This is something we're going to try and do every Monday. Today, the Fifth Feather and Jeff from Blackhawk Up answer a couple questions about the Hawks right now, along with yours truly.
Does Saturday's 3rd period collapse portend to a defensive frailty, or was it more the result of having 3 d-men on the shelf?
Sam: In my mind, it's the latter. Though none of the goals can be specifically attributed to one of the fill-in d-men, having Johnsson, Seabrook, and Campbell in the lineup would have resulted in more and better possession for the Hawks. In turn, the Coyotes would have created less with limited possession. Obviously, Campbell won't be back for a while and they'll need to get used to that, but missing both Seabrook and Johnsson creates a vacuum which just can't be filled right now. While one superior effort in LA gave us all hope, that sort of outing is hard to replicate with spare parts and against a (shockingly) far superior team . I for one am not worried.
Jeff: My gut reaction goes with Saturday being the result of a short-handed defensive corp. There's no doubt missing Campbell, Seabrook and Johnsson will ever help. The problem resides in the fact the Blackhawks were blowing leads -- even in victories -- with the defense fully healthy. The meatheads will blame the goaltending for that, but the statistics show the Blackhawks offense weakens and the opposition gets opportunities through the defense late in games. This isn't new to the situation of having three defensemen on the shelf. The 'Hawks are outscoring their opponents by 30 goals in the first period, a mere five in the second period and 13 in the third. Yes, outscoring your opponent in every period overall is a great thing. But digging deeper shows the dip in production as the game continues. I won't say I'm worried, but I'm going to hinge these recent collapses more on the overall trend rather than a few guys being out with injuries. Bottom line? Whoever is out there on D needs to produce -- especially with the playoffs only a month away.
Feather: I'm inclined to believe it's more the result of having 3 d-men on the shelf but....the collapses have been all too common place for quite some time so who the hell knows. Last year when the Hawks went through their March funk, they were terrible at the start of games. Now, they can't seem to finish one to save their lives. Hopefully, it's just a recent trend that doesn't mean a whole hell of a lot when the playoffs roll around.
Hawks-Wings 1st round matchup seems to be lining up. Should Hawks fans panic?
Sam: Well they're going to anyway. While it is scary, and the thought of a defeat to them again would probably leave me in an emotional state that would see me move out of the city again, to me if you think you're the best team in the Conference, and league, then you go out and prove it no matter who it is against. As far as the specific opponent, when both teams are at full strength I think the Hawks have more depth than the Wings do, and would need Toews to play Datsyuk or Zetterberg evenly. In addition, I think we've finally reached the year when Osgood doesn't get the reigns, and Jimmy Howard will be a rookie goalie in the playoffs, which has been known to have disastrous results in the past. It won't be easy, and it'll be torture on all of us, but I think it ends up in a Hawk win.
Jeff: They shouldn't, but they will. The Blackhawks are simply a better team than Detroit. I'll take the Hawks' offense over the Red Wings' any day. And with the way things are shaping up, it would be a battle of rookie goaltenders -- Niemi vs. Howard. More firepower leads to more goals, and the Blackhawks are superior in that department. Blackhawks fans are more scared of Detroit's reputation and are viewing last season's playoff loss as a nightmare they don't want to see repeated. But this is not last season, and neither team is the same. It would still be a tough series -- maybe even six or seven games -- but the Blackhawks would win it.
Feather: Yes. Start running that hose from your tailpipe and close all the windows. Seriously though, it's still a bit early to worry about this. The Wings have three games left with Columbus, two with Nashville, a game with Edmonton, and also one left with St. Louis. It's our belief that Detroit isn't finished climbing the conference rank. A Colorado, Nashville, or Los Angeles matchup seems much more likely. But if this matchup does happen, it won't be safe for any parties involved.
Finally, after the Feather's first appearance at a blog watch, is John not the most handsome man you've ever seen?
Sam: Without a doubt.
Jeff: f I was a guy, I'd do him. Wait...
Feather: I've been working on my pecs. Thanks for noticing.