Friday, November 4, 2011

Hawks a Tough Opponent in More Ways than One

With the players' Dads in tow, the Hawks looked to continue their hot start to the 2011-2012 season in Florida last night against the Panthers. While the box score may look like the Hawks limped to a 3-2 shootout victory, in reality, the game proved to be a microcosm of the success the Hawks have had thus far this season and will continue to have in the future.

Carcillo is one of the players adding a new edge
One of the biggest differences this year is the physicality and toughness that Jamal Mayers and Dan Carcillo bring to the team. This was an area that was sorely lacking last year (after losing a player like Dustin Byfuglien). While it might not seem too important on a team with elite, young, and athletic scorers, having a physical edge contributes deeply to the success of a hockey team. For one, the players that contribute toughness are able to stand up for the best players on the team when they're knocked around. Not only does this boost team morale, but it adds a deterrent in the minds of opposing players next time they try to knock around a Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane. For the opposing player to have in the back of his mind that he's going to have someone in his face if he hits one of those players gives yet another competitive advantage to the Hawks playmakers.

Mayers doing what he does best
Even more importantly, having tough players who are willing to drop the gloves, like Mayers, adds a mentality to the Hawks that simply makes them a complete team. Sure, the Hawks were known around the league as a team that could drop goals on you quick, but the second you got in their face their entire game plan was thrown off. By adding Mayers and Carcillo, the Hawks are a more mature team, one where every facet of a good hockey team must be taken into consideration by opposing teams. They also have a trickle down effect to the rest of the team. Their attitude permeates through to players like Dave Bolland and Bryan Bickell, both of whom are utilizing their physical toughness this year more than ever. It allows the Hawks to have the mentality and identity of a tough team, and not just on the offensive end. I for one, love it, and know that the rest of the fans do too, even those annoying so-called "hockey fans" who complain about all the fighting in hockey. Really? If you have a problem with it, go watch the WNBA. You can vent all you want over there and no one will care (or hear you). The necessity of players like Mayers or Carcillo will become evident in the late season battles against San Jose, Vancouver, and Detroit, where the physical play should allow the Hawks the freedom to use their superior skill to their advantage. Nowhere was all of this more evident than last night:

Kaner being rightfully congratulated
The last note I want to make is about Patrick Kane. I can only speak superlatives about his overall skill, and this year he has taken it to a new level. Now centering a line with Marian Hossa on one side, and Andrew Burnette/Daniel Carcillo/Viktor Stalberg alternating on the other, Kane is playing at a Hart Trophy level. He is setting up plays, making them himself, and providing a spark on the second line that makes the Hawks incredibly difficult to defend. Just imagine the ability of the top two lines to wear down an opposing team in a 7 game playoff series. The thought of Toews, Patrick Sharp, Stalberg, Burnette, Hossa, Kane, and company on the first two lines is terrifying. In the middle of that right now is Patrick Kane, who must have trimmed down his partying because the skills that made him the number 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft are now in full view for everyone. Or maybe it's just from cutting his mullet. Either way, it's incredibly exciting to watch him be a part of all this. And as the Hawks showed again last night,the end result has Stanley Cup written all over it.

        Kane on the Assist to Hossa

Kane with the SO winner



Wiebe said...

I was really doggin Kane after last year. I know his numbers werent bad at all but we all knew he could do better. I am definitely eating my words so far about him. As far as I am concerned his line is the best in hockey right now

Dave Johnsen said...

Seriously. And now that I say something, they completely fall apart. God.