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Hoping to Get Back on Track

The Chicago Blackhawks had a great start to the season sitting atop their division and conference for the first 40 games or so.

But now, 50 games into the season they are fourth in the Central Division and sixth in the Western Conference. 

The Central Division has been a dogfight for the top spot for most of the season with four out of the five team having over 62 points.  It will probably come down to the last few games to see who actually wins the division and solidify home ice for the playoffs.

Though the team has had a good first half, they have been very inconsistent and sloppy in their own end.  The Hawks only have a +18 goal difference. They have given up a total of 144 goals so far; only three other teams in the conference have given up more.

Their ability to outscore opponents has been a big reason why they have been winning, but come playoffs that will only get a team a quick first round exit.

If they want to make a deep playoff run the defense and goaltending has got to be better. 

They also need to add some new players to the mix.  With the trade deadline on February 27th, management will be looking to add a top four defensemen and a center.  Getting a head start on the trade action is general manger, Stan Bowman.  Friday night he traded prospect AHL D-man Brian Connelly for Calgary Flames center Brendan Morrison.

While this is a good pick up for the Hawks, a legitimate defensemen is what they really need.  Bowman surely is not done trying to make deals, and fans will have to wait it out to see whom else he adds to the team.

As stated earlier, scoring goals is not an issue for this team. With players like Toews, Kane, Hossa and Sharp, offense will never really be a problem.  They have scored 162 goals only the Boston Bruins have scored more.

After the All-Star games conclude this weekend and the NHL action continues, the Hawks will embark on an nine game road trip spanning over two and half weeks.  This road trip will be a huge test for this team, who are 10-9-2 on the road.  They will need to pile up the wins on this trip to keep pace with Detroit and St. Louis for the division lead.

On the trip, Toews, who will hopefully be back from injury by Tuesday’s game, and company will travel to Western Canada and face rivals Vancouver Canucks.  The grueling trip ends in Columbus on February 18th before coming back home to face the Blues on the 19th.

If the Hawks could tighten up on the defensive and goaltending end, add some more solid additions, and most importantly stay healthy, this will be a team to reckon with come playoff time.

They are proven winners with world class players and nothing short of bring home the Cup is acceptable in Chicago.

Visit the Chicago Blackhawk’s Bleacher Report page for insight on who the Hawks should trade for and ESPN for more information on the newest Blackhawk, Brendan Morrison.

Top Five Blackhawks Vital to Winning the 2012 Cup

Corey Crawford:

Coming into the 2010-11-season goaltender Corey Crawford was the backup goalie but stole the starting job and had an excellent rookie season.  In the 2011-playoff series against Vancouver he was the better goaltender and was a huge reason the Hawks forced game seven into overtime.  After the season ended he was rewarded with a contract extension.

When the 2011-12-hockey season started he was the undeniable number one goalie.  But he has been struggling mightily since November.

At the All-Star break he is 18-12-4, a 2.86 GAA with a SV% of .902.  Mediocre numbers for a team that is hoping to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup in June.

If the Hawks want to be champions, Crawford is going to have be better in net and show fans and his team that he is worth the contract.

Jonathan Toews

The Captain of the Hawks in no stranger to winning, World Junior Champion Gold Medalist, Olympic Gold Medalist while being named best forward in the games, Stanley Cup Winner and won the Conn Smythe trophy for MVP of the playoffs.

Toews is now having a career year.  In the first 49 games played he has posted 27 goals, 23 assists, is a +17 and leads the league in face-offs won.

He is the heart of the team and if he continues his stellar play into the second half the Hawks will have a great chance of making it deep into the playoffs.

David Bolland:

The underrated center on the Hawks has recently been contributing on the offensive side but is better know for his shut down abilities.  If Bolland can be the defensive “Rat” he is known to be the Hawks will have one of the best third line centers in the league.

The team is not the same without him, so if he could stay healthy for the rest of the season would be huge.

Bolland performs his best in the playoffs.  In last seasons first round series he had two goals and four assists in four games played.

When the Hawks get into the playoffs they will need him to play the way he did in the last three playoff years.

Duncan Keith:

The year the Hawks won the Cup, Duncan Keith won the Norris Trophy for being the league’s best defensemen.

Since then, he has not been able to match the 2009-2010-season.

Last season was one of his worst, seeing a lower point total and finishing the season with a minus one rating.

He is the leader of the defensive unit and the team desperately needs him to find his Norris Trophy form if they want to lift the Cup for the second time in three years.

Patrick Kane:

Patrick Kane has been in a pretty long scoring slump, only scoring 11 goals so far this season.  He is on pace for the lowest point totals since his rookie year.

While he is still producing assists, more is expected out of him, and the Hawks hope he can bust out of his slump and go back to the player who won the Calder and scored the game Stanley Cup winning goal back in 2010.

Rookies Taking Over

Andrew Shaw #65

The Chicago Blackhawks have a plethora of talent, once bringing the Stanley Cup to the Windy City in 2010.  The have many famous names and faces such as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and David Bolland.

But it’s two fresh faces making the biggest impact in Chicago right now.   Jimmy Hayes, 22 and Andrew Shaw, 20 are taking the United Center by storm. Going into action Friday they combine for 18 games, nine goals and four assists.

Jimmy Hayes was recently called up for a game against Detroit and has since played in 10 games.  He scored his first NHL goal in his second NHL game.  He is a big body the Hawks desperately need at 6’6’’.  Through his first 10 games he has collected seven points (4G, 3A).

But it is the smaller rookie at 5’10’’ making even a bigger splash and is even trending on Twitter.   Andrew Shaw was called up after Daniel Carcillo was injured, eight games ago.

In his first NHL game against the Philadelphia Flyers, he got into a fight on his first shift and then scored his first NHL goal on his second shift.  Since that goal, it has been all Shaw all the time.  During his eight game stint with the Chicago Blackhawks he has scored five goals with one assist, his last four goals coming in the last four games.

Shaw is quickly becoming a fan favorite and somewhat of a “legend in Chicago.”  After Wednesday nights game against the Buffalo Sabres where he had one goal and one assist, the Andrew Shaw Twitter frenzy began.

#Shawfacts has taken off:

@jprutherford: Andrew Shaw has talked Oprah into coming back for a 26th season. #shawfacts

@jamiebreeze: Andrew Shaw knows where the Kane’s puck from the Stanley Cup win is #shawfacts

@BethanyGober: he once beat the sun in a staring contest. #shawfacts

Andrew Shaw’s #shawfact:

@shawz15er: Andrew shaw loves chicago and doesn’t want to leave #shawfact

Even the veterans and leaders in the locker room are taking notice of the rookies and everything that they are bringing to the ice night after night.  “It’s awesome,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “The rookies are playing great hockey.  It’s making a huge difference for our team right now that all four lines are working and making things happen.”

It is not yet known if these two rookies can continue on their torrid pace, but the fans of the Hawks are hoping to see these two in an Indian Head sweater for a long time.