Coming off an outstanding performance during their annual circus trip, the Blackhawks looked like a team coming off a seven game trek when they took on the Stars. Making matters more impressive, the sluggish Hawks managed to come back from three goals down to lose on a penalty shot of all scenario’s. Monday’s game against Dallas can be labeled as a sub-standard performance, and the Hawks still nearly won. That’s how special this team is.
The golden era of Chicago Blackhawks hockey is here and to nitpick about their negatives each night is asinine. Why? The team has shown since their playoff run first began in 2009 the ability to overcome deficiencies and make other teams play their style of hockey. The Hawks have been through any scenario imaginable since ’09 and it’s not a question of if the Blackhawks will “right the ship”, it’s how will other teams respond once they do.
The Blackhawks will face off against the Minnesota Wild tonight in the Twin Cities for their eight road game in their past nine. The team made a couple of roster moves earlier this week by sending down rookie Brandon Pirri and defenseman Michael Kostka to Rockford while calling up forwards Jeremy Morin and Joakim Nordstrom. The Pirri demotion raised a few eyebrows, but should come as no surprise. Pirri got off to a hot start scoring 11 points in his first 16 games. Since facing off against Colorado on November 19th, Pirri has failed to register a point all while seeing his time on ice diminish each game. One of the biggest drawbacks against Pirri is his defensive play. In Coach Q’s system, forwards, especially centers are held responsible for maintaining structure in the defensive zone. Toews, Handzus, Shaw, and Kruger all excel in the defensive zone and frequently are the first players back to establish the defensive system. Looking at Pirri’s game recently, he has strayed away from this style of play, instead opting to cheat more towards the blue line in hopes of getting an odd man rush. An obvious offensive threat, Pirri needs to improve on this facet of his game if he wants to reclaim the second line center spot. He is not strong enough defensively to be put in a lower line role and has already shown great offensive chemistry with both Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad. Hawks fans have to hope this demotion will give Pirri a kick in the pants to step up his game, much like it did to Andrew Shaw when he was first called up.
Both Morin and Nordstrom will provide the Blackhawks with offensive relief as it is not a good idea to keep running Sheldon Brookbank out at forward. With Pirri’s demotion, Bickell’s injury, and Michal Handzus being old, Morin and Nordstrom have an opportunity to cement a spot on the Hawks roster for the next few games. Both Handzus and Andrew Shaw did not travel to Minnesota for the game tonight with Handzus dealing with sickness while Shaw is still recovering from a bone-crunching hit late in the third period against Dallas. Look for Morin and Nordstrom to be in the lineup tonight while goaltender Corey Crawford gets the start.
The Hawks and Wild are 1-1 against each other on the year with the most recent matchup favoring the Hawks 5-1. After winning 9 of 11 games to begin November, the Wild have cooled off as of late with a 1-3-1 record in their last five games.
Puck drop is at 7 PM and will be aired nationally on the NHL Network and locally on Comcast Sports Net. Full recap of tonight’s game and a preview of tomorrow’s matchup with the Ducks coming tomorrow.