Flash and Ehrhoff Look to Spark With Blackhawks

In Chicago, it has been a rough year for some of the new players. We’ve seen Jiri Sekac, Rob Scuderi, Trevor Daley, Viktor Tikhonov, Marko Dano, and Phillip Danault all move on for a variety of reasons. For the most part, these moves were facilitated by an inability to find a place among a stacked lineup by way of waivers, or by trade. With Danault, it was a move that helped to land depth players Tomas Fleischmann and Christian Ehrhoff.

Danault was more than likely going to become a casualty at some point with Marcus Kruger returning. Unless the Blackhawks had intended on letting Kruger move on after he had so patiently waited for them to give him the deal he deserved to get last season but couldn’t because of cap constraints. Because Kruger unselfishly took a lesser deal in order to remain with the team over the Summer, it would have been disappointing to lose him a year later. Not to mention he has been sorely missed on the penalty kill which has struggled in his absence.

Grabbing the Spotlight

Of course, there have been some players that have come back in return. On Wednesday night, two of those players did something that none of the others, apart from Danault had done before them. They stood out. Not for the faults in their game, or mistakes that proved costly. Instead, they stood out for their grit and determination that gave the Blackhawks a boost in crucial moments or led to solid scoring opportunities.

Those two players were Tomas Fleischmann and Christian Ehrhoff. The two players that were considered to make the smallest impact after coming in at the trade deadline. Fleischmann was quick to make his mark earning his first goal in just his third game with his new team.

Ehrhoff came in on the trade that returned Rob Scuderi to the Los Angeles Kings while Fleischmann came in on the trade that brought in Dale Weise from the Montreal Canadiens for Danault. Weise was the big fish on that line; Fleischmann was just a little bonus depth in order to pry the young forward from our lineup.

Neither were expected to be big producers, so whatever they would offer was going to be a bonus though it was expected that neither would be seeing much action come playoff time. That still may be the case, but if the pair of them can continue to play the way they did last night, there is a very good chance both of them could factor in and contribute well into the playoffs.

The Flash Still Has Some Spark

On Wednesday in the overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues, Fleischmann recorded four shots on goal in 16:28 minutes on the ice. He even earned a shift in the 3-on-3 overtime period.  Weise only played a little over seven minutes and gathered only one hit. Granted, Fleischmann has played a couple more games as he did not have to wait for a work visa, so it is likely that Weise will eventually find his rhythm and get more involved as time goes.

For anyone watching the game, and it was one of the more exciting matchups that Blackhawks have had in recent weeks, Fleischmann, or Flash as he is known in the locker room was all over he place. He was firing shots at will and generally playing that aggressive style of game that Joel Quenneville loves.

More importantly, he wasn’t just firing the puck aimlessly, he was firing with intent, and most of them hit the target. Unfortunately, the Blues netminder Jake Allen was having a great night and tracked each of his shots down before they could inflict any damage. However, his work caught the attention of many who enjoyed the game and especially the Blackhawks coaching staff as they made sure he was on the ice often to capitalize on his strong efforts.

Fleischmann is in his eleventh season, with his sixth team, so he is familiar with the whole slew of challenges that come with adapting to a new system and new teammates. This is perhaps why he has adapted relatively quickly.

In addition, Flash should be somewhat familiar with the Blackhawks as he was undoubtedly briefed well on the team and their style of play over the course of the Western Conference Finals last season when he was with the Anaheim Ducks.

Duck Out Of Water

He didn’t quite fit their system, which also fares well for the Blackhawks as they are polar opposites with the Ducks regarding the style of game they play. The Ducks play a banging and brash sort of offensive game while the Blackhawks tend to play a more patient and finessed style.

Both are strong defensive teams, and both teams are quite effective though their styles vary considerably. In fact, both are currently in tight races to grab or hold onto the top spot in their respective divisions and will likely face each other in the playoffs again this season.

Two Wrongs Could Still Make A Right

For his part, Ehrhoff came into Chicago as just another body to throw into the bottom pairing. There were not a lot of expectations on him considering Daley and Scuderi had both floundered in the same role this season, as one traded places with the other in a trade with Pittsburgh.

Though in all fairness, anyone who was destined to be a part of a trade that sent Patrick Sharp anywhere outside of Chicago was bound to be heavily scrutinized. Sharp was a fan favorite and part of the core, so no one was ever going to fill those shoes. The bottom line is he went to the Dallas Stars, and Johnny Oduya followed.

The Stars have long been light on defense, so the return of Trevor Daley was unlikely to be a great one. A defenseman that the Stars deemed not good enough to play there is highly unlikely to survive on a defensive minded team like Chicago. He certainly would not fill Johnny Oduya’s skates. He was merely a placeholder. A body to fill in a gap until another more suitable player was found, or came up from the AHL to steal his spot.

With Erik Gustafsson and Trevor van Riemsdyk already up and playing ahead of him, Daley was replaced by Scuderi. He was an upgrade but still did not fit what Quenneville and his staff were looking for. So, Bowman went back to work and brought in Ehrhoff.

No Err in Ehrhoff

While the jury is still out on Ehrhoff’s long term (through the playoffs at least) effectiveness will be, on Wednesday, he did stand out and prove that he has something to offer the Blackhawks. In 11:45 minutes of play, Ehrhoff contributed a block and five shots on goal. He rarely looked out of place, and he was quick to get in on the rush which is a key characteristic of Quennevilles’s defensive blueprint. He even earned some time on the power play, which is a general vote of confidence from Quenneville.

Playing mostly with Michal Rozsival, the pair both seemed to draw energy from one another. Rozsival even seemed to be more effective adding an assist, a shot on goal, a hit, and two blocks.

At this point, it would seem likely that the two elder-skatesmen would split games, with Gustafsson and van Riemsdyk factoring in on a nightly basis come playoff time. Though Ehrhoff could force his way into a bigger role if he can continue to play as he did Wednesday.

Ehrhoff might have gotten more minutes on Wednesday had he not been subjected to a heavy hit by Ryan Reaves. Though for the record, it was a hard hit, it was not crossing the line. The game misconduct was an unnecessary call in the heat of the moment.

It is hard to predict who will find success in the Blackhawks system, especially coming in midseason, look at Antoine Vermette who was arguably one of the most touted rentals at the deadline last year. He was pivotal in the Blackhawks run to the Stanley Cup, but he looked as if he could have been the biggest flop at the deadline before the start of the playoffs.

Vermette is a highly skilled centerman, and even he struggled at times. Imagine how much harder it must be to learn the Blackhawks system as a defenseman. Ehrhoff has played 12 seasons in the NHL with the San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings, and now with Chicago. However, he has only been traded this one time in a midseason trade. So, that is a new experience. Though, adapting to new teams and teammates should be old hat by now.

Bowman’s Mastery

What Stan Bowman has seemingly mastered is bringing in veteran players who can contribute. Players like Oduya and Michal Handzus joined the team at the deadline and played big parts in helping past teams earn the Cup. In fact, both managed to stick with the team in subsequent seasons in large part because of their contributions.

Vermette was dynamite in the playoffs after a shaky start in the regular season. Even Kimmo Timonen had a role. Though he didn’t get a lot of minutes and was not much of a contributor on the ice, he was a big factor for Teuvo Teravainen.

He helped the young Finn adapt to the grueling playoff run as he bounced around the lineup, spent time as a healthy scratch, and eventually played the hero in Tampa. In the end, Timonen was rewarded with his first Stanley Cup in his final season. It doesn’t get much better than that. And Teuvo got to play a part in helping him accomplish a life long goal for a man that was likely a boyhood idol back in Finland where Timonen is a legend.

This season, Andrew Ladd, Weise, Fleischmann, and Ehrhoff have a chance to make their mark on this team and hopefully, earn a chance to end the season as Timonen and Vermette did. With A Stanley Cup held high.