Blackhawks by the numbers
A week after the first “first vs. second” in the West, the Blackhawks are back home, facing that situation again versus another pursuer.
While that 5-3 win in San Jose last Tuesday was the second of what’s now a five-game skid for the Sharks, the Hawks return home, having yet to experience any bumps. They’ll eventually come, be it injuries, or scoring slumps, or the grind of 48 games in 99 days. But let’s look at the teams right behind them right now – three weeks in and a quarter of the way done.
The Anaheim team that comes in Tuesday has key players in contract years, highlighted by Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. But those highest-profile guys have combined for just four goals. It’s their two oldest players -– 42-year-old Teemu Selanne and 38-year-old Saku Koivu –- who’ve paced them in production without deals beyond this season. And 36-year-old Sheldon Souray’s brought his booming shot from the point (four goals) after battling through injuries and limited production the past three years, one of which was spent in the minors.
Much as I hate to respect the Canucks, they've started 7-2-2 without Ryan Kesler and David Booth and in the middle of a goalie mess, courtesy of Mike Gillis and Alain Vigneault. But my buddy Roberto Luongo has actually outperformed Corey Schneider and earned himself an opportunity for a raised pricetag...if only Gillis could find the right taker. But the team itself has set that aside. I have no choice to respect what they've overcome.
San Jose's roller coaster ride continues through all their Joe Thornton/Patrick Marleau questions, which won't cease until they at least make it through the West.
Which brings us to Detroit. San Jose's Todd McLellan once served time under Mike Babcock, who has his team back in the mix, in fifth pace, having won five of seven (yet those only two losses were to Calgary and Columbus). After Pavel Datsyuk was rocked driving to the net Sunday by Drew Doughty, he went right back to the same spot and scored. Babcock loves Datsyuk's skill, but said afterwards he marvels at his stars' "will". They might not get what they want every night, but they "bring it" every night.
St. Louis' killer goalie combo isn't the same with Brian Elliott going back to being...Brian Elliott...as Jarolslav Halak recovers from groin issues. Los Angeles can't hang it all upon Jonathan Quick with a banged-up defensive corps in front of him and the offense inconsistent. Minnesota's big tickets haven't cashed in. Nashville has a handful of young defensemen with upside, but especially misses Ryan Suter without countering his loss with more offensive firepower. And the Hawks seem to have figured a way to beat Mike Smith and Phoenix.
It's early. But this season, it's also late. Things change quickly. Stack whatever you can and be ready to go whenever Round 1 happens, versus whichever opponent it brings.