Blackhawks

Boden: What are you thinking behind that poker face?

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Boden: What are you thinking behind that poker face?

Monday, Nov. 22, 2010
1:38 p.m.

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com
With the Blackhawks spending part of this three-day recess in the middle of their six-game trip in Las Vegas, it got me wondering whether it's time yet to reveal our hand on where this team's headed, long-term this season. Should we still be holding our chips in judging this team? All in? Folding?

Is this truly going to be a Jekyll-&-Hyde team all season long, forever finding a way to get in sync? Are they just toying with us -- playing the dangerous game of "flipping the switch" -- and playing hard and well when they need and want to? In an early-season "Hawk Talk," we praised the group for its ability to find ways to win games. Since then, they've gone through stretches of finding ways to lose. Disciplined, hard-working, all-around games tease us, only to be followed by a flat effort.

Their resume shows they've found ways to beat some of the top teams the first month and a half (Los Angeles, St. Louis, Vancouver, and ending Anaheim's six-game winning streak). They've also found ways to lose twice at home to Edmonton, and help scuffling teams like Columbus and Phoenix get on track when they came into the United Center. We'll see if Friday's Flame-out turns Calgary's fortunes, but they got temporarily put back in the loss column in Detroit on Sunday. Until the Hawks prove they can consistently string wins together, we'll have to get used to the concept that they've made their road much tougher. The points that've fallen by the wayside can't be retrieved. Making the playoffs, and seeding for it, is going to be a dogfight. The important thing is getting in. And with the way things have gone thus far, home versus road, home-ice advantage for this team might not be that important.

On the glass-half-full side you can say the last two weeks, as a whole, have been steps in the right direction towards getting this team where it needs to be, despite varying results, and that Friday was the aberration, and the blunt reminder.

There have been encouraging signs of late from some of the newcomers. Jack Skille has five points and is a plus-7 in his last seven games. Bryan Bickell's collected five points and is plus-4 over his last six after being benched. Viktor Stalberg, though scoreless in his last three games, showed signs of being able to hold down the left side lining up with Toews and Kane. Jake Dowell's been steady with his opportunities and has the willingness to try to make something happen physically when the rest of the team's sluggish.

In the end, the old adage goes, the Blackhawks' best players must be their best players. The plus-minus rating has its pros and cons, and I'm not even sure yet how big a fan I am of the statistic. Nevertheless, here are those numbers from members of the returning "core," along with their point production, in the team's wins and losses. Some may be telling, others perhaps not so much:

Wins
Losses
Duncan Keith
5, 7 pts.
-11, 6 pts.
Niklas Hjalmarsson
3, 1 pt.
-9, 0 pts.
(suspended for one win, one loss)
Brent Seabrook
6, 8 pts.
-4, 4 pts.
Patrick Sharp
11, 11 pts.
-11, 11 pts.
(missed one loss)
Jonathan Toews
12, 9 pts.
-6, 9 pts.
Troy Brouwer
2, 5 pts.
-2, 6 pts.
Dave Bolland
1, 3 pts.
1, 1 pt.
(missed 2 wins, 4 losses)
Brian Campbell
7, 2 pts.
1, 3 pts.
(missed 7 wins, 6 losses)
Marian Hossa
3, 13 pts.
-1, 4 pts.
(missed 2 wins, 3 losses)
Tomas Kopecky
4, 5 pts.
-15, 5 pts.
(missed one loss)
Patrick Kane
6, 17 pts.
-11, 5 pts.
(missed one win)

Every player's individual numbers are affected by the team's wins and losses. This is the group that Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff rely upon the most. In most cases, the numbers reflect the team's inconsistent start. Most of these guys have taken turns acknowledging how they need to be better. Check out Brian Campbell's consistency since he returned from his knee injury, leading the team at plus-8. Kopecky was reunited with Hossa and Sharp Saturday, and saying those two bring out the best in him is an understatement. He had an assist and was a plus-1. In the 11 games before Hossa's injury, Kopecky had a goal, seven assists, and was a plus-3.

The makeup, character, production, and accomplishment of last year's team has spoiled us all. Everyone's expectations vary in the wake of the offseason changes -- and what's realistic over if, when, and how well this roster clicks. As they tried to re-charge and bond in Vegas, The Hangover is one factor that should be kept in mind through all this. Yes, it's a tired phrase. But ask any previous Cup winner (especially in the salary cap era) about the after-effects everyone above is experiencing, and each player reacts differently to the physically-, mentally- and emotionally-draining run. Then the celebration. Then the short offseason. Toss in the busiest start of any team, and if you think about it, it's an imposing task. They're going through something they've never experienced before, unchartered individual territory. And while we all expect that when we ask these guys to play harder and dig deeper, who knows how deep that physical, mental, and emotional reservoir runs in each, compared to a year ago? The hope is the best is yet to come, if not just around the corner.

So are you holdin'? Foldin'? Or all in?

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

Anton Forsberg to tribute Avicii with new mask

Anton Forsberg to tribute Avicii with new mask

Goaltender masks are often a place for artistic expression and tribute. Blackhawks goalie Anton Forsberg is adding his own touching tribute this season.

The 25-year-old Swedish goalie chose to tribute Avicii with an image of the musician on his goalie mask. Avicii, a fellow Swede, died by suicide in April.

David Gunnarsson, a professional mask artist, did the art for Forsberg's mask and posted it on Instagram.

View this post on Instagram

Today we have the honor to present Anton Forsberg´s new Blackhawks mask for the coming season😊🥅. Anton knew what he wanted on his new mask, he wanted to pay tribute to the Swedish DJ legend Tim Bergling❤️, a.k.a Avicii, who recently passed away. Just as Anton I am also a big admirer of his music and person and family🙏🏻❤️. It was a huge honor for me to paint and create this painting together with Anton in honor to Avicii´s family, they were also the first to see this painting❤️. The rest of the mask is painted in an old school and clean style, and on the other side of the mask Anton`s best friend pop up and makes him company in the net. @antonforsbeerg @nhlblackhawks @nhl @daveart

A post shared by David Gunnarsson (@daveart) on

According to Tracey Myers of NHL.com, Forsberg asked Avicii's parents for permission before going ahead with it.

"I've always listened to his music and have been a big fan of it," Forsberg said. "For me, there was no hesitation putting him on the mask."

Forsberg wore last season's mask in his preseason debut in Detroit on Thursday so he hasn't shown off the new gear just yet. That may need to wait for the regular season.

Hawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks training camp twist, Boqvist in?

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks training camp twist, Boqvist in?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis talk about Joel Quenneville leaving the door open for No. 8 overall pick Adam Boqvist to start the season with the Blackhawks. What are the chances he and Henri Jokiharju both make the team?

The guys also discuss Corey Crawford's status and what to make of his abbreviated on-ice session after six straight days of skating, Connor Murphy's injury that could sideline him until December, how the line of Brandon Saad, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane will work and the new 1-3-1 power play structure.

They also weigh in on which position battles they're looking forward to tracking during the back half of training camp.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!