Hawk Talk: The 'kids' are alright

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Hawk Talk: The 'kids' are alright

Friday, Dec. 24, 2010
11:14 AM

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

The "Kids" are Alright...

...and by that mean we mean, the less experienced, rather than the youngest.

Consider that Bryan Bickell (24), Jake Dowell (25) and Jack Skille (23) are all older than 22-year-olds Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Corey Crawford turns 26 in one week. Dave Bolland (24) and Troy Brouwer (25) are on the same experience level as Toews and Kane, but like the other four have stepped things up and been as key as anyone in getting this team's arrow pointing upward again during the absence of Kane and Marian Hossa.

The older we get, the more Christmastime is about enjoying the excitement and anticipation of the youth around us. In this case, it's about that group providing Hawks fans with enjoyment and excitement about what they've been doing lately, right when this team's needed it most. This team was showing signs of coming together during the Circus Trip, right before Hossa and Kane would each be sidelined for a few weeks each. Those could've been crippling injuries to this team with the Western Conference so tight and competitive. The kids were needed, and they've answered the bell and been at their best so far, meshing with their more experienced 'mates to actually give them momentum, instead of a bigger hole to climb out of. At the beginning of the season, we wrote about how the growth of some of these players would be crucial in how serious a threat they'd be in the daunting task of repeating as Stanley Cup champs.

In the seven games that both Kane and Hossa have been sidelined this month, here's a look at how that six-pack's produced:

G-APts.-Bryan Bickell
5-386Dave Bolland
1-453Troy Brouwer
4-152Jake Dowell
0-444Jack Skille
3-140

Corey Crawford: 4-2-1 record, 15 goals-against (3 power play), .919 save percentage.

The five forwards provided 13 of the offense's 25 goals over the seven games, and on top of that, have also picked up on their other responsibilities they must maintain to remain on the ice in Joel Quenneville's system. They, and this team as a whole, has found the right degree of urgency, discipline, and physicality to control the action, particularly the last three games. Crawford's come up with big saves, has faced just three short-handed situations in the three-game win streak, and over these seven games, hasn't seen more than 31 shots. Only in the two games versus Colorado has he been faced with an inordinate amount of prime scoring chances.

With Hossa and Kane on the cusp of returning, there always seems to be an adjustment period in the lineup, even when great players get thrown back into the mix. That's not a bad thing when considering the caliber of players they are. But if the Blackhawks continue maintaining this level of play from this point forward, a little maturity from this group at the right time just might go a long way in being as strong an option as any in the West when the playoffs open.

That's still a long way away, and much can happen. But this group has provided a nice little present on Christmas week, and optimism about their capabilities of filling the void left by those departed Cup champions.

I hope all you Blackhawks fans, visitors of this page, and CSN viewers are having a wonderful holiday season, and best wishes for health, happiness, and fun watching the Blackhawks in 2011.

Chris Boden is the host of Blackhawks Pre and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet.

Honda Road Ahead: Blackhawks look to get back on track to close regular season

Honda Road Ahead: Blackhawks look to get back on track to close regular season

Pat Boyle and Steve Konroyd break down the Blackhawks' upcoming schedule in the latest edition of the Blackhawks Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda dealers.

There are less than two weeks left in the NHL regular season and teams are jockeying for playoff seeding.

The Blackhawks have the best record in the Western Conference with 103 points. The Blackhawks' next two opponents, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Columbus Blue Jackets, also have 103 points. Washington leads the league with 106 points.

Wednesday the Hawks will travel to Pittsburgh. Two days later they host the Blue Jackets.

After that, the Blackhawks take on the Boston Bruins on Sunday. Boston is in line for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

"There's no easy games from here on out." Konroyd said in the video. "Even teams on the outside, looking in are playing for contracts next year."

Watch the video above to see Boyle and Konroyd discuss the upcoming matchups for the Blackhawks.

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks lose to Lightning in OT

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks lose to Lightning in OT

Here are some of Monday's top stories in Chicago sports:

Blackhawks blow three-goal lead, fall in OT at Lightning

How Cubs came to fully believe in the legend of Kyle Schwarber

White Sox agree to trade outfielder Peter Bourjos

Bulls Talk Podcast: March is Nikola Mirotic's month

Raiders-to-Vegas the latest in long line of NFL relocation drama, some of which included the Bears

Why Cubs fandom was inescapable in covering the greatest story in sports

Derek Holland ends spring on strong note as White Sox down Dodgers

Ex-Bear Brandon Marshall an early favorite at NFL owners meetings

Increased velocity has improved Anthony Swarzak's chances of making White Sox bullpen

Cubs will have Ian Happ one phone call away at Triple-A Iowa