First, go ahead, be excited, dance a little, hockey is back and the Hawks are HOT HOT HOT right now.
The Hawks are off to their best start in 40 years and it’s coming when many of us didn't think we would have a season at all. Of course, we are to be excited. Of course, we are going to compare them to what we as Blackhawks fans know as perfection (the 2010 team). But we aren't in Oz anymore and this season is a horse of a different color. Not just the team but the games, the rest and even some rules have made the game very different than it was in 2010.
So what can we tell from the 3 games so far and where should our expectations be logically?
Some of the big questions going into this season were would Marian Hossa be able to recover after his injury from goon and general all around ass-hat, Raffi Torres? Would Corey Crawford be able to bounce back after an underwhelming rookie season? Who would step up into the 2nd line center role? Would we ever be able to get over the clown shoes PP? And would the defense finally be able to ease off the backs of Marlboro 72?
So far the answer has been yes.
Boss Hoss is back and on a tear with 5 points in 3 games, with 4 G and 1 A. But he is also 2nd on the team with 8 PIM already. I thought this was probably the most interesting stat for Hossa this season. It may be a sign that while his offensive game seems to have not missed a beat he defensive and positioning may still have some work to be done. The big thing will be if he can stay healthy and continue the pace he has been on. Obviously he is going to go through some highs and lows just like the rest of the team will during this shortened season but it’s important that Hoss finds a way to have an impact all year.
Corey Crawford is being lauded by most as the player of the game Tuesday, and while he made more than a few saves (32) throughout the night he did seem to lose his net a few times while scrambling to make wild saves. Now I’m no Stephane Waite, but staying in your net and not having to rely on your defenders to stand in front of the net is something to notice. It just seemed to happen more than a few times last night. Maybe I am looking for something to complain about because I know that they can’t sustain the perfect record so you are always looking for places to improve even if you are winning.
The Rat has stepped up after basically being invisible the first game of the season, scoring two against Phoenix and adding an assist. Bolland was held pointless against the Blues but I think playing between Kane and Sharp will only help his offensive game.
Hell, even the power play at this point has been productive. The Hawks have tallied 3 PP goals one from Kane, one from Bolland and Brent Seabrook. It looks like the power play has a lot more movement and while I still noticed them looking for the back door play on a couple of occasions, the Hawks seem much more involved in creating and changing the look. This will hopefully only improve as the season goes on.
The most amazing thing (so far) may be the fact that the defense hasn't been riding on the backs of 2 and 7. In season’s past Keith and Seabrook were almost guaranteed to be the team leader in ice time and in the top 10 of the league. Last season Duncan Keith was tied with Brian Campbell for most TOI in the league with 26:54 per game, and Seabrook wasn't too far behind, at 17th, averaging 24:43. This season you have to go all the way to number 50 in the league before finding your first Hawk. While it’s still Keith at 22:27/game you have to think the extra 4-5 minutes of rest a night is going to make a big difference in this condensed season. Oh, and Seabrook fell from 17 all the way to 64 averaging 22:00 minutes a night.
So, even in a shortened season with no real time to get the team together, find and correct weaknesses, the Hawks, again so far, have shown that they can solve the issues with minor tweaks and changes while still keeping the core and coaching in tact. Hopefully, the Hawks will continue their dominance tonight in Dallas, and the little things will work themselves out with time. But to me at least, it’s hard to find much to complain about right now.
Hossa is on pace for 80 points this season. Just thought I would put that out there.