Monday, Oct. 25, 2010
By Chris Boden
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.