The Blackhawks like the way they played, and for the most part, there's not much to complain about over their final 40 minutes last night in Vancouver.
If they keep playing as they did over the final two periods, they should win in Calgary and Edmonton, and 2-0-1 would be the next-best-thing to start this nine-game test. Thing is, they need to start playing like that all the time, make the "ifs" a non-factor, and, to be blunt, getting one of a potential six points these last three games against two teams now above you in the Western standings can't continue. Not when Nashville starts the second half by storming from behind in the third period against a desperate Wild team in Minnesota. Not when Detroit starts their own western Canadian swing with a win in Calgary. It's just the bottom line of what they're dealing with.
We'll chalk up the first period defense to some six-day rust. That was also a pretty good team on the other side, much as we might not want to admit it (and even better with the goalie they started). Once the Hawks got their bearings back under them, they played well, and carried the action the majority of the time. It also seemed evident to this pair of eyes that Patrick Sharp was still feeling his way back, if not being a little tentative, after three weeks away. Throw in a brand new center with him and Marian Hossa, and we'll see how that line progresses, and how much Brendan Morrison can provide.
Until we get that answer, Stan Bowman has to continue to make adding a top-four defenseman the ideal priority. The main one who was on the market, Carolina's Tim Gleason, re-upped for four years with the 'Canes, so that field shrinks and the competition for what's left becomes tougher. So before we start plucking names on our wish lists, think again whom and how many you'd be willing to sacrifice from among the young crop (Kruger? Hayes? Olsen? Morin? Pirri?) to beat out the competition for that piece -- whether it's on the blueline, or another forward if Morrison's not the answer. John Scott barely played last night, and if you picked him over O'Donnell and Lepisto, the other five (especially the top two) can't be asked to suck up all the unbalanced minutes.
It was a confidence-building game for Corey Crawford. His performance was one of a handful of positives to take out of Vancouver. But it only got the Blackhawks one point. I'll still take a team that's healthy and hitting its stride come playoff time over one that finds life easy during the regular season. It's all about that build-up. But as we flip the calendar to February, the rest of the teams in front of the Hawks don't seem to care about that mindset.