Blackhawks 4, Panthers 0

This time, the Hawks didn’t let two points slip away to the Panthers. 

Nursing a 1-0 lead going into the third, Viktor Stalberg scored in the opening minute and that was essentially it.  Patrick Kane added a goal eleven minutes later on a change-up shot that found its way past Tomas Vokoun.  Then five minutes later, Marian Hossa, Michael Frolik, and Tomas Kopecky combined for a picture-perfect 3-on-2 passing play to finish off the scoring.

The only drama after that was whether Corey Crawford would hold on to the shutout.  He did and the Hawks won a game they absolutely had to.  That’s all that really matters.

In Case You Care To Know What I’m Thinking

–The Hawks defensive corps and Corey Crawford tried their best to give an easy goal to Florida.  Numerous times with the puck behind the net, there was miscommunication between the defense and Crawford which led to glorious chances for the Panthers.  It wasn’t just one guy, either.  Everybody took turns; Brian Campbell, Chris Campoli, Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson.  I’m sure somehow it’s Marty Turco’s fault.

–Ah yes, the long-awaited debut by Marcus Kruger.  Fine, whatever.  He just flew halfway across the world, is still probably operating on Swedish time (whatever that might be), and was put between the sucking life-force of Bryan Bickell and Troy Brouwer.  Welcome to the NHL. 

The call-up of Kruger, I have no problem with it whatsoever.  There are a couple things that annoy me about it, though. 

The first one is this instant rush by some people who watched some of his scoring highlights on YouTube and decide to compare him to Henrik Zetterberg.  Of course, he’s Swedish, a late-round pick, so obviously the natural comparison is to a future Hall-of-Famer.  No pressure there, kid.  Go get it.

It’s one thing for guys like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to be compared to legends of the game before they ever suit up in a NHL game.  They were top picks and stuff like that comes with the territory.  But for a 5th round pick to have expectations like that thrust upon him before 98% of Hawk fans even knew of his existence is silly beyond comprehension.

(Quick side note: I’m also tired of guys with the same nationalities getting compared to each other.  It’s like in basketball or football where only white guys can be like other white guys.)

Also, just because the Hawks braintrust said the plan all along was to bring Marcus Kruger over, that doesn’t suddenly justify all of the various hiccups they’ve been guilty since the trade deadline passed.  If that’s the case, then Kruger better be one of the greatest players in NHL history.  Otherwise, I don’t see how we can all of a sudden forgive their past transgressions so they could wait until 10 games were left in the season to call up a 20 year-old from Sweden with no NHL experience.

Another thing to beware of: the Blackhawk spin-machine is going to be full systems go with each positive contribution made by Kruger.  Much like we were beaten over the head every time Nick Leddy made a saucer pass or deflected a shot and then treated to silence any time he’d make a glaring mistake, it will be the same thing for Kruger. 

I don’t watch pre or post game shows (it’s scientifically proven to be bad for your health) so I don’t know what was said there, but Pat and Eddie were surprisingly mum on Kruger for the majority of the night.  It’s probably because Kruger didn’t really do a whole bunch to warrant their attention.

–Is anyone really that surprised Anaheim and Dallas went to overtime? 

–With Patrick Sharp on the shelf and Dave Bolland still foggy, the Hawks forward lines are just a hodge-podge of mediocrity and downright awfulness outside of their top line and Marian Hossa.  Thankfully, their defensive unit seems to be back to 100% which might be more important anyways.  If these last three years have taught us anything, it’s that the Hawks thrive on their defense to kick-start the transition game. 

So long as Chris Campoli and Brent Seabrook still make gorgeous 60 foot passes, Brian Campbell can push back the opposition with his rushes, and Duncan Keith keeps jumping up in the play, the Hawks will be able to weather their injuries. 

Winning a playoff series without those two, well that will matter on who they’re playing.

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32 Responses to Blackhawks 4, Panthers 0

  1. Dale Halas says:

    Hey John, what hiccups are even related to the Kruger signing? The Hawks “rolled the dice” with their last 80K in cap space to try and bring Kruger over from Europe. I completely believe that after failing to get a second line center at the trade line that that was Plan B. The only move that was “stopped” by this was putting Hendry on IR before the trade deadline and bringing up Cullimore. So playing Scott as a defensemen instead of Cullimore is the only “sacrifice” the Hawks really made. I’ll live with that to try and get another center on the team for the stretch run.

    And again, the game that the Hawks only played 17 skaters was a result of the AHL/NHL agreement and NOT really related to the Kruger signing. The AHL wants to limit callups during their end of season playoffs so they negotiated a restricted period between the trade deadline and each teams boot from the playoffs. You only get four callups and are “encouraged” to only use them if needed. So waiting on Kruger only meant that Cullimore wasn’t here and couldn’t free up Scott to be the 18th skater if needed.

    The Hawks had the cap space to call somebody up if Bickell was going to be out. The Hawks were just caught, imo, not wanting to burn one of their four callups simply for insurance. It just turned out they needed the insurance the first game and didn’t need it the second. That’s more bad karma then bad management, but your mileage may vary. And I’m thinking in this case yours and Second City’s clearly does…

  2. John says:

    So Plan B is to pin your hopes on a 20 year old rookie with no NHL experience? That’s not how teams who view themselves as Stanely Cup contenders operate. Kruger should’ve been Plan D or E. Now if the Hawks are just gearing up for next year, then fine. But they’ve spent the majority of this year telling us they’re going for it. Sorry if I don’t share in your optimism.

    You say the 17 skaters was a result of the AHL/NHL agreement; I say it’s piss-poor management. The fact the Hawks called up Ben Smith the very next game tells us which way certain members of the Hawks probably felt about it.

  3. Otter says:

    Thank you! So annoying that we cannot compare white guys to black players in the NBA and NFL.

    If the Hossa-Forlik-Kopecky thing takes off, can we call them the “Czechoslovakia Line” or something with Czechoslovakia for old times sake?

    This game was about as boring as a 4-0 domination can get. The Panthers are really really really bad.

  4. Steve says:

    The kid is 20 years old coming over from playing in a league in talent decline due to the rise of the KHL. I do not know what it is about some of these fans. It appears if you suggest that the Hawks might have made mistakes or are grasping at straws then you must be an idiot. This team is paying for last years gamble. I am so glad it worked. But Markus is a twenty year old kid not a miracle worker.

    I am not willing to brush aside the way that the majority of this season has went. The fact that we are celebrating a full game effort says enough.

  5. ChicagoNativeSon says:

    John, good write-up regarding Kruger. I guess he’s the new back-up QB. Despite being stuck between Meat1 and Meat2, he was 2nd on the team in Corsi rating last night which was a good start. Campbell was 1st at +11, which was also great to see on his return.

    I tend to side with Dale here, but who of us really knows?

    I’m more upset, in hindsight, that the Hawks went out this summer and maxed the roster with minimum wage players instead of picking up at least one more $1.5M range guy (like Reasoner, who I believe we both agree was a bad move to dump). I guess the rationale was to pick up lots of pieces and figure out which ones fit or outperformed over the course of the season. Once they made those signings, their hands were somewhat tied going forward which led to the current situation.

    When anyone complains about a particular move being a bad option, my response is typically “What would have been your other option(s)?” So I’m wondering the same here.

    I doubt picking up a cost-effective 2nd-3rd line center at the deadline was a possibility. There’s no one in Rockford unless you want Taffe, the perennial AHL star, NHL flop. I would’ve liked to see Sharp back centering the 2nd line, but that’s looking doubtful even if he returns. Due to the cap, Kruger is what we’ve got. We all knew it was going to be a year of “sacrifices” in some areas, this is one of them. Not bad management, just the best they could do with a bad cap situation IMO.

  6. Dale Halas says:

    John, I don’t understand the “pinning your hopes” part. All I’m saying is that the Hawks spent their last 80K of cap space “wisely.” I don’t see the Hawks improving their team at the center position without it costing them one of their core. If that happens (at all) it is going to have to happen over the summer. As you know with the cap, those kind of blockbuster trades are really difficult to pull off at the trade deadline.

    As for Kruger being plan B. If Plan A is at the trade deadline trying to trade for a center and failing, “What are the other options better then bringing up Kruger?” If you have ideas there I’d really like to hear them.

    Morin is hurt, Beach still needs to get a new brain, they already are already burning an Entry level year on their top D-man and nobody else on that side is ready.

    As you’ve said they did everything they could to “rush” Piri and if anything that has backfired. I got nothing here. That is why I think bringing up Kruger with their last little bit of cap space was a good move. Would love to hear what you think would have been a better one, though…

  7. John says:

    How about not trading Marty Reasoner? Or even re-acquiring him? :) (And yes, I’m aware his wife is pregnant and that whole situation) I don’t think anyone was asking for a blockbuster deal but someone of Reasoner’s ilk wouldn’t have cost a whole bunch.

    No one’s debating whether recalling Kruger was a good move because it was their only move. Like we said a couple weeks ago, they’ve kind of painted themselves into this corner to where they only have one, maybe two options. This is no different. And now Kruger is here and people are going to expect big, if not unrealistic, things from him because of it.

  8. BobbyJet says:

    A few comments: Panthers may be really bad, but that’s easy to say now, after they stole a game from us last week and gave us all we could handle until the 3rd last night. That was a must win, in my books, and the type of hockey some of the less talented teams will throw at you now and in the post season. Hawks showed good patience to beat this bad team.

    Kruger’s call up caught me by surprise and it goes to show how weak our system is at centre ice for sure and based on Ice Hogs record, we’re hurting in other positions as well.

    Is it just me or has Crawford been fighting the puck for a couple of weeks now?

  9. John says:

    CNS–As I said in the post, I have no problem with the Kruger recall. It’s moreso this idea that the company line is “Bringing him here was the plan all along.” As if all their sins from this season are all of a sudden wiped away because of this.

    “See, they just wanted to bring Kruger here. Now we can’t criticize them for only skating with 17 players or a lack of a deadline deal for a center or tying their own hands by giving out contracts to Boynton, Scott, Pisani, etc. ”

    Of course, that completely ignores the fact that Kruger would still be in Sweden if his team kept winning and the fact that it’s debateable there’d even be a spot for him with Sharp and Bolland healthy.

  10. Marts says:

    Kruger in a Hawks uniform fell into management’s lap. To believe otherwise or that it was “planned all along” is foolish IMO.

    Considering the Jetlag (I tried playing a beer-league game the same day I got back from Germany – I roamed the ice like the undead), nerves, new team mates I think he did all right. He kept himself positioned on the defensive side of the puck almost to a fault (which is probably what this team needs anyways) and he got himself onto the scoresheet with that last minute penalty. I’m sure Crawford had a good jibe or laugh with him after the game and shutout were secured.

    I tend to agree that some level of yearlong (maybe longer) mismanagement of personel resulted in Kruger’s call-up and I don’t think it’s debateable. The Hawks can try and spin it anyway they want but it was a last grasp effort at their best option. At this point in time I’m just happy that they took their best option, even if it was their only option.

  11. SouthSideHawkMan says:

    John I tend to side with you most of the time, but was anyone really pinning high hopes on Kruger, and even so he only played one NHL game with 2 guys who grossly underachieved this season. The NHL is littered with 3rd, 4th and 5th round guys who end up being good/great players. The Hawks think thet found a gem with this guy let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. They do have the hardware that proves they have an idea with players. What’s with all the marty reasoner love? On a side note did you hear Edzo saying 98 pts is the necessary point number, which is exactly what I was thinking when you were calling for 95 or bust a few weeks back.

  12. John says:

    If Team X brings in player Y to center a scoring line and/or a shutdown line for the playoffs, then yes, they’re pinning their hopes on him whether they want to admit it or not.

    Let’s wait and see what the final numbers are before we start patting Edzo on the back for being right.

  13. Dale Halas says:

    Hey CNS, the Hawks knew they were going to have to go through Capocalypse this year but they weren’t expecting to get that offer sheet on Hjammer. That offer sheet cost the Hawks an additional (what?) 2M in payroll room and turned “cap hell” into “cap global thermal nuclear metdown.” It was that extra 2M needed to pay Hjammer that meant the Hawks were going to need to sign all those extra 500K players. I don;t think those 500K players were in the original plan.

    Now the Hawks originally traded for Reasoner, imo, to actually have him on the team for the whole year. After the offer sheet to Hjammer, they traded him for a bag of pucks. Now here is the thing, imo, that was a really smart move. Instead of spending 1M+ on Reasoner, they spent 500K on a player and “banked” 500K+ in payroll room.

    Since cap salaries in the NHL are prorated, the longer you wait to add salaries, the more salary you can add. So 500K cap space at the beginning of the year becomes 1M cap space at the halfway point of the season. It becomes 1.5M in cap space after 2/3rds of the season is up and it becomes 2M in cap space once 3/4ths of the season is up.

    So trading Reasoner and adding 500K players at the beginning of the season, allowed them to add significantly more salary later in the year. So this strategy let them add Leddy, Campoli and Frolik. The Hawks could NOT afford to have those players from the start of the season. And I do believe the plan was to add Reasoner back at a later date. It is just that Tallon wouldn’t give him back. No idea why Tallon didn’t trade Reasoner to either the Hawks or the Canucks. So the Hawks ended up with Kruger instead of Reasoner.

    In any event who would you rather have for the playoffs: Reasoner, Boynton, Cullimore and Skille (if it meant having Reasoner for the whole year) or what the Hawks ended up with in Frolik, Campoli, Leddy and Kruger? Personally, I’m thinking “hoarding” the cap space to be used later was the way to go…

  14. Dale Halas says:

    Hey Marts, Bowman never said that Kruger was “planned all along.” Bowman said Kruger was planned to be added even before Bolland got hurt. That makes total sense to me. The Hawks failed to add a center at the trade deadline. So they decided to bring in Kruger at that time. That decision if made then was only two weeks before Bolland was injured. I totally believe that timeline.

    And since there is NO active roster limit after the trade deadline, the Hawks could easily add Kruger to the team even if Bolland and Sharp weren’t injured.

    And as for Kruger’s team extending their playoff run, it’s my understanding that taking their series to 7 games was an extension of their expected playoff run. The team wasn’t really that good.

    And I don’t think that Hawks mismanaged much of their cap. Not after they got that offer sheet. I think they attempted to “get by” during the early part of the year with lower priced players so they could have a significantly better team for the playoffs. Simply put, the Hawks could NOT afford the current roster from the start of the year. That’s NOT mismanagement to me…

  15. John says:

    Dale, you must be Stan Bowman’s agent.

  16. CT says:

    John, you must be Marty Reasoner’s.

    BOOM! Roasted.

  17. Otter says:

    Dale, that’s some pretty awesome revisionist history. If that was the reasoning behind getting rid of Reasoner, then explain the signing of Scott and Pisani? Did signing them allow them to bank money to trade for Stalberg and upgrade from Niemi to Turco?

  18. Otter says:

    Also Dale… if the Hawks weren’t planning on an NHL team to offer Ham Sandwich an offer sheet… well someone should be fired (or blaming Dale Tallon). How can you not be prepared for something like that when it can clearly happen? That’s total mismanagement.

    Finally, Reasoner, Boynton, Cullimore and Skille (for the year) vs Frolik, Campoli, Leddy and Kruger (for 10 games plus playoffs) is probably a net loss. The Hawks have less depth all of a sudden and only Campoli is a clear up grade. Frolik has skill, but it hasn’t translated into goals. Leddy should be a solid NHL player, but he isn’t there yet. And Kruger is a 20 year old Swede who probably won’t add to much (let alone be the difference) in the Hawks playoff success (I think we’ll see Kruger up in the skybox with Scott during the playoffs unless Sharp and Bolland are done for the year.)

  19. Dale Halas says:

    Hey John, :)

    Yea, and last year I was accused (at SCH) of being Niemi’s Agent’s Agent. You know the guy who was an idiot for not expecting an offer sheet to Hjammer. And the idiot who didn’t let Niemi sign some imaginary undervalued 2.6/yr offer the Hawks allegedly made. That idiot who was never going to get a better offer this year. That idiot who only got Niemi signed this year for 4M/yr for 4 years. Yea, well, I was that guys agent last year. LOL

  20. Dale Halas says:

    Hey Otter, What revisionist history?

    by DaleHalas at SCH on Nov 5

    “The Hawks need to survive right now until their injured players return and the team saves up enough salary cap space to replace a couple of 500K guys with a couple of their 1M actual prospects.”

    Here is the link to the discussion:

    http://www.secondcityhockey.com/2010/11/4/1794001/the-way-out-is-through#51195975

    And kudos to CNS btw. He was doing a much better job of explaining what I was trying to say at the time.

    And as for the players you mentioned, they are all fill-in guys that saved the Hawks cap space. Pisani is a 500K guy to get the team through the year saving enough cap space to “add” later. And as a 500K pickup to get through this “cap strapped year” he has been one of their best.

    Scott is your 512K – 23rd player who is capable of playing defense, offense and is your number one fighter. That’s three uses for a 12K over the minimum guy. I just think the Hawks thought he could skate a little bit better, though…

    The Hawks did NOT have the 2.7M to pay Niemi that he was awarded at arbitration. Not after the offer sheet to Hjammer. Turco was a 1.3M replacement that the Hawks could afford.

    IMO, you can argue WHO the Hawks chose to get them through the year. I just will defend the Strategy of saving cap space to get a better team for the playoffs then they could have afforded from the start of the year. To me that was pretty sound Cap Management strategy…

  21. John says:

    I think we’re just going to have to agree to disagree. I’m of the belief that you build your team for the season; not build one for a few months and hope you can upgrade it later. The Hawks are still battling for their playoff lives and a major reason for that is because the team gave up a ton of points at the beginning of the season when ‘fill-in’ guys played larger roles than they should have.

    Also, if the Hawks miss the playoffs, well, then I simply don’t see how anyone can be commended for this kind of round-about strategy.

  22. John says:

    As for the John Scott thing, fighting is not a use, and the idea that he can play forward or defense, well so can I but that doesn’t mean I can do either well. There is plenty of video of John Scott out there. It’s not like his skating skill was some mystery unbeknownst to anyone outside of Minnesota. The Hawks knew what they were getting. And again, there was absolutely no reason to give him a two-year deal.

    Sorry I couldn’t help myself.

  23. Dale Halas says:

    Hey John, in a “normal” year I would agree with you. There just wasn’t anything even remotely normal about this year. You start with the Capocalypse. You know you are going to have a bonus penalty but then Toews wins the Smythe and you are now up in the 4M+ range. Then you get a totally unforeseen Cap Offer. All told that puts you in “cap meltdown mode” and the Hawks had to be “creative”.

    I don’t expect the Hawks to be applying such drastic measures next year. They should have enough cap space to more of less start next year with a team similar to the one they finish with this season.

    As for Scott, I have NO idea what that was about. Clearly somebody got “thrown a bone” since he in NO WAY fits the new Hawks team model…

  24. Otter says:

    Dale, I think there is a pretty good argument to make that the Hawks would be fighting for the #2 seed, not the #5, if they had spent the little money they had at the start of the year and not waiting to improve the team in the late winter/early spring.

    Your plan only works if guys like Keith, Turco, Bolland and Hammer don’t play like crap in the first half the season… and Kane, Campbell and Hossa stay healthy. But the Hawks played pretty poorly to start the year, and while the “reinforcements” are now here, it wasn’t a very good plan. And the Hawks improvement in play has been mainly because Hossa and Kane are healthy; Turco has been replaced; Keith and Hammer are sort of back to normal and Towes is playing at Hart levels… it has less to do with Leddy, Frolik (who I do like) and now Kruger.

  25. John says:

    Well that just turns this all into a ‘the core lets us down’ argument which it really isn’t (and one I don’t necessarily agree with). It’s about how the rest of the team was constructed.

    I think if the vibe around the team at the start of the year was that this was going to be a ‘re-load’ season rather than a run at the Cup, it would save us all a lot of the headaches of this season. Unfortunately, the rhetoric from the organization (from the top down) was opposite of that and their actions throughout the season have pointed to that of a team that is ‘rebuilding on the run’. Speaking for myself, that’s where a lot of my frustrations stem from.

  26. CT says:

    “I’m of the belief that you build your team for the season; not build one for a few months and hope you can upgrade it later. ”

    Clearly you’ve never met my good friend Jim Hendry.

  27. Dale Halas says:

    Hey Otter, I think there are two big differences between the start of the year and now. One is you have a 5th and 6th defensemen that can give you 12-15 minutes a night. That has made a huge impact on reducing the top 2 d-pair loads. I don’t think it is any coincidence that Keith plays better with less average minutes per game. So I think Leddy and Campoli are huge.

    The second difference to me is having Sharp at wing. I know it is sacrilege to criticize Sharp but he has played a mostly offensive style game this year and is much less of a two way player then in previous seasons. Having somebody else (whether it is Bolland, Frolik or Kruger) to play second line center is also going to be huge. And there is NO coincidence that the top line exploded in point production when Sharp got moved there.

    So I think these moves have impacted the core players in a positive way. Toews and Keith in particular…

  28. BobbyJet says:

    The Campoli acquisition is looking pretty good and no way could that have occurred before it did. If Hawks do anything in this years playoffs, that deal will be a large reason. We were looking quite vulnerable on the back end beforehand.

  29. Steve says:

    I think the suggestion that the Hawks were just trying to “get by” until the playoffs is laughable. Do people not realize that doing such a thing is essentially idiotic? Nobody.. Not even the suddenly infallible Stan Bowman is able to predict who and what will be available at the deadline. The intention is to always win. Winning lots of games puts you into the position of not having to make trade deadline moves in an attempt to merely keep your teams playoffs hopes alive. That is what the Hawks had to do. We cannot forget how poorly the team played this season.

    Saying “we will just ride it out till thr deadline” would be totally incompetent and unacceptable. What happened was a gross over estimation of the ability of the Hawks core. Remember how we heard over and over again about how the core would carry the team?

    Stan Bowman screwed up this year. Dumping Reasoner was a mistake. I think that most would also rather have him over frolik. I am glad Campoli and Frolik are working out.. But to suggest these moves were part of some master plan rather then desperation moves is drinking a huge glass of koolaid

  30. Steve from Rockford says:

    Also Campoli was a shot in the dark. You can tell this because he doesn’t really even match what the Hawks were looking for. We have plenty of offensive d men.

    Again its great this is sorta working right now. But its more luck than anything. This team was dead in the water all year. Sure they basically told everyone that questioned them that they were idiots. Then when up against the wall stammered about how they “had to get hot”.

    No way that Bowman or anyone else wanted this to be the narrative of the season. No team in contention places all hope on 20 year old Swedish kids and trade deadline moves.

  31. Patrick says:

    Hey, y’all. Been on vacation…

    What I would add, I like this team a whole heckuva lot better than the team from the start of the season. I think that Frolik > Skille (in a HUGE way) and Campoli is > Hendry + Boynton (both of ‘em, and I remember being excited at the Boynton signing in the offseason). We’ll see on Kruger, but if he can be the playmaking, defensively responsible 2nd line center we all want him to be (and that’s a BIG if), all the better, and he’s cheap too!

    Other than that, Brouwer sure is fighting his stick. Too bad.

    One last thing – looking forward (oh no you didn’t), what happens to Leddy next year? With Campoli an RFA and, I think, likely coming back, the Hawks can sign a low-cost thumper to play as #6 (Sopel anyone?) and send Leddy to the “A” for top-pair minutes (it’ll be a whole new team down there next year too). Would that set him back developmentally, or would it be a good idea? Please discuss.

    Now, onto the Cup! This team could either win it all (again) or fizzle in the first round. They’re just that unpredictable. Kids these days…

  32. BobbyJet says:

    I’m inclined to agree about Leddy needing more time in the AHL next year, where he will get top minutes. He has been OK and hopefully won’t hurt us in POs (assuming we get there) but at 20 still needs grooming and some time to bulk up.
    No question in my mind that a physical dman would do wonders for this team. However, finding the right player, at the right price, will be a challenge, me thinks. Not sure that Sopel is the answer. I would rate him as having the minimum requirements at best.

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