Once again it is time for our random visit with IMO hockey insider, John Markiewicz. Today we take a look at the start of the season for our Blackhawks and try to figure out how to help them get back to winning titles.
John Markiewicz: First, let me say I am not surprised by this start. They have had too much time off between games to start a season. It is no way to build any momentum when you have only three games in the first fourteen days and then you ramp up to seven in the next twelve.
I completely agree with John on this. This is especially true for a younger team with many new faces. You need to play together to learn tendencies and figure out a rotation of players and lines. I think two or three more weeks of playing and this team will look totally different.
JM: The power play is a major concern once again. While they are in the middle of the league, statwise, they are still not taking enough shots. They are looking for the perfect pass instead of just SHOOTING THE DAMN PUCK. Also, for some reason they cannot get the puck in the offensive zone on the PP. They start up ice, drop the puck for Kane and four guys from the other team are at the Hawks blue line waiting for him. It is frustrating to see the puck going backwards when everyone is moving forwards.
Don't even let me get started on this. I have been screaming at them since 1967 about shooting the damn puck, as have 18,888 others for all these years. Not only can't they bring the puck into the offensive zone on the PP but they can't win it on faceoffs either. Bring someone in who can teach them another way to set this up for crying out loud.
JM: The only reason nobody is talking about the horrible PP is because the penalty kill is abysmal. They are averaging seven minutes of penalties per game so far, which isn't too bad. What is bad is that the other team is getting nearly 34 shots per game on Hawks goalies. On the PK the forwards cover the defense of the other team and the defense clears guys from in front of the net so the goalie can see shots. If he can see them he can stop them. The Hawks don't do either on PK and the other team has their way nearly every time.
Look, if you are going to suck at something in hockey at least let it be the PP. The PK is the most important aspect of the game. Keeping the other team off the board when they have a man advantage is huge, both in score, and in energy. When you can't stop the other guy on the PK it just kills the spirit of the team.
JM: I'm done with Corey Crawford. He needs to sit until Robin Lehner struggles, which is hopefully never.
I disagree with John here, I still think Crawford has some game left in him and I would love to see both guys do well so that they are rested come playoff time.
JM: The other area they need to work on is faceoffs. If your team averages 55% or less, that is considered not very good. As a team the Hawks are under 50%, which is awful. This cost you scoring chances in the offensive zone and forces you to stop scoring chances in the defensive zone. It is especially a problem on the penalty kill and another reason they are struggling there.
Faceoffs are all about timing and practice. You can't replicate game conditions in practice and they just haven't played enough to get their timing down yet this season. This is one area that will improve over time.
JM: I know it is a small sample size but I'm not seeing much improvement over last years team. Let's see if some of these newcomers can elevate their games. I also need to see Jeremy Colliton leave the damn lines alone and let them develop some chemistry. Let them play together for the next five games and if they are not working out and they lose four of them, then maybe the coaches need to rethink who is playing with whom.
I agree, let them play together for a while. It drives me nuts to see constant line changes. The great teams of the 1960's, 1970's, and 1980's all kept their lines together forever. That is when you had the Canadians, Islanders, and Oilers dominate the league with three and four consecutive Stanley Cups. How can it hurt to leave them alone?
It gets interesting now as the season starts to heat up for the Hawks. Let' see what this team is made of.