Some concerns for Blackhawks to address
Ten games into the season and the Blackhawks are an average team.
Chances are it won't stay that way, but there are disturbing trends at this point that if not corrected could find the Hawks among the pack of teams simply fighting for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville hit it on the head when he said following Saturday's disappointing home ice loss to Columbus that the team's mediocre record of 5-4-1 “reflects where we're at; it's accurate.
“We have to be way better than where we've been.”
The goaltending has been fine. Marty Turco has allowed a few soft goals, but he has made more than his share of big saves at clutch times as is reflected by a .921 save percentage.
Marian Hossa has been the Hawks' best all-around player with Patrick Sharp and Brent Seabrook right behind. Hossa and Sharp have combined for 15 of the Hawks' 29 goals, which is a problem in itself in as far as secondary scoring.
Seabrook has been the best defenseman with Duncan Keith off to a slow start.
“We've, I guess, had our good nights and our bad nights so far; that's one way to put it,” captain Jonathan Toews told WGN radio. “It's very early in the season so we're going to have some rough patches.
“There's no time to overreact yet, but there are some little things that before they become bigger things we want to address and start really improving on them.
“We only have ourselves to blame. I don't think we got beat by better teams. We got beat by good teams, but it's just up to us to find the way to play to win those games.”
The areas of concern far outweigh the positives.
While defenseman Brian Campbell is missed big time, it's not why the Hawks are allowing so many shots against and one second chance after another.
The Hawks have been outshot eight times in 10 games, including the last five in a row.
The forwards, excluding Hossa, aren't holding up their end of the bargain. Patrick Kane is minus-7 already.
Toews said he sees forwards cheating defensively to look for offensive chances and leaving it up to the defensemen to do the dirty work.
That can't continue.
The second line:
It doesn't appear that Quenneville has anyone to play left wing with Sharp and Kane, which is a developing problem.
Troy Brouwer has no goals and likely is more suited to play on the third line. The same goes for Bryan Bickell.
A possible solution is bringing back Jeremy Morin from Rockford once he recovers from a minor injury.
But there are no guarantees that's the long-term answer. Morin is only 19 and is a natural right winger who has little experience on the left side.
Expect general manager Stan Bowman to be on the hunt for a top-six winger between now and the trade deadline.
The third line:
Dave Bolland is one of the Hawks' key players, but he has found no chemistry with Fernando Pisani and Bickell through 10 games.
Pisani has no points and is minus-3. Bolland has 1 goal, but that came 4-on-4. Bickell has 2 goals, but 1 was on a power play.
Maybe fourth liners Jack Skille or Viktor Stalberg will get more of an opportunity to play up.
Kane and Keith:
Perhaps it's unfair to say the Hawks need more from their two stars, but they do need better.
Kane has 2 goals and 5 assists to go with the minus-7. That's not even a 20-goal pace.
Keith, second in the NHL in scoring among defensemen last season, has no goals and 3 assists.
Quenneville admits Keith has played too many minutes he was averaging 32 at one time but Campbell's absence has increased the Norris Trophy winner's workload.
Quenneville agreed it's possible all those minutes have affected Keith's offense in terms of jumping into the play.
The good news is Campbell could be back from his sprained right knee as soon as next week.
The bad news is the Hawks are approaching a stretch of 10 of 15 games on the road.
Now is the time when the good teams begin to separate themselves from those merely with playoff hopes.
“It's tough to predict that (because) every year is different,” Quenneville said. “The way it looks right now, it looks like it's going to be tighter than it's ever been. I see this as being a playoff battle for everybody.”