Blackhawks seek to begin a late-season surge vs Leafs tonight
The Chicago Blackhawks fanbase held its breath as the trade deadline approached, wondering what magical trade that Stan Bowman might possibly manage to pull off. The "puck-moving defenseman" or the "second-line center" that the team had coveted all season? Perhaps the kind of blockbuster trade that nobody saw coming, one of the Hawks' stars for another team's stars? A goalie to help bail out Crawford and Emery?
At the deadline, however, none of these scenarios happened. The Blackhawks picked up one defenseman, Johnny Oduya, from the Winnipeg Jets; and shipped off John Scott to the NY Rangers. Scott had played 29 games for Chicago with an average TOI under 7 minutes; Oduya is a puck-moving defenseman who's used to playing nearly 20 minutes TOI/game for the Jets, but whether or not he's exactly what the Hawks have been looking for remains to be seen.
After all, there has never been one mythical player who could be brought into this team, and have all of its issues immediately straightened out. If this team is going to get fixed, the players need to buckle down and find the change within themselves, not only to win out the season at a rate that will guarantee a playoff berth, but to begin playing like the superstar-studded team that they are.
Shipping out Scott was a message to the team, and the coach. After all, Scott might not have been the best player on the ice, but he certainly worked hard at his game and he was well-liked in the locker room. Scott expressed his own shock at being traded; his grit is welcomed in New York. Now the players will need to find it within themselves to protect one another, stand up for one another, and pour their hearts out onto the ice every night.
Once again, the Blackhawks find themselves in the position of needing to squeeze as many points as possible out of the remainder of the season to stay ahead of the pack. Unlike last year, however, the team got out to an early start in the first half of the season, which helped them from dropping out of the top 8 in the West during their recent dry spell. Still, the Blackhawks are showing how painfully they miss Jonathan Toews when they are off the ice, and they have dropped a few more games in his absence. They really cannot afford to drop many more, with just 18 games left in the season. A Sharks win on Tuesday night meant the Blackhawks were pushed down to 7th in the West. It's not that long ago that the Blackhawks sat atop the Western Conference. Nothing guarantees the Blackhawks will go to the playoffs, and it's amazing that the team should find themselves in this position two seasons in a row, when early season indications should have seen them firmly in position of home ice advantage by this point.
On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks will host the Toronto Maple Leafs at the United Center. The Leafs are coming in on their own 3-game losing streak, including a 5-3 loss to the Panthers last night. Toronto has slipped to 10th in the East after holding a playoff berth much of the season, so they will be determined coming into the building.
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NOTEWORTHY: Johnny Oduya (trade acquisition from WPG) and Brandon Bollig (call-up from the Rockford IceHogs) are both expected to make their Blackhawks debuts tonight. Bollig went undrafted and was signed to a 2-year contract in 2010 by the Blackhawks.
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Where to view: CSN-Chicago & TSN, 7pm CT / 8pm ET.