Hawks Thoughts - Game Day 10/18/11 @ Coyotes

Chicago Blackhawks are getting set to battle their southwest neighbors, Phoenix Coyotes, tonight at Jobing.com Arena (Glendale Arena). Game time is 9 pm central and is being broadcasted on WGN for you local Chicago folks. I apologize for the brevity of this post, as I was out of town this past weekend and am still catching up on loose ends.

The Hawks are well on their way towards being a great regular season team provided they can pick up a few of the missing pieces before reaching the mid-season mark. Patrick Kane continues to be an offensive force with 6 pts in 4 games playing at Center, winning 56.5% of his faceoffs, and he has not hurt his team defensively. 

Corey Crawford has also played well thus far as he shakes off the last bit of rust that showed in the preseason, particularly against Boston this past Saturday night where he stopped 35 of 37 shots by the defending Stanley Cup Champions. If he maintains this consistency between the pipes, he will give the Hawks a chance to win almost every night he starts.

Keys for tonight's game:

1. Captain Serious Needs to get Serious - Toews' effort has certainly been present thus far in games, but he really needs to break through the threshold and get going offensively. It's still early enough, but if he can pick up his production even modestly, it will undoubtedly foster a chain reaction for surrounding Hawks forwards to do likewise. That's why they pay him the big bucks.

2. Power Play Needs More Power - The Hawks PP has gone a meager 2 for 17 thus far, clicking at slightly less than 12%. I suspect that number to increase as the season progresses, but it's going to start to make or break game outcomes if they can't seriously pick it up in the next month or so. The West is the true test this year with even more dark horses and teams will need to use every advantage they can muster to push them over the edge and come away with 2 points, while not allowing that extra one either.

3. Enough with the Cuteness - One thing that will benefit the Hawks PP, their work along the boards and their overall breakout in general is if they really cut back on the "cutesy plays." You've seen it way too much on the PP this season, chip and drop passes and such, and it's one of the big reasons why they are struggling so far. Players like Steve Montedor were not brought in to make cute passes along the blue line on the PP. He's most effective when he can make a big shot from the center point through traffic, as are other Hawks players. Yes, the Hawks have finesse players, but those are high risk plays being made at a time when offense should be easier to attain than when playing 5 on 5. 

4. Forecheck, Forecheck, Forecheck - When a Dan Carcillo or a Marian Hossa are using their body to help create space for their skilled and less physical linemates, you will see a dramatic increase in scoring chances stemming from behind the net and in from the along the boards. There was quite a bit of criticism from fans when Carcillo was slotted on a line with Kane and Hossa, but it proved to be effective. Carcillo creates a lot of space using his body (legally) on the forecheck and (believe it or not) he has the hands to assist in creating plays.

Hossa is different in the sense that he plays a complete package game. He has tremendous skill and brings a physical edge to it, which is great, but also creates uneasiness as it can lead to more injuries for the star winger if he goes too far. Both Carcillo and Hossa need to maintain a good forecheck with their game to be effective, but need to be aware when walking the line of in-game legalities (in Carcillo's case) or potential injuries (in Hossa's case).

If the Hawks even add handfuls of these traits to their game tonight, they will give themselves a great chance to win. Let's hope Hossa is healthy enough to play and that Viktor Stalberg is closer to 100% in health tonight. Note: Ben Smith has been sent down to Rockford for conditioning. He should be called up soon, depending on roster needs.

Hawk, Hawk, Hawk it up!

Follow me on Twitter - @MCBHawks

-Matt Cefalu