Blackhawks Problem: Kids Outplaying Veterans

Close the book. Find a good, dusty spot on the shelf for it, and put it there. Forget about it.

The 2009-10 season is, officially, over.

The banner is in the rafters, the rings have been distributed, the Commissioner was on the ice to receive the obligatory boos before the game, and the Stanley Cup has made the celebrity guest appearance on United Center ice.

But now it’s over.

The fact that it’s over couldn’t have been more evident than the 3-2 loss the current Hawks team suffered on Saturday night in their home opener. Detroit, just as Colorado did two nights earlier, threw a lot of early garbage at Marty Turco, and to his credit the new Blackhawks netminder handled the action and kept the Hawks in the game.

Again, just like the Colorado game on Thursday night, two trends emerged.

The first is the Blackhawks power play sucks. Period. They were 1-5 on Saturday night with a man advantage, which is even more frustrating because they received three straight penalties while trailing in the third period and still, despite having an advantage for six minutes, only managed eight shots in the period. Including Thursday night’s performance, the Blackhawks have converted only three of 12 power play opportunities so far this year.

A lot of the Hawks failure to convert has to do with the second, and more concerning, trend that is developing.

The new faces, especially the young ones, are outplaying the guys that won the jewelry last year.

Pop Quiz: Which Blackhawks player has as many goals this season (2) as Phil Kessel, Steven Stamkos and Alex Ovechkin? Answer: Bryan Bickell.

Pop Quiz: Which Blackhawks player currently ranks second in the entire NHL with 10 hits already? Answer: Bickell.

Bickell has been a force, including a big-time hit that should have brought energy to the Hawks’ side of the ice last night. But he isn’t alone. The fourth line for the Blackhawks (Viktor Stalberg-Jake Dowell-Jack Skille) has easily been the most consistent on the team through the first two games. In Saturday night’s loss, the line was credited with eight hits and six shots on goal, and they rightfully saw their minutes increase from Game One.

Meanwhile, Quenneville continues to struggle with his lineup as he tries to find an adequate answer to the holes left by Brian Campbell and, in a surprising move late on Saturday, Patrick Sharp. Dave Bolland has been miserable in the faceoff circle to begin the year, winning only 13 of 39 attempts (33%). Sharp won over 50 percent of his faceoffs last year, and gave the Blackhawks two of the top 20 centers in the game. When you take Sharp out of the equation, and Bolland continues to struggle, the hole on the roster becomes more visible.

Sharp’s absence was noticeable from the 300 level last night as Quenneville sent out disgusting combinations all night on the power play. And yes, I have zero issue with saying that Tomas Kopecky, Brent Seabrook and Nick Boynton being on the ice at the same time when the Hawks have a man advantage is disgusting. Awful.

Nick Leddy has skated very well through two games to begin the year while the Hawks are missing Campbell. However, his minutes were cut to under 10 in the home opener while Boynton skated over 20 after Quenneville mixed up his pairs on the blue line and moved Leddy down to be with John Scott.

And, again for the record, Scott is a trainwreck. His ability to beat up anyone on the other team no longer overshadows poor footwork. When he blew a tire and, as they say on the slopes, had a yard sale in front of Valteri Filppula that led to a goal, it was embarassing. Nobody touched him, he just had a Three Stooges moment and ended up 10 feet away from his stick, laying on his back as the Red Wings scored.

Meanwhile Niklas Hjalmarsson has zero points and is minus-four already. Duncan Keith has yet to contribute a point as well, while Patrick Kane has just one assist through two games.

Missing Campbell and Sharp hurt the Blackhawks all over the ice, and certainly handicapped the team’s ability to perform on Saturday night. Are injuries an excuse? No. But it’s the job of the players that have been there before to help new players fill the gaps on the roster. Through two games, that isn’t happening.

In all, the so-called “kids” on the Blackhawks roster have out-hustled the veterans and it’s starting to show in the box scores. Soon, Quenneville will be forced to make lineup decisions if Skille and Stalberg continue to earn more than the nine or 10 minutes their fourth line allowance permits.

2 thoughts on “Blackhawks Problem: Kids Outplaying Veterans

  • October 10, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    I already know I’m probably an idiot, but where can you see the threads w/all the comments from your blogs????

    Anyway, let me get this off my chest. You know that 3 of 12 on the power play is 25%, right? Know how many teams did that last year? One. That being said, I was at the game last night and the PP was god awful. If I had to watch Seabrook fire one more puck into the corner from just across center ice, you might have heard of someone throwing themself from the 300 section. Definitely need some work there. Like not having Dave Bolland on the point.

    Bickell and Skille were beasts last night. Period.

    Outside of Bickell and Skille, there are two positives I can take away from last night. One, as bad of a whole game the Hawks played, they only lost by one. Think what will happen when they start playing well together. Two, the Wings were garbage last year b/c of injuries and didn’t turn it on until after the Olympics. Once we get Campbell back and the 3rd and 4th lines have a good 20 games under their belt, we’ll be in business. Lots of raw talent on those lines, just need time to develop it. Now let’s just hope the defense improves…….

  • October 10, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    Yes, I know 25% is a great number for an entire season. But my bigger point was that the Blackhawks have had 12 power plays in two games, not converted on nine, and lost both games by one. When you’re chasing one and you get six minuts of an advantage, you MUST convert.

    And last night the dump & chase was miserable. Awful. Worst post-Savard. But when one of your best trigger man (Sharp) and #2 PP quarterback (Campbell) are both out and you’re stuck with either a 19-year-old (Leddy) or a guy that shouldn’t be in the NHL (Boynton) at the point against a GOOD Detroit team, it’s a coach’s nightmare.

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