Sunday, Oct. 10, 2010
By Chris Boden
"Some guys...across the board - we need more."
With that subtle (or was it?) insight at the podium Saturday night, Joel Quenneville let everyone know how he felt about the one-goal loss in the home opener that followed the one-goal loss in the road opener. Welcome to the new bar that you've set, boys.
Just as their journey to the Stanley Cup that was so magnificently celebrated was a learning process, so is what comes after all of that. The team the Blackhawks lost to Saturday night knows a little something about that. Detroit may not have dominated the team they'll now try to knock off, but they were strong enough, and, in some cases, lucky enough against a champion without two key, injured ingredients.
The "fourth" line of Dowell, Skille, and Stalberg was the Hawks' best over the sixty minutes. None of them have their names on the Cup. Who knows - maybe that's why the were so effective against a Detroit team that may have been unfamiliar with them. They got a majority of the ice time late, when Quenneville was looking to tie the game. But Jake, Jack and Vic should be supplementing, not highlighting, this team's offensive play. All three drew penalties in the loss. While the Blackhawks will probably take 25 percent accuracy on the power play over the course of the season (as they've been through these first two games), coming up empty in the six minutes they had over an eight-minute span of the third period - looking to equalize - left a bad taste. The absence of Patrick Sharp and Brian Campbell hurt, and I think we're now all starting to understand this team isn't quite the same without Campbell, no matter how you feel about his salary cap hit. Niklas Hjalmarsson misses him, too, being on the ice for
all seven of the opposition's goals thus far with varying partners.
Coming up empty added to the frustration because the eventual game-winner was so...weird. It started with John Scott's tumble that cleared a path for Valtteri Filppula. It ended with Filppula's semi-whiff on his shot, Hjalmarsson's semi-whiff on his block attempt, and the off-speed puck sneaking past Marty Turco. Scott and Turco both stood up afterwards and blamed themselves for the loss. That's nice of them, but they're hardly the only reasons. The new goalie's first two games have included some spectacular stops and a couple of exasperating shots that've slipped past him. He now has the pair of openers behind him, and can move on past those two emotional hurdles. With Quenneville indicating he sees Turco's game count being somewhere in the fifties, Corey Crawford will get his first action of the season with four games over six nights this week.
And the rest of the team can now move past the celebrations and pats on the back that the returnees have earned, and try to get back to a normal hockey routine. One couldn't help but get emotional Saturday night when the rare prize that's been so central to our sporting consciousness the past four months was given a final smooch, a twirl for all in the building to see, and a final pat on its side by Jonathan Toews as the captain skated away, and the Stanley Cup was turned back over to the NHL. Then the banner being passed from the '61 champs to the current ones, and raised to the rafters as The Madhouse roared. One last pose, one last group hug.
Now it's on to the business at hand and the challenges ahead. The opposition will treat the remaining 80 regular season games like Game 7 of the Cup Finals. As great as the party's been, the Hawks are admittedly weary of the Cup celebration questions. Now they'll have to figure out ways to prove the Cup Hangover questions will not apply to them.