After our hiatus, it only took one Blackhawk pre-season to get our juices flowing again. Actually, I could only stomach about 25 minutes of gameplay before the premiere of ‘Parks and Recreation’ got the best of my television, but nevertheless. It’s good to be back.
On to the game, or at least the parts I saw. There wasn’t a whole bunch worth remembering in this one. The Hawks sent a skeleton squad to Pittsburgh comprised of mostly junior eligible or AHL rookies along with Michael Frolik, Dan Carcillo, Bryan Bickell, Sami Lepisto, Nick Leddy, and Sean O’Donnell to handle a Penguins team icing pretty close to their NHL squad. The results were fairly predictable. The Hawks couldn’t muster much of anything and when they did, it was of the one and done variety.
Some other observations:
–Sami Lepisto made a terrific cross-ice pass to set up Michael Frolik’s goal. With Pittsburgh completely overcommitting to one side, Lepisto recognized it immediately and fired the puck off his stick as soon as it touched his blade.
–Brandon Saad has officially won this year’s ‘Igor Makarov Memorial Trophy’ awarded to the Blackhawk prospect who makes fans and media members alike lose their collective minds over a couple of good performances. Saad looks like a steal right now, but unless something horrible happens, he’s playing this year in the CHL. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
My take is that his skating is NHL-ready but nothing else really is. His decision-making is still a step behind. There was a moment in the second period where he created a couple of opportunities and there was a scramble in front of Brent Johnson. Dan Carcillo fed the puck Saad on the side of the net. With a clear lane to the net, Saad held on the puck a split-second too long and Johnson and the Pittsburgh defenseman had completely taken away any advantage Saad had. Meanwhile, the only shot he could take that would get to the net was a wrist shot into Johnson’s chest.
Not to mention, he was clearly fired up playing in his hometown rink. Let’s see him a couple more times before we annoint him the new Phil Esposito.
–Sean O’Donnell makes John Scott positively useless. Chris Block and I discussed this on his puckcast a couple weeks back, but if John Scott was a non-factor last year, this year he is totally irrellevant. Chris went so far as to say he thinks there’s a strong chance Scott will start the season in Rockford and while I agree that makes the most sense, I still believe the Hawks will justify keeping him by telling themselves Scott can play both forward and defense in a pinch so it won’t hurt to keep him on the roster as the 23rd skater. His clock is ticking, though.
–As for the back-up goalie situation, regardless of the stats right now, it still makes the most sense for the Hawks to keep Ray Emery as Corey Crawford’s back-up and Alexander Salak as the starter in Rockford. There are a whole lot of reasons and here they are in no particular order:
Salak needs to start more than twice every two weeks.
Emery is better equipped to handle a back-up position.
Emery still hasn’t completely wet the bed to make the Hawks believe he isn’t capable of giving them 30 solid games.
Emery will not pass through waivers if the Hawks try to send him to Rockford. Salak doesn’t have to. The IceHogs need something of substance in their net, at least for the first half of the season to see just what they have in guys like Shawn Lalonde, Ryan Stanton, Brandon Pirri, etc.
The Hawks are a smart enough organization to realize their goalie depth chart is strongest with Corey Crawford, Ray Emery, and Alexander Salak on it.
–Maybe it was the three glasses of wine, but I actually laughed out loud watching ‘The Office’ last night. It’s been awhile.