He was uneasy at times, but at the end of the day only gave up a pair and gave his team a chance to win.
Keep an eye out on Twitter and the message boards here to see what concoction Q cooks up next.
Moving on, we have a bonus interview today from fellow Hockeybuzz writer and friend Sheng Peng.
Everyone wants to use the Vegas Golden Knights success as a model for the future. While I think the Hawks need to use the last place in their division forecasts by the talking heads as fire to motivate them this year, I wanted to get Sheng's thoughts on the Knights, a team he covers daily.
1) What was your realistic expectation of the Golden Knights before the 2017-18 season began?
Sheng Peng: I thought they were a .500 team. One of those teams that might hang around until March with an outside shot at the post-season, until the inevitable fade.
2) When did you know they were "for real"?
SP: Some time in January. I had seen enough of them and realized that they kept repeating sustainable, winning actions. I'm not talking about Karlsson's shooting %! It was small plays that they kept repeating that help win me over. Defending fast. Being in position to fill attack lanes time after time. Rotating defensively.
3) Who were the individuals that stood out the most, not just on the scoresheet but in their overall game and ability to lead this new franchise?
SP: Their "model" two-way players last year were Karlsson, Smith, and Schmidt. But pretty much everybody contributed on both sides: For example, Marchessault turned himself into a reasonably conscientious two-way forward. Engelland would lead the rush successfully on occasion. These are guys who were written off as one-dimensional players by their past organizations.
4) What was the team's biggest strength and the secret to their success last season?
SP: Almost to a man, they played fast. Even the fourth line, led by Bellemare, while low on skill, was able to think and play fast. Chipping pucks forward, gaining territory. They didn't score a lot, but they won most of their battles, left the puck in a good place for the next line.
5) Can their success be replicated for the second year in a row?
SP: If Fleury's renaissance was legitimate, yes. He can help mitigate Schmidt's absence. While Karlsson should slow down, I think he's a legit top-six center at worst. And between Pacioretty and Stastny, their second line is much stronger all-around.
BONUS - 6) Do you see any way the Blackhawks can use that us vs. the league, underdog mentality to rebound next season? Do you see any similarities to Vegas last year vs. the Blackhawks this year?
SP: I'm not really seeing the similarities between last year's Knights and the Hawks. It's been so long since Chicago has been an underdog, I doubt most of those guys remember or have even experienced those days.
A better model, which I'm sure has been raised, is probably LA or San Jose, both older, decorated teams that have managed to stay competitive. Toews needs to have a Kopitar-like rebound. Younger Hawks will need to have an impact a la Donskoi in 2016 or Meier/Hertl/Labanc last year. Crawford will need to stay healthy and continue to push back Father Time like Quick did last year. I think the problem is, while Crawford was still playing at a high-level last year and the forward corps looks promising, the defense looks potentially awful. Obviously, it doesn't help to play in the deepest division in hockey either. Vegas benefited from playing in a weaker division last year. It's easier to use an underdog mentality to your advantage when you're beating up on dogs.
Be sure to follow @Sheng_Peng on twitter!
Great takes from Sheng and how the Hawks are more in the LA and SJ mold vs. Vegas. I love how the Golden Knights all committed to that 2-way style under Gallant.
Obviously, the Hawks wouldn't have been as fast as the Knights team last year (even if they convinced Victor Stalberg to return) but it was a warm and fuzzy thought of optimism that they could quiet the naysayers this season that the Hawks could replicate that underdog, relentless style.
The Hawks will have their work cut out for them this year and while they might not become the next Golden Knights, they will need to do a hell of a lot better than they did against the Senators last night.
See ya out there,