Crawford's Return Shows Promise and Bad Habits
The excitement of Corey Crawford's return this weekend was dampened a notch after losing 2 of their last 3 games.
It wasn't exactly how it looked on the scoresheet with a 4-1 loss on Thursday to Arizona (Crawford's 1st game of the year), followed up with a 4-1 win on the road vs. Columbus and ending the weekend with a 6-3 thump to TB.
Looking beyond the scores, the most concerning part was how the Blackhawks actually played.
To sum it up – the Hawks do not look very good at all.
It's been evident right from the start of the season that this team has holes, however, they were able to overcome these issues with some nice tendencies as well. Whether it was score timing goals, winning board battles and adjusting in game to grind a win (or at least a point) out, you had to wonder if that was sustainable.
Then, Corey Crawford makes his return earlier than most people anticipated. All is saved for the season, right? Well, maybe we should pump the breaks.
"We have to play better in front of him, no doubt. We play well the first 5 games and then he comes back and, maybe, you're just expecting him to bail you out…" Said Patrick Kane after the Columbus win.
The players are well aware of what's going on with this team. The bigger question is though, can they fix it or is this just going to be another repeat to last year?
To my eye, the Columbus win was déjà vu how this team marched to the top to the Western Conference in 2016-17 and how they managed to squeeze out most of their 33 wins last year.
Here's how it goes:
* say all the right things leading up to the game
* come out and play scrambled hockey for 2 periods
* let Crawford bail them out so they have a chance in the 3rd
* pick up steam in the 3rd period
* let Crawford continue to stand on his head
* have one of the big guns (usually Kane) score a clutch goal for the win
The Hawks defensive play as a team has been average at best all year and now that Corey is back, they need to step it up even more and settle in, not go the other direction.
Even though Crow is capable as he's shown in the past, if the Hawks have any chance of coming close to the playoffs, they will need this guy healthy. If he's pelted with 35+ shots (or more like the 55 shots poor Cam Ward faced last night) then I fear that he won't be able to hold up for the year.
The Hawks have the Ducks tomorrow to right the ship. You can expect Corey to get back in there to face John Gibson (who has been facing more shots than he would like as well).
I would keep an eye on practice as well because I suspect there will be some changes.
Some positives from the last few games include:
* Coach Q's plan worked to tick off Brandon Saad. He played his best game of the year last night and looks more determined than ever. I would expect him to be in the top 6 next game.
* Nick Schmaltz got his 1st goal of the year last night and looks a little more comfortable on the wing with Kane. To be honest, and this might be a sneak move, I would plan to play Schmaltz on the wing for most of this year. It will help the Hawks to gain some leverage in contract negotiations. And speaking of those, I would not sign #8 long-term, I would bridge him for now. I'll have more on that later.
* Corey Crawford… looks amazing. ‘Nuff said.
* Hold on, Cam Ward looked… almost amazing even though he gave up 5 goals last night. Holy did he ever make some amazing saves under siege. He is a reliable back-up and will compliment Corey nicely.
* Brent Seabrook is quietly very effective this year in the top 4. His partner Gustafsson is looking strong as well. Ideally, they would be your bottom pairing but right now, they are playing well.
* As a youngster, Jokiharju is going to have some ups-and-downs in his play, like we saw this weekend. Overall though, he's been playing really effective minutes in a top pairing role.
Finally, you can expect some movement on the Forsberg situation this week. Bowman mentioned that he will make his decision soon.
I think he gets waived and sent down. It will be a shame to see him get claimed because I think he has solid potential and maybe even should be the Hawks backup next year.
We'll see how it plays out.
See ya out there,