We had the Kings on the ropes and I truly felt we were going to get the lucky goal in OT Sunday night. Alas, here the resilience of the Kings was just too much for the Blackhawks.
I know many of us want to crawl back into the bottle of top shelf we enjoyed the other night. The NHL is the toughest league to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions, especially in a post salary cap era. It hasn’t been done since the Detroit Red Wings did it back in 1997-1998 season. That is why the NHL playoffs are simply the best; you can’t predict them and who would want to? They have been incredible once again. Stanley is going somewhere else this summer…sigh… There will be no parade, #CupTracker , or girls throwing themselves at players for a #selfie with the Cup. However my friends, this season was not a total wash. Coach Q said it best last night “It is hard to get to the big dance”. They sure gave it their all and it was exciting as hell.
There were many improvements and a few disappointments on the team over the last few months, here are a couple of my thoughts about what went right and what was oh so wrong…
Ben Smith: Is it just me or was it awesome watching Ben Smith progress this season? In the regular season Smith contributed in every way he was asked and watching him in the 75 games he played with 26 points was great to see from the second year forward. Smith also had a great post season, always knowing where to be and had some clutch goals down the stretch. I’m excited to see Smith next season and his continued growth.
The evolution of Corey Crawford: Anyone that says Crawford isn’t a top 10 goalie needs to shut the front door. Crawford was solid once again during the season and kept the Blackhawks in most of their playoff games. Crow is young and is evolving and I like what I am seeing, he is only going to get better and I would take him over the other 29 goalies in the league. Last time I checked it needs to get through five players in order to get to the goalie, so check yourself…. Especially when Crow’s GAA in the post season was 2.53, pretty dang good.
Brandon Sadd: Another young bun that was really fun to watch this year. Saad with his magical mullet this post season was once again a threat netting 16 points in the post season and igniting a line with Patrick Kane and Andrew Shaw. Saad has the opportunity to be a star in this league and I am giddy with dreams of a Saad & Kane magic mullet legacy.
Kris Versteeg: I was really hoping that when Steeger came back, it would spark some old 2010 magic. Unfortunately it didn’t. Steeger just couldn’t seem to find his role on this team this season, it’s too bad he is a great player. I just don’t see him in a Hawks jersey next year, he barley played over five minutes in each game in this last series and many wondered why Coach Q didn’t scratch him.
Patrick Sharp in the Playoffs: Sharpie had another strong regular season for the Hawks. He stepped up with both Kane and Toews went down and was one of the hottest things on ice this season…. Then came the playoffs and Sharpie was not good… except last night’s game 7, Sharpie was pretty much non-existent in the playoffs and if he isn’t firing on all cylinders, that is a problem for the Hawks.
What Needs to Be Done?
I love Stan Bowman. I think he is one of the best in the business hands down. His idea though of ‘just putting the band back together” last season was a miss though.
This off season the Hawks need a second line center. Michael Handzus is just not cutting it and even though Andrew Shaw stepped up nicely it’s not good enough. It is time to part ways with Handzus and get a younger veteran in the door. Boy how good would Derek Stepan of the Rangers or Lars Eller of the Canadiens sound?!?!
- We need some big bodies. Ones that can get the garbage out of our zone. The Blackhawks couldn’t hold a lead to save their lives in this series and a lot of that came from second chance opportunities. We need guys who can get in there, throw their bodies around and get the puck out.
- 4th line help… It takes four lines to be unstoppable and the Blackhawks fourth line stunk. Brandon Bollig and Kris Versteeg played under four minutes apiece in game 7 and having to roll three lines down the stretch is tough.
Lock up Toews & Kane: Obviously! Both of their contracts are up. This is Stan the Man’s #1 priority this summer and it will get done, if it didn’t all hell would break loose.
Time to put Chelsea Dagger on the playlist backburner folks. It is going to be an interesting off season for the Blackhawks. I am excited to see what new additions Stan and the crew will bring to Chicago for next season and to start another run for the cup.
For those of you asking, I am not a Rangers fan and I think the two best teams were in the West, with that… Go Kings and until next season Hawks fans; keep it classy.