Seasons Greetings Blackhawks fans. Our latest installment of The Wrap Around is upon us. This past week in Blackhawks hockey brought many news worthy items to discuss. There is also the whole matter of playing Nashville twice this week as well. As such, we are proud to bring you a very special extended edition! This week Kristi starts us off.
Last week was sure an eventful one Rick, and it came to an end with another high note for Patrick Kane. Trevor Daley had a scary looking injury, though fortunately it looks like he is day-to-day. We also saw Viktor Tikhonov get picked up on waivers by his old team the Phoenix Coyotes. While sad, this was not shocking given he carried a reasonable cap hit and the Coyotes are familiar with Tikhonov having drafted him in the first round in 2008. Tikhonov was brought on to help Panarin adjust to hockey in the U.S., and I would say mission accomplished on that front!
Finally, there was the highly anticipated return of Bryan Bickell after being exiled to play with the Rockford IceHogs for over a month. As fans may recall, he was sent down there to find his game after clearing waivers in October. Bickell’s return started off with a bang, literally, as he absolutely leveled Dustin Byfuglien in his first game back.
This week, there are a couple of interesting things to talk about. The Nashville Predators and the Blackhawks have a home and home series in what could provide separation in the standings for each team. Two wins by either team would also go far to solidify a playoff spot in the ultra-competitive Central Division.
Right now, the Hawks are also working hard to help Patrick Kane keep his scoring point streak alive (though at times on Sunday it looked like both Kane and the team were trying just a little too hard). The team appears to be riding a little momentum from the streak, Bickell’s return, and of course the top line’s recent breakthrough led by none other than Marian Hossa.
Q on Teravainen-Toews-Hossa: "You've got everything on that line. … Should be a line that we can rely on." Wants to give it a longer look.
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) December 7, 2015
Inquiring Minds What to Know
This week, I have several questions Rick for you to consider given the wealth of activity and the Hawks upcoming schedule:
1) How far do you think Kane can run with this streak? What is your prediction for the home and home series with the Preds this week?
2) Hopefully the Hawks top line of Hossa, Toews and Teravainen can finally get some kind of a rhythm going. Do you think that Teravainen can stick there, or is the blender going to be on overdrive all season? And will Hossa continue to thrive now that he’s back on the top line?
3) If Trevor Daley is out for an extended period, do you think fans will be seeing Viktor Svedberg or Erik Gustafsson? It seems highly unlikely David Rundblad slots back in given Coach Quenneville’s lack of faith in the young defenseman. So, what is your thought on that one? I personally feel like he might have been a better option to drop on waivers, but perhaps that is just because I think the team has better options. Actually, I thought Tikhonov would have found a role at some point, but what’s done is done. Either way, Rundblad is a low enough cap hit, at this point he isn’t getting sent to Rockford, and he is wasting cap space sitting in the press box. The last option for Rundblad seems to cut the losses and let him go for a pick or a prospect in a trade. From the fan’s point of view, it’s pretty clear the Hawks are out of patience for the young Swede, and he isn’t likely to garner a better trade if they don’t play him.
4) Last but not least, what are your expectations for Bryan Bickell?
Yes Kristi there is a lot to cover this week. Patrick Kane continues to make history, Coach Q continues to blend, and the I-90 Hockey Corridor keeps motoring along. For the record, essay questions were never my strength in school, but I will give it a shot. Just promise me that you grade on a curve.
Regarding Kane’s streak, it sure has been fun to watch. Kane admitted it was extra special to break legendary Blackhawk’s scorer Bobby Hull’s team record at home in front of the Golden Jet himself. Of course he had to keep everyone in suspense and wait until the end of the game. So how did he do it? A brilliant rush up ice capped with a spin-o-rama highlight reel goal? Uhm, not exactly. He did it by getting the primary assist via a hand pass in his own end when Winnipeg pulled its goalie. Thankfully Panarin delivered!
I honestly don’t know how long Kane’s streak will last. He has 30 games to go before talk turns to breaking Gretzky’s record, and I very much doubt that will happen. What is more important is that his line continues to dominate games.
As for the home and home with the Predators, the Blackhawks are playing solid hockey again, sporting a 5-2-3 record in their last ten. However, the Preds are only 3-5-2 in their last ten games. The Hawks have 32 points, while the Preds have 31 (before Monday night’s game). The two teams are developing quite a little rivalry as well. These are division games, and therefore always important. I agree that a four point sweep by the Hawks would provide much-needed separation. Can either team rebound from a sweep? Yes, of course. There is still plenty of season left. Having said that, only the Blackhawks have shown consistent resilience, so the pressure is clearly on Nashville. I say the Hawks win in regulation and once in overtime while the Preds get one measly point. It is the holidays and I feel generous.
Coach Q continues to play with the lines a bit, but seems to like the top line of Hossa, Toews and Teravainen. In fact, I think that line stays together. Patience is the key. But after their performance against Winnipeg on Sunday, I think Q is happy. Speaking of performance, what more needs to be said about Marian Hossa? We have both written separately about his incredible talent and value to the team. You know I took more than a little satisfaction seeing him named the number one star on Sunday. We are all truly fortunate to be able to watch him play.
When Hossa decides it's time for the #Blackhawks to score, the Blackhawks score. #DemiGodStatus pic.twitter.com/qzeu7IomJ5
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) December 6, 2015
Seeing Trevor Daley down on the ice and not moving was very scary. When the stretcher came out, my heart sank. Fortunately he skated off, though with lots of help. The Blackhawks list him as day-to-day with an upper-body injury. “He’s going to be out [Tuesday], but it’s not serious and it’s more day-to-day,” coach Quenneville told the Blackhawks website Monday. As for Runblad replacing him in the line up, I think it is quite likely, especially considering the Hawks just called up Dennis Rasmussen from Rockford and sent down Kero (both play offense). While Runblad hasn’t played much, he is responsible and has a decent shot. Plus, he skates better than Svedberg, who reminds me more than a little of John Scott. I do like Gustaffson, and he has played well in Rockford, but I don’t think the Blackhawks trust him yet.
Let’s get back to Rasmussen for a minute. He was playing extremely well in Rockford, recording 7 goals and 7 assists in twenty-two games played. He also is on a six game point streak for the IceHogs. Obviously that streak will have to wait, but I welcome any additional scoring options for the big league club. Remember: Bickell was playing with him for over a month, and the Hawks brass got a good look at Rasmussen while also watching Bickell. I do like Kero, but results matter to Quenneville. Plus, Rasmussen also has a great nickname — Moose. Every team needs a Moose.
Speaking of Bickell, welcome back Bicksy! He certainly earned his call-up. In just twelve games played for the IceHogs, Bickell had 7 goals and 7 assists. Those numbers ironically match Rasmussen’s but in ten fewer games played. As you know Kristi, I have also written extensively regarding Bickell and am very happy to see him playing with confidence again. I still think any points that come are a bonus, but his physical play and net front presence are crucial for the Hawks success. Bickell played on the third line Sunday against Winnipeg and recorded seven hits, including the highlight one above. He is also well-regarded in the locker room and hopefully his return will add more spark to the team.
The Blackhawks have a busy December, with 15 games scheduled. Tighten up your chin straps fans, for December promises to go a long way in determining this team’s 2015-2016 fate. Kristi and I will continue our coverage and welcome your thoughts and suggestions regarding The Wrap Around. Follow and tweet with Kristi on Twitter via @LoucksKE and yours truly via @HawksStrength.
Stay warm, safe and enjoy the greatest game on earth!
Rick and Kristi