It has become a regular feature here getting an opposing team blogger to help us better understand the opponent. The battle with the Chicago Blackhawks tonight is no different. We welcome fellow SB Nation blogger SCH from Second City Hockey to our five questions feature.
- The Chicago Blackhawks won the draft lottery and were awarded the leagues number one choice which eventually became Buffalo native Patrick Kane. Kane has combined with another highly touted rookie Jonathon Toews to form an impressive one-two punch for the Hawks. I'm sure there were high expectations for these two outstanding players but ha sit been surprising how much success they have had?
I think so, there was a lot of excitement when these two were penciled into this year's lineup, but personally I didn't expect either of them to have as much success as they have had. I figured it would take time for both of them to adjust to the NHL and to get comfortable enough to be putting up good numbers, but they both adjusted seemingly right away. It's been a lot of fun watching them in each game and they are both getting better as the games go on. They are a bit part of the recent resurgence in Blackhawks hockey.
- The Blackhawks lost their owner Bill Wirtz earlier in the season and his son Rocky Wirtz took over the operations of the team. Shortly after taking over Rocky Wirtz made home games available for the first time ever. What was the reaction in Chicago to being able to see home games on TV?
I can say that every Hawks fan was absolutely ecstatic when they heard there would be a good amount of home games finally being televised. Most people are surprised when they find out that the Hawks do not televise their home games, with the exception of maybe 2 or 3 each year. It's great to be able to see them play at the United Center, it exposes the product to many more people and gives every one a chance to see how exciting it can be to watch the Hawks.
- After years of futility things seem to be looking up in Chicago for the Hawks as they have 32 points already this season and are right in the hunt for a playoff spot. What is the likelihood that they will make the playoffs and what is the biggest factor?
Before the beginning of the season I was thinking the Blackhawks would probably be a competitive team but would probably finish 10th or 11th in the Western Conference. However, I think the play of Toews and Kane has raised expectations a bit, along with their supporting cast (Robert Lang, Jason Williams, Patrick Sharp, Dustin Byfuglien, Tuomo Ruutu) playing quite well. I think they definitely have a good chance of sneaking into the 7th or 8th spot in the West, and the biggest key will be the play of Nikolai Khabibulin in goal. There are some nights where he will have to "steal" wins for this team so that they can hang around in the race. If he can do that, I think the Blackhawks will be a playoff team.
- Martin Havlat is an outstanding player with a ton of talent but has had a history of injury problems. Things haven't been much different since joining Chicago as he missed time last year and again this year. He has recently rejoined the lineup and has points in each of his last four games. How much of a help is he going to be for the Blackhawks moving forward?
If he can stay healthy he is a HUGE part of the Hawks lineup because of his immense talent and play-making ability. He garners a lot of attention whenever he is on the ice and that makes teams forget about the other Hawks on the ice, and Havlat handles that very well because he has great vision and can find his teammates anywhere on the ice. If he stays in the lineup, he will put up some big numbers.
- In addition to the players I've already mentioned, Patrick Sharp and Robert Lang are off to a great start in the early portion of the season. Is this something you expect to continue or do you think these guys will cool off as the season progresses?
think Sharp is a guy who is not really a natural goal scorer, most of his goals are from him working hard and creating his own space in the offensive zone. He has been a huge force short-handed, and might be one of the top penalty killers in the league. Robert Lang has surprised me because I was skeptical when the Hawks signed him, but he has shown his top-line talent and seems to have good chemistry with Martin Havlat, so I think his good play will continue.