Sidney Brown brings his weekly dispatches from the front lines of Blackhawks fandom every week during the hockey season.
Has the tide started to turn for the Chicago Blackhawks?
In their two victories last week, the Hawks racked up a total of 10 goals while their opponents scored twice. Unfortunately a loss to Washington also occurred last week, but the Hawks scored two goals before giving up three in the second period in a 3-2 loss.
In the game of hockey, goal scoring usually comes in bunches and for the Hawks — who have been struggling in the early part of the season — it looks like the wave of scoring is back on their side. Still, with this new streak of success came a speed bump.
Hawks winger Patrick Sharp left last Tuesday’s game at Montreal with a right leg injury that will sideline him approximately a month. Jeremy Morin was called up from Rockford to take his place on the roster. With the absence of Sharp, here are a list of five other players that need to step up to fill the shoes and keep the Hawks afloat in the Western Conference:
1) Brad Richards (2 Goals, 6 Assists = 8 Points) — It seems like Richards has adjusted to the Western Conference style of play and it has paid off. Last week, Richards scored one goal along with two assists to boost his point total. Ever since being dropped to the fourth line, Richards has responded and his contribution will be key if the Hawks want to continue scoring.
2) Bryan Bickell (2 Goals, 4 Assists = 6 Points) — With his success in the playoffs the past two seasons (as well as an injury-plagued regular season last year), expectations for Bickell to produce are as persistent as ever. With one goal and an assist last week, I say that Bryan is on the radar for now.
3) Kris Versteeg (3 Goals, 2 Assists = 5 Points) — Finally healthy after a disappointing return to the Hawks via trade last year, this second-liner stands a chance to create scoring chances with his speed and skill. So far, Kris has done that and last week was no exception with his scoring two goals and one assist. Versteeg is expected to pick up the energy and scoring with Sharp’s absence.
4) Brandon Saad (2 goals, 8 Assists = 10 Points) — Saad’s IQ on the ice goes unnoticed if you don’t watch the game closely. With a team-leading 8 assists, Saad can score and skate with the best of them and he impressed with his goal last Friday against Washington.
5) Patrick Kane (4 Goals, 6 Assists = 10 Points) — For the past two seasons, Kane has started off hot but cooled off towards the middle of each season. With a goal and an assist last week, Kane needs to turn it up in anchoring the second line and will be the main focus of opposition defenses. With his production at a stand-still, more should be expected moving forward with another key contributor unavailable.
Competition gets tougher this week, starting with the best team in the Eastern Conference, the Tampa Bay Lightening featuring Steven Stamkos, and visiting the United Center tonight. On to Motown after that for an Original Six showdown against Detroit before returning home to wrap up the home portion of the schedule for the month of November against Dallas. Hopefully things will start to come together and Chicago’s consistency will become a daily habit against better teams.
This formula will be needed as the Hawks will go on the road for a six-game road trip beginning next week without Sharp in the lineup.
Player of the Week
Kris Versteeg — Versteeg stepped up in the past seven days, scoring twice with an assist on top. Versteeg is playing like he knows that he will be one of the main players needed to carry the torch offensively going forward without Sharp.
To Jonathan Toews for scoring his 200th career goal and tallying his 250th career assist against Montreal in a 5-0 win last Tuesday. Hear that calling, Cap? Its the Hockey Hall of Fame calling.
To defenseman Duncan Keith for playing in his 700th career game Friday against Washington. This two time Norris Trophy winner is the best all-around defenseman in the NHL and his pairing with Brent Seabrook makes them the best back-line tandem in the league.
To rookie defenseman Trevor Van Riemsdyk, though they’re more like sympathy props. Originally, Van Riemsdyk earned a place in this section for scoring his first career goal on Sunday in the Hawks’ 5-2 win against San Jose, but Van Riemsdyk’s contribution and his early milestone have since been wiped out due to a scoring change.
On further review, the goal was believed to have deflected off our player of the week, adding to his totals but temporarily disappointing the youngster. Still, he can celebrate his first placement in the Props section and surely that first NHL goal is on its way.
Goals per game: 2.6 (17th in NHL)
Goals against: 1.9 (1st in NHL)
Power Play percentage: 19.0 (18th in NHL)
Penalty Kill percentage: 91.1 (1st in NHL)
Goals — Jonathan Toews (6); Assists — Brandon Saad (8); Points — Toews (13); Goals Against Average — Corey Crawford (1.75); Penalty Minutes — (T) Andrew Shaw, Niklas Hjalmarsson (12).
The Week Ahead
Tonight — vs. Tampa Bay, 7:30 pm; Friday — at Detroit, 6:30 PM; Sunday — vs. Dallas, 6 PM.
*All times Central
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