Blackhawks

10 games in, Hawks living up to expectations

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10 games in, Hawks living up to expectations

Monday, Oct. 25, 2010
12:54 p.m.

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

Ten games into their title defense, the Blackhawks are (with all due respect to Dennis Green) who we thought they'd be.

On the eve of the season three weeks ago, we wrote how this would still be a good team after all the off-season changes. But how great they can be would be decided by how the replacements grow into their roles. It's a process. It's early in the process. And it shows.

When Joel Quenneville looked for a spark to provide a final jolt of energy Saturday night in the finale of ten games in 17 days, he threw Toews, Sharp and Kane together on the same line. It paid off early. Once they left the ice, though, as Steve Konroyd pointed out afterwards on Blackhawks Postgame Live, the offensive firepower faded. As a result, don't expect the combination to have a long lifespan while everyone else continues to mesh.

While we wait for that to happen (and I wish I had the answer to how long that'll take), Quenneville could've used that as a reason to get back to practice Monday. It speaks measures he decided it was more beneficial to keep the players away from the rink a second straight day.

We wonder where the points are from the Bollands and Brouwers, and they probably thought it would be a lot easier to get them, too. Of the returnees, they're the ones who've been moved around and affected most. But it's had a trickle-down effect throughout the roster; 5-2-1 with a four-game winning streak hid the slow process. Losing Friday in St. Louis and Saturday at home made it stick out like Rick Rypien in Minnesota. What a difference two games makes. While the Stalbergs, Skilles, Dowells, and Bickells try get their NHL "green" to wear off and contribute in bigger, better and more consistent ways, they know their teammates are waiting for -- and trying to help -- that maturity and growth to kick in. The Brian Campbell injury, defensive positioning issues and some bad decisions on the ice haven't helped either.

Based on the early returns, it seems goaltending should not be a concern. Marty Turco's acquitted himself well and should get even better within the system, as long as the deflections and off-speed stuff is kept to a minimum. Corey Crawford looked very good the other night in his first action after five games off, and very few practices to stay sharp in between.

Even though it's early and all the adjustment time must be taken into consideration, it was good to see Jonathan Toews a little fired up after Saturday's loss. His team is 2-4 within the division, which could've been reversed if not for giving up third period leads at home in 3-2 losses to Nashville and Columbus. St. Louis has more or less controlled the play in the two head-to-heads thus far, and the Blues, Predators and Red Wings start the week a combined 14-2-6. Two more teams with something to prove -- or nothing to lose -- come to town this week in the Kings and Oilers. As everyone knows, the October points won or lost look even better or worse come April. All the more reason to hope the Hawks' core begins seeing more results from the rest of their corps.

Chris Boden is the host of Blackhawks Pre and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet.

Lance Bouma's second chance has meant steady work with Blackhawks

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USA TODAY

Lance Bouma's second chance has meant steady work with Blackhawks

Lance Bouma took his place at fourth-line left wing as the Blackhawks rolled their forward rushes on Tuesday morning. As the Blackhawks have tinkered with their trios, Bouma, whose final two seasons with the Calgary Flames were filled with uncertainty, has found a consistent role in this lineup.

“Obviously I was brought here for a reason,” Bouma said. “Things didn’t go the way I wanted them to in Calgary. To come here to Chicago and have that role, it’s been a lot of fun so far.”

The Blackhawks knew what they wanted from Bouma and his fellow fourth liners: some physical play, some energy and if there are any scoring opportunities, bonus. It’s a second chance for Bouma, whose contract was terminated by the Flames on June 30.

“I think it’s definitely a motivator knowing that you get in that situation where all of a sudden, ‘OK, I have to almost start over again and I have to prove to a new team that I belong in this league and I can play,’” coach Joel Quenneville said on Tuesday. “There are always circumstances where teams make decisions like that. We’ve been a part of it. And moving forward as a player, you’ve gotta look at it as a fresh opportunity. It’s an opportunity to get back to playing your game.”

After recording 16 goals and 18 assists in the 2014-15 season, Bouma signed a three-year, $6.6 million deal with the Flames. The next two seasons didn’t go as planned as Bouma dealt with injuries, inconsistent play and healthy scratches. So getting that call from the Blackhawks was a huge lift.

“I was just looking forward to a fresh start and something new,” he said. “I just was ready to come into camp and have a great season and it’s been great so far.”

[MORE: Eddie Olczyk expected to return to broadcasting booth this week

Tommy Wingels, who has centered the Blackhawks’ fourth line the last several games – and will again vs. St. Louis on Wednesday – said Bouma looks “refreshed” this season.

“Obviously whether it’s a team doesn’t want to bring you back or it’s a trade or buyout, there’s certainly something that deep down gets you going,” Wingels said. “I think it was a good summer for him mentally to come to a new organization, come to a new group of guys and re-establish his game. It’s tough when you’re with the same coaches, same team for so long; maybe what you do gets taken for granted. He looks good and he’s skating really well and I think he moves really well for a big man. He’s strong on the pucks and he’s a good asset for us.

Bouma isn’t here to be a top-six player. He’s not here to fulfill a contract that he no longer has. The Blackhawks needed depth, energy and a physical presence and in brining that, Bouma has earned steady work.  

“We knew the player coming in that we wanted him to play that style and he’s done a good job of it, too,” Quenneville said of Bouma. “So it’s something we were looking for in our needs and it fit perfectly."

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Nick Schmaltz isn’t the only one returning; guess who is back in the booth?!

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Nick Schmaltz isn’t the only one returning; guess who is back in the booth?!

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Tracey Myers and Pat Boyle discuss Nick Schmaltz returning to the Blackhawks line-up on Wednesday night and which player is looking forward most to his return?

They also weigh in on Corey Crawford’s incredible start to the season and why he’s the major reason why the Hawks begin the week in first place in the Central.

They also discuss who is the biggest Hawks rivalry right now, which new defenseman has impressed the most and how is Connor Murphy dealing with being a healthy scratch at times this season?

Plus, they discuss someone other than Nick Schmaltz returning to work on Wednesday night.

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below: