Hawk Talk: The 'kids' are alright


Hawk Talk: The 'kids' are alright

Friday, Dec. 24, 2010
11:14 AM

By Chris Boden

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

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.

Blackhawks rally to beat Maple Leafs in shootout

Blackhawks rally to beat Maple Leafs in shootout

Richard Panik tied the game against his former team and Artemi Panarin got the shootout winner as the Blackhawks came back to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-4 on Saturday night.

The Leafs took a 3-2 lead late in the second period courtesy of James van Riemsdyk. But the Leafs have struggled in third periods this early season – entering Saturday’s game they were outscored 6-1 in that frame – and the Blackhawks were the latest team take advantage of that.

Artem Anisimov scored two goals, including one with 2:28 remaining in regulation to bring the Blackhawks to within 4-3. Then a minute later, Panik, who was with the Toronto Marlies when he was traded to the Blackhawks last season, tied the game at 4-4.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Scott Darling stopped 30 of 34 shots in regulation and overtime for the victory.

Tyler Motte scored his second goal in as many nights. Anisimov’s first goal gave the Blackhawks an early 1-0 lead.

The Blackhawks had six power plays in this one, including two in overtime. But couldn’t capitalize. Their first advantage in overtime (4-on-3) was easily their best.

The Blackhawks went on the penalty kill once but it was costly yet again, with William Nylander scoring on the Leafs’ lone power-play shot. Nylander would also score an even-strength goal, off an Auston Matthews rebound, in the third period.

Trevor van Riemsdyk out about a month as Blackhawks host Toronto

Trevor van Riemsdyk out about a month as Blackhawks host Toronto

Trevor van Riemsdyk will miss about a month with an upper-body injury he sustained in the Blackhawks’ 3-2 loss to Columbus on Friday night.

Van Riemsdyk was injured late in the second period when he slid into the net, his right arm/shoulder colliding with the post. Coach Joel Quenneville said van Riemsdyk’s injury, as of now, doesn’t require surgery. Quenneville wasn’t sure if van Riemsdyk would be put on injured reserve. The defenseman played all 82 games for the Blackhawks last season but had injury problems prior to that.

In good news, Marian Hossa is now “likely” to play Saturday night, Quenneville said. Hossa has missed the last two games with a lower-body injury he sustained on Tuesday night.

Scott Darling will get the start vs. the Maple Leafs. The Blackhawks have had an up-and-down start to the season. Once again, their penalty kill hasn’t helped. It allowed two more goals to the Blue Jackets and has now allowed 11 through the first five games.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“We can’t say much about our PK right now. It’s definitely a sore spot and it’s almost like let’s look at it as a fresh beginning and look at trying to get through one kill, and the first 20 seconds get through that rotation,” Quenneville said. “Let’s take baby steps in our approach, whether it’s a four-man pressure, denying entries or up-ice pressure, in the shooting lanes, make sure we’re clearing, all the things that go into it. It’s been tough right now and certainly we have to repair it and fix it tonight.”

Meanwhile, there’s nothing new to report on Andrew Desjardins, who suffered a lower-body injury in the Blackhawks’ preseason finale in St. Louis. Quenneville said it’ll still be a few weeks until Desjardins skates.


Time: 6 p.m.


Radio: WGN

Projected lineups


Tyler Motte-Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik

Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane

Ryan Hartman-Nick Schmaltz-Marian Hossa

Dennis Rasmussen-Marcus Kruger-Jordin Tootoo

Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson

Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook

Gustav Forsling-Brian Campbell

Scott Darling

Injuries: Trevor van Riemsdyk (upper body), Andrew Desjardins (lower body)

Toronto Maple Leafs

William Nylander-Auston Matthews-Zach Hyman

James van Riemsdyk-Tyler Bozak-Mitchell Marner

Milan Michalek-Nazem Kadri-Leo Komarov

Matt Martin-Peter Holland-Connor Brown

Morgan Rielly-Connor Carrick

Jake Gardiner-Roman Polak

Matt Hunwick-Nikita Zaitsev

Frederik Andersen