Our SB Nation partner in Second City Hockey was kind enough to weigh in and answer some questions about how tomorrow's opponents, the Chicago Blackhawks, are doing these days..
Penguins fans remember what it's like to have the "target on their backs" as the defending Cup champs and getting the other team's best shot every game. Do you think this has phased Chicago this year or how else would you explain their place in the standings so far this season?
While there's no question the Hawks are getting the best of their opposition on most nights, their position in the standings comes down to their attitude. We can break down some on-ice failures, such as the penalty kill or Duncan Keith becoming Kabuki theater, but really the Hawks have played in an entitled fashion for most of the season. They have floated through a lot of games and periods, merely expecting the results to come instead of earning them. They're have been nights where it looks like they're just waiting to get to the bar, because they are just waiting to get to the bar. This has been the major issue all season.
With the trade deadline upcoming, what position do you think the Blackhawks would like to upgrade? Or do you think they're more likely to hold steady?
Well, they picked up Michael Frolik to give them another threat who can also provide Hossa with more chances, but what the Hawks really need is an atom-smashing defenseman to eat up shots on the penalty kill and a big forward to crash the net. They'll get the former but probably not the latter. However, with this team such a mess right now, I wouldn't be shocked if they do something nuclear like move Seabrook or Hossa just to see if they can shake the rest of the guys into something resembling coherence. In Kane's case, that takes a lot of shaking.
After the jump, the conclusion of the interview...
Last year Duncan Keith was the toast of the league, putting up crazy points, playing great in the playoffs, winning the Cup and Norris trophy. This year only 31 points and a -3 in the plus/minus (tied for worst on the team amongst defensemen). What in the world is going on there?
Well, I'm sure Duncan would tell you it's simply his forwards not getting to the net, as he said when he bus-tossed his teammates after a loss in Calgary where he was once again awful. Keith is the biggest disappointment by far. Maybe last year was just a spike, maybe it's the pressure of playing for big money (he's the highest earner on the team this year), but whatever it is Keith has been lazy and stupid all season. Where he used to skate himself out of trouble and lead the rush, now he either fires a blind clearance attempt that has no hope of succeeding or trying a pass that only the elves would conceive of. He has banged, at rough estimate, 573 shots off the first forward's shins in the offensive zone, lazily not trying to skate to find a lane. He pulls up a lawn chair to watch opponents whack at rebounds in his own crease when he used to a badger trying to tie up their sticks. The Hawks expect Keith to not just be out there for 25 minutes a night, but to dominate. He's been the opposite, and the rest of the team's failings are a domino effect of this, plain and simple.
Finally, how's your confidence level for how the season shakes out for Chicago?
Put it this way, on the blog and in The Indian I've pretty much pronounced the season over. On paper, this team still looks like one that should easily rip off seven in a row or nine of ten to vault themselves into the playoffs. Their goal difference and shot-differential and other stats all point to it, as does the talent amassed. But I've been waiting all year for them to string five games together where it looks like they give a shit for three periods, and I'm growing older by the day. I just can't assume it's going to happen anymore, and am fully expecting the once in a lifetime embarrassment of a defending champion golfing right after the regular season. I sincerely wish that I'm wrong.