Hawk Talk: There will be more of Morin

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Hawk Talk: There will be more of Morin

Monday, Oct. 4, 2010
9:18 PM

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

So it looks like there will be just one 19-year-old helping the Blackhawks begin defense of their Stanley Cup Thursday night in Denver after Jeremy Morin was sent back to Rockford of the AHL for a little more seasoning. Nick Leddy may have been there along with him if not for Brian Campbell's sprained knee, but that injury created more of a need to fill what Campbell usually brings to the blue line.

Both Leddy and Morin showed their capability of playing at the highest level the last two weeks. It's now the former Golden Gopher's task to prove he has staying power going against a full NHL lineup, gameplanning against the Hawks' style in hostile environments, and under the great expectations when the champs are in their very own building.

Morin's game seemed to plateau a bit during the second week of games, but it was still pretty solid. If, in fact, a roster spot came down to him against Viktor Stalberg, the latter seemed to gradually pick up his game toward the end of camp. Provided Morin, Kyle Beach and a couple of others on the cusp take care of business in Rockford, they're a phone call away, something the 3rd- and 4th-line guys here will be well aware of.

How quickly and effectively the new faces mesh into their roles will be the ongoing storyline to watch the next six months. There are sure to be bumps in the road, and I think most Hawks fans are smart enough not to expect the kind of franchise-record regular season numbers their team put up last season. While this team wants to - and believes it can - win every night, the bigger picture will be about how effective that depth will be by the time April rolls around. By then, Morin could very well be a part of that mix.

Alright, so now it's time to get those preseason predictions on the record that we can all look back on in April and laugh at:

The Hawks will at least finish in the top four in the West for home ice in the first round of the playoffs.

I see Detroit gunning for it all this year, and edging the Hawks out in the Central. To do that, their deep but aging roster must stay healthier than last season (it has to, right?), and sophomore goalie Jimmy Howard can't slump. The others in the top four will again be San Jose and Vancouver. The Sharks still haven't replaced Rob Blake (though they tried with Niklas Hjalmarsson) and have their share of post-season ghosts. Speaking of which, the Canucks have playoff skeletons in their closet, too, courtesy of the Hawks. We'll give them the regular season conference title based on the moves they made to improve their defense and depth. We'll even crown them Stanley Cup favorite in the West based on their roster. They then have to convince us that crown isn't too heavy, and Roberto Luongo has no excuses for any playoff flameouts now that he's not wearing the "C" and now that Dustin Byfuglien won't be standing in front of him for an entire series. I'm not sure if he - and they - can, once the Real Season begins. All bets are off, and if the Hawks are healthy and found answers for all four lines, I don't believe any team would want to face the defending champs.

For my other four playoff teams in the West - once the annual mad scramble for seeding and spots settles April 10 - I'll go with the Kings, Blues, Predators, and....hmmm...OK...Avalanche. I won't bother with a specific order, but that should be enough to put on record. It was between Colorado and Phoenix. Ilya Bryzgalov or free agent-to-be Craig Anderson? What leaned me in the Lanche's direction was their young core (where have we heard that?) that was key to their surprising success last year, taking the next step. I like St. Louis' young talent that took a dip last year (ya listenin', Colorado?) to rebound and start to grow into their potential while Jaroslav Halak guards the net. And I'm thinking Barry Trotz coaches around the continued lack of offensive firepower in Nashville to get his team in behind Pekka Rinne and that pesky Preds "system." Yes, four teams from the Central in the West's top eight.

So there it is. Now, never go back and look at this again.
Remember: "Stanley's Summer Vacation" Saturday night at 6 on CSN for some yet-to-be-seen footage from our coverage of Jonathan Toews's and Patrick Kane's days with the Cup this summer. Then, an hour-long "Chevy Blackhawks Pregame Live," beginning at 6:30 from the United Center concouse, ahead of the banner-raising ceremony and the home opener against Detroit

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back vs. Lightning tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back vs. Lightning tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. How will Blackhawks respond to worst loss of season?

The Blackhawks suffered their worst loss of the season on Saturday in a 7-0 rout at the hands of the Panthers. It was the first time they've lost by at least seven goals since 2011 when Edmonton beat them 9-2 and the first time they lost 7-0 since 2001 against San Jose; the Blackhawks lost to Washington 6-0 earlier this year. But by no means was Saturday their worst effort of the season. A questionable interference penalty by Marcus Kruger led to a two-man advantage, which Florida cashed in on with a goal and another shortly after, and it opened up the floodgates. Expect a big bounce-back against a hungry Lightning team.

2. Lightning fighting for playoff lives.

Every game is a must-win for the Lightning with eight games remaining on their schedule. They're three points out of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with a game in hand on the Bruins, who currently occupy that spot, but still have to jump the Islanders. The Lightning didn't do themselves any favors by losing three straight in regulation last week, but they've won two in a row and tonight will be the first of a four-game homestand for them.

3. Keep the puck off Nikita Kucherov's stick.

There isn't a hotter player in the NHL right now than Kucherov, who has seven goals and two assists in his last four games. He's had two hat tricks in the past month, and he ranks sixth in the league with 78 points and second in goals with 38. You know how lethal Artemi Panarin's slapshot is from the left faceoff circle? That's Kucherov, but on the right side.

4. Staying disciplined.

The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team in the league, but they acted out of character Saturday by racking up 30 penalty minutes. They were also slapped with a pair of unsportsmanlike penalties, which isn't something you normally see from Joel Quenneville's teams. Ryan Hartman, who along with Marcus Kruger was penalized for "yapping" at the officials, accepted responsibility for it after the game, and insisted it "won't happen again."

5. Special teams to play key factor?

On the flip side, the Lightning are the second-most penalized team, averaging just over 11 penalty minutes per game. Power plays will be key for the Blackhawks in an effort to keep Tampa Bay's collection of talented young goal scorers off the ice. The Lightning also boast a top-five power play unit with a 22 percent success rate. Both teams would be better served staying out of the box and making this a 5-on-5 battle.

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Will lopsided loss shake Blackhawks from their slumber?

Will lopsided loss shake Blackhawks from their slumber?

The Blackhawks have talked the past several games now about how they need to play better, how they need to get back to their 60-minute game. But even when you tell yourself you have to improve the message doesn't always translate into immediate action. That's especially true if, despite so-so play, you're still managing victories or still eking out a point.

Sometimes, you need a jolt to realize you have to get better. Well, that thud the Blackhawks made in South Florida ought to get their attention. 

The Blackhawks' 7-0 loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday night, that "ugly, ugly game," as coach Joel Quenneville, is the latest in what's been a mediocre stretch for the team. They've been leaning on their goaltending again (please see Minnesota, Montreal, Ottawa and Dallas games). Or they've been leaning on their ability to wake up in the third period after sleepwalking through the first two. Sixty-minute games and four-line rotations, such a big part of the Blackhawks' success through February and early March, have been absent.

Call it the Blackhawks' mid-March malaise.

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It hasn't been more painful because the Blackhawks have still found ways to get points. Or at least they did until Saturday night, when two "yapping" penalties – Quenneville's (accurate) description of Ryan Hartman and Marcus Kruger's unsportsmanlike calls – started the Blackhawks' demise against the Panthers. Players told the traveling media following the game that this was a wake-up call. It ought to be.

Granted, the Blackhawks' late-season issues aren't as bad as some of their fellow Western Conference teams. The Minnesota Wild are 3-10-1 in March. The San Jose Sharks have lost six in a row. This also isn't the first time the Blackhawks have gone through this late-season mediocrity.

Entering the 2015 postseason they struggled to score goals and lost four in a row (five goals in those four games). It turned out alright. Still, best to avoid bad habits.

Perhaps the Blackhawks are in a bit of a swoon because, really, there's not much for which to play in these final few games. They don't care if they win the Presidents' Trophy (and they probably won't). They're currently in first place by seven points following the Wild's 3-2 overtime loss to Detroit on Sunday. Whether the Blackhawks finish first or second, they'll start this postseason at home. 

So is this panic-inducing? No. Is it a concern? Certainly. The Blackhawks can't start thinking they'll automatically flip the switch as soon as the postseason begins.

The Blackhawks want to get their four-line rotation going again. Artem Anisimov returning in the next week or two will certainly help that. They want to get their overall game going again. The Blackhawks have been telling themselves what needs to be done for a few games now. Maybe they needed a wake-up call. On Saturday, they got it.