Hawks must find another gear in the desert

 

Arizona is home of the Grand Canyon. One of the most thrilling adventures in the world is rock climbing in the 6000’ deep canyon. Most sane people would steer clear of this for fear of too many things going wrong and plunging to their deaths except for adrenaline junkies who live for this type of rush. The Blackhawks must feel right at home then with these adrenaline junkies. Down 3-1 in the series they are holding on by their fingernail tips with no rope tie offs as they face an uphill climb that must seem as large as the Grand Canyon.

The Blackhawks season is in jeopardy of ending and hangs in the balance tonight at Jobing arena in Phoenix. In a series where nothing has gone easy and every game has gone into overtime and been decided by one goal, the Hawks must somehow claw their way back from the edge starting with tonight’s game.

The series has been so close that it could have swung either way. The reality is though that it is the Hawks who must change in order to turn the tide or be eliminated with a long summer of introspection and regrets.

There are many who say the stars need to play like stars or the defense commits too many errors in their own zone. I’ve heard some blame the goaltending and some blame the special teams, specifically the power play for why the Hawks are in the position they are in. For what it’s worth here is my take on each of these scenarios and what the Hawks need to do to fix it.

Stars need to play like stars – Coach Q has implored his stars to step up and there is no question they all can and have to if the Blackhawks are to move ahead. I still believe this core can get it done if they play up to and maybe even beyond where they think they can. Brent Seabrook and Johnny Oduya have more points than any forward in the post season except Patrick Kane which is not good.  

Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane & I’m going to throw Viktor Stalberg in there too need to be better. Stalberg has the capabilities with his speed to make a difference but has yet to show it. Patrick Kane may not be physically big, but somehow he will have to use his puck handling skills along the boards to win board battles. Patrick Sharp wears the A on his jersey and knows he needs to be better. If he can somehow elevate the puck more & go high on Mike Smith it might make the difference.

Everything starts and ends with Jonathan Toews as the captain he needs to step up and be the captain we’ve seen in the past. The faceoff battle is being lost to Phoenix so this is a good place to start. I want to see the Jonathan Toews that won’t be denied.  I guarantee if that Jonathan Toews takes the ice on Saturday Phoenix does not stand a chance. The guys all know what they need to do they just need to execute it on ice.

The defense has been horrible in their zone and has too many turnovers and giveaways in their own end if they can cut down on this and clear their zone cleanly it will make a world of difference. This has been killing them all season long. Duncan Keith where are you? I want you to play like you did when Seabrook was out last year and you went on a man possessed spree. Pretend Hossa is Seabrook if you need to.

All the Hawks can take a cue here. It is my understanding Hossa’s jersey is hanging in a stall in Jobing Arena where Hossa would be if he were playing tonight let’s hope it fires the entire team like it did last year when Seabrook was down.  If Keith plays like that there is no one better with his stick and the rest of defensemen watch their turnovers in their end and their gap control it will make a positive impact that could turn the series.  

It will be Corey Crawford in goal tonight and I’m glad, it should be. Here’s my reasons why: 1. He was part of getting the Hawks into this predicament now he must get them out of it. 2. The Hawks need to know if Crawford is their guy going forward switching to Emery now they will never know. 3. Crawford is part of the core so he must step up like the others. 4. Crawford has the talent I believe to be a Stanley Cup goalie but he must finish games and learn not to let soft goals in.

The power play that has been a Hawks weakness all year long, so why not try a different approach. It takes half the time to even enter the zone and gain control try chipping the puck in to different spots on the ice. The Hawks need to improve their fore-checking in the offensive zone for this to work though. I want to see Brent Seabrook blasting away on that first unit with people in front of Smith. Something is bound to get in either from the point of from rebounds and deflections. Also try setting up behind the goal line see how that works. If the Hawks play on the powerplay the way they do in the last minutes of these games I guarantee they will click.

The Hawks need to find a way to finish period, whether it’s on the power play or in OT or just being able to put the puck in the net. If they play each shift as if it was their last shift ever on ice and still come up short that is one thing. I still don’t think we have seen the Hawks in their top gear yet. If they play with urgency and purpose and remain disciplined and technically sound they can start to pull themselves out of that large canyon. Do it for Hossa, do it for Shaw, do it for justice, do it for yourselves!

The other alternative is that they are not the better team, but I don’t think man for man that is the case. Usually the team with more talent and skill will win out in the end but talent means nothing if you do not put in the hard work and that is something the Hawks have yet to show on a sustained basis this series.

If the adrenaline is not pumping in the Hawks now it never will be. If seeing a beloved player like Marian Hossa go down doesn't inspire you to win for him nothing will. Either way for the Hawks it will all start or finish tonight in the land of the setting sun.

 

 

Hawks can be seen on Saturday against the Phoenix Coyotes on TSN,NBCSN,RDS &, CSN-CH or WGN Radio 720. Start time is at 9:00 pm CT. Also check Blackhawks web site for road watch parties. 

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