It was difficult to cheer for the Hawks at times from January-April after their starting goaltender Corey Crawford mysteriously landed on the IR.
It was with cautious optimism that we cheered for him to return to the Hawks lineup, as his interview at the Blackhawks Fan Convention revealed that he wasn't 100% himself as he emotionally spoke to the media about his struggles to get healthy.
"We expect him to be back for training camp" was what Stan, Joel and the rest of the Blackhawks stated all summer, however, most of us knew that with an injury such as Corey's (concussion), that timeline was an unpredictable one at best.
I wrote a while back on July 30th that Corey needs to get better as a human being before even thinking about hockey.
Well, countless :30 video clips of Corey practicing from the start of training camp until now and it appears just 5 days into the season, that Corey is ready for game action.
The "new" season begins for the Crawford-injected Hawks who have managed a 3-0-2 record with less-than-stellar goaltending to date.
It would be wise to not have too many high expectations for Corey just yet as I believe he will need 5, 7, maybe 10 games to start to see the puck the way he used too.
Just as I say that, I guess on the other side, maybe he comes out and looks like the old Crow that we're used to. I point to Kawhi Leonard's performance last night in the NBA for the Toronto Raptors. A bit of a different situation, however, the timeline is almost identical – Leonard had not played a regular season game since January 9th. He put up 24 points, 12 rebounds and 2 assists last night in his debut.
In other news, Brandon Saad looks like is playing tonight after all.
Joel Quenneville put Brandon a serious timeout and is looking to fuel the young winger to play with a little more intensity; if that means ticking him off by white-sweatering him in practice, then so be it.
The Hawks need Saad to play the way we all know he can. We all need to stop pointing to Panarin because he'll never have that point production.
What Saad is realistically capable of though, is 25 goals, 25 assists, strong 2-way play in the regular season and if (a big if) the Hawks get into the playoffs, this is where his true value could shine.
No, I'm not saying he will take the Hawks on a Stanley Cup run, but he's been dominant and a very timely scorer in the postseason and could make things interesting if the "underdog" Hawks carve out a playoff seed.
However, we're only 5 games into this season and let's just take this 1 game at a time. If Brandon returns, I want to see him be effective and hell, even throw a few checks.
With the Crawford news and Saad remaining in the lineup, what does that do for the Hawks roster?
Well, someone has to go down to Rockford now that Crawford is activated off the IR… and that person is Luke Johnson.
It makes sense with Johnson being on a 2-way contract and having been a healthy scratch the last few games. He'll be better served to get big minutes in Rockford.
Meanwhile, the Coyotes have struggled early on. After 5 games, they are 1-4-0 with a measly 3 GF (ZERO at even-strength) – woof!
The Hawks should not underestimate these ‘Yotes though as they will be hungry to turn things around and always play the Hawks hard.
Also, despite only scoring 3 goals this season, they haven't given up much, plus their other numbers are quite good as per the below.
Let's add in the fact the there are some ex-Hawks in Arizona's lineup that will be looking to stick it to their old team.
Here's what the teams look like by-the-numbers:
Blackhawks: 3-0-2 (8 points)
22 GF = 7th
21 GA = 23rd
11.1% PP = 25th
64.7 PK% = 29th
49.0 FO% = 21st
Who we got tonight:
Arizona Coyotes: 1-4-0 (2 points)
3 GF = LAST
11 GA = 3rd
13.3% PP = 24th
91.7 PK% = 5th
54.9 FO% = 2nd
JL's player to watch: I'm really curious to see how Vinnie Hinostroza looks and plays tonight. He's clearly a guy that the Hawks could use right now in their top 9, especially considering the Hawks included him to rid themselves of the Hossa contract and then didn't do anything with that space (yet). He'll be wearing #13 out there.
See ya out there,