What is really the question Blackhawk fans should be asking themselves when they venture out on to their rooftops and prepare to launch themselves off? All this recent angst seems to be directed in the wrong areas. Before you step on to the ledge today, ask yourself these questions. Should I really be that worried Patrick Kane only has one goal in his last 16 games? Will Akim Aliu and Kyle Beach turn the Blackhawks locker room into Sector C of the Cook County Prison in a couple years? Do the ‘Hawks really need to be that good at face-offs to be a Cup contender? What happened to the penalty kill? We’ll do this like anything else, step by step.
Should I really be that worried Patrick Kane only has one goal in his last 16 games?
In a word, no. Even though Tim Sassone didn’t waste any time heeding his readers’ calls, a quick look at Kane’s short career will provide all the answers you need. Sometimes, fans and writers alike have the memories of a goldfish. Last year, in a twenty game stretch from November 14th until December 23rd, Kane scored one goal. In a thirty game stretch, he had two goals. That should tell you this is nothing new. It’s just the way a player defines himself in this league and for Kane, he appears to be the type of guy who about once a year will go through an extended goal-less drought. He’ll rack up his assists throughout the season, and even with one goal in his last 16 games this year, he’s still on pace to be a point per game player. If you must complain about someone’s lack of goal scoring abilities, take a long, hard look at Dustin Byfuglien. That will make you forget about Kane for a little while.
Will Akim Aliu and Kyle Beach turn the Blackhawks locker room into Sector C of the Cook County Prison in a couple years?
You know how the Chicago media can’t get enough of the new Blackhawks? They’re polite. They’ll do any interview you ask of them. Rocky Wirtz would marry off any of his daughters to the players. They backpacked across Canada in the dead of winter to visit Dale Tallon at his father’s wake. Well, if Aliu and Beach ever show up, all that goodwill built up might fly out the building quicker than it got here. One of these guys might be enough to do it, but if they both show up together, we might find out what would happen if the Ghostbusters ever crossed streams on their proton packs. Just in the past month, Aliu left his junior team, the London Knights, by reaming out his head coach, Dale Hunter, and then made friends with his new team by allegedly spitting on an opponent. Beach started a riot after taunting the opposing team on an empty net goal (which you can find the video of here) and then was recently suspended three games for firing a puck into the stands and injuring a fan. These could be your future Chicago Blackhawks, and because they are both high draft picks, they will each get every opportunity to make the parent club. Consider me absolutely terrified of either these guys making the team in the next couple years and immediately polarizing this tight-knit group. They could make Sean Avery look like Mark Messier.
Do the ‘Hawks really need to be that good at face-offs to be a Cup contender?
Ah, yes, another favorite talking point for frustrated ‘Hawk fans. I covered this very topic during the first couple of weeks of our website and dissected the statistic of face-off wins. Pat Foley and Edzo have picked up on it recently and tried to point out every time a face-off win or loss is crucial. The ‘Hawks could be better at them some nights and certainly when they only win 20% of the face-offs, that is an unacceptable number. However, if they’re winning draws at a 40 to 50% clip, consider it a success. Riddle me this fellow ‘Hawk faithful; if face-offs were as critical as some think, why is Yanic Perreault, arguably the best face-off man on the planet, dominating the local Rat times in Sherbrooke, Quebec instead of suiting up for an NHL squad? Surely a team could find room for him somewhere if winning face-offs was a determining factor in the outcome of games.
What happened to the penalty kill?
When the ‘Hawks held the Oilers scoreless on three power play attempts last night, it was the first time in eight games the ‘Hawks didn’t allow a power play goal. That is a recipe for disaster. Something has to be done and not just because Bobby is going to have a stroke. Most teams defend the power play by setting up in a box (two forwards at the top of the circles, two d-man at the bottom) or a diamond (one forward at the top of the slot, a forward and d-man just past the hash marks, and the other d-man standing in front of the goalie). The ‘Hawks have been employing something I’ve never seen before. They have both their forwards standing behind each other at the top of the slot and the d-men to each side of the goalie, almost resembling a T. Needless to say, it hasn’t been very successful. Whether it’s because of a lack of communication or a lack of brains, this might be the thing that may come back to kill (no pun intended) the ‘Hawks more than anything else. Playoff teams who can’t kill off penalties at a consistent rate and give up at least one power play goal per night usually don’t make it past the first round.