As the Drew Stafford hit debate will surely go on – my final take: too close to call; absent a rules change, tie goes to the checker, I guess – the Blackhawks must likely do the same without Norris Trophy candidate Duncan Keith. Keith likely sustained a concussion on the Stafford hit, and will accordingly miss time. With the All Star Game only nine days away, keeping Keith out for the next three games will give him two full weeks to rest before the ‘Hawks return to action in Anaheim on the 28th. As concussions – and head injuries, generally – are treated very carefully these days, I’m guessing we’ll see Mr. Keith again that day, and no sooner.
Watch for James Wisniewski to play with Brent Seabrook, and for Aaron Johnson to return to the line-up to be paired with Cam Barker. This could also mean a return to the top power play unit for Cam Barker, as Wiz could move from the first unit to take Keith’s quarterback position on the second unit. I don’t see Q asking Barker to take those duties.
Mid-year Burning Questions
Tim Sassone of the Daily Herald listed “five things to keep an eye on the rest of the way,” given the ‘Hawks are at the midway point of the season. If you don’t mind – and, if you’re reading this, presumably you don’t – I’d like to throw in my four cents – inflationary – on each of the issues. Follow me to freedom…
“Can they keep it up?”
I don’t see why not.
The ‘Hawks win games the ol’ fashioned way: they’re better at hockey than their opponents. (Novel, huh?) In contrast to system teams, like Minnesota for example, what you see is what you get. Moreover, though Patricks Sharp and Kane seem to be producing at expected clips, Jonathon Toews, Dustin Byfuglien and even Martin Havlat may do more in the second half; the Kane/Sharp line wing may be solidified in Ben Eager; and if one goaltender falters, there’s another standing behind him.
My eight ball says things are looking up.
“Watch out for February”
And, boy, is it brutal. The ‘Hawks play only three times at home in February, and the month includes a large chunk of their west coast swing. The good news: they’re unbeaten versus the western Canadian teams.
But, in the words of the great Samuel L. Jackson, “Hold on to your butts.”
“What will Dale do?”
WWDD? Nothin’. With the ‘Hawks just hundreds of thousands under the salary cap and the team’s two most likely trade candidates, Nik Khabibulin and Martin Havlat, playing so very well, it’s unlikely Dale will be able to acquire anyone. Throw in all the other contenders’ cap issues and the looming Kane/Keith/Toews offseason in the summer of 2010, and it should be a quiet deadline for ‘Hawk fans. Outside of a cheap veteran – and, really, do the ‘Hawks need a cheap veteran? – don’t expect any significant movement, if any at all.
Beating the Best
The ‘Hawks have collected a meager four out of a possible eighteen points against the West’s two top teams (Sharks and ‘Wings) and the East’s three division leaders (Rangers, Bruins, Capitals), including no wins. With tonight’s game versus the Rangers and two remaining contests against both San Jose and Detroit, they’ll have to be better. The good news, though, is that they’ve handled just about everyone else.
Feeling the Heat
Yes, the ‘Hawks are young, and Joel Quennville’s teams don’t typically do well in the playoffs.
But, if you don’t mind, I’m going to keep going to all the games.
See you there tonight.