The Chicago Blackhawks play of late has been overshadowed by injuries to their two most important players. Let’s face it, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are irreplaceable. Despite all of the doom and gloom that has come since the Hawks 4-1 loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday, the Hawks have clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and preliminary reports are showing both Kane & Toews returning in time for the playoffs. The Blackhawks playoff chances are growing dimmer and dimmer.
Throughout the past few weeks, I’ve been an optimist when it comes to this season. While it’s difficult to remain so now, the Hawks are still the team to beat until I am reminded otherwise. When they have been healthy and focused, they have shown the brilliant flashes that make them arguably the best team in the league. This team is different than the 2010-2011 & 2011-2012 teams that flamed out in the first rounds. This team simply has more talent and is more experienced as a whole. Look over the rosters of those teams and tell me this year’s version doesn’t inspire more confidence.
Another few positives heading into the playoffs? The play of Bryan Bickell before his injury, the emergence of Ben Smith, and the arrival of Teuvo Teravainen. Bickell finally was beginning to look like his playoff self and will be the biggest asset the Hawks can use in the playoffs. While the outlook isn’t so hot right now, I’m maintaining that the Hawks are the team to beat in the playoffs.
Thoughts On The Orpik Hit
Lots of differing opinions have been filtered through hockey discussion boards from the moment Jonathan Toews grabbed his shoulder in pain due to a crunching hit from Brooks Orpik? I’ll try and keep my thoughts on the hit as concise as possible, but bear with me.
First and foremost, if this is Ben Smith or Nick Leddy on the receiving end of the hit, this discussion is diminished greatly. The fact it was the Hawks best and most important player makes the hit seem much worse than it actually is.
By no means is this even in the same arena as the hits Raffi Torres has delivered to Hawks players. The hit itself I will classify as borderline. Orpik did have his shoulder down on the hit and Toews was in a position on the ice where big hits are prone to happen. However, Orpik’s upward trajectory and the distance he skated to deliver the hit are questionable. The hit is not suspendable, however I do think a charging penalty would have been appropriate.
As far as the Hawks reaction? I thought it was perfect. Down 2-1 in a game where the Hawks need the two points to get home ice advantage, taking any two, four, or even five minute penalties that put you down a man against the league’s best power play is dumb. The league has changed so much since the 1980′s that it’s no longer practical to send goons out on the ice to retaliate for big hits. The John Scott’s of the league are few and far between and regardless of your thoughts on Brandon Bollig, he has developed as a hockey player and away from a fighter.
If making players “pay” for their big hits were working, then Orpik wouldn’t have went after Toews. Earlier in the year Shawn Thornton delivered a monumental cheap shot to Orpik for his hit on Loui Eriksson earlier in the game. That didn’t seem to prevent Orpik from delivering the hit to Toews.
The Hawks MO the past few years hasn’t been to take retaliatory penalties for big hits. While it pains the meatball fans to see the Hawks on the receiving end of hits, I think the two Stanley Cups in the past four years have more than made up for that. With the rest of the league aiming to adapt Chicago’s speed and puck possession style of play, the more likely slow skating heavy hitters are to be in the league.
Moral of the story? The hit was questionable, the Blackhawks were right not to take a retaliatory penalty as they absolutely dominated the rest of the game, and “taking out” Sidney Crosby does nothing to prevent big hits in the future, or advance the game of hockey in the minds of casual fans for that matter.