Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Blackhawks Down (Editorial)

                                                   Written by Netty, March 23rd, 2010


Chicago goalie Christobal Huet (Photo from Yahoo)     


The Chicago Blackhawks, for most of this season, have been one of the most dominating teams in the NHL. They have vied, along with the San Jose Sharks, for the #1 seed in the Western Conference as well as the President’s Trophy, guaranteeing home-ice advantage for the entire Stanley Cup Playoffs. Chicago had a fantastic defensive corps and could score, especially when Marian Hossa started playing in mid-November. In the preseason, Chicago had goaltending questions, but the duo of Christobal Huet and Antii Nieme has been all Chicago could have wanted…. for most of the season.

Meanwhile, here in Washington DC, the Capitals started the season with numerous questions hanging over the team. Who would the starting goalie be? Would the defense be good enough? How would the loss of Sergei Federov and Viktor Kozlov effect the team? When the Capitals ended up with blown leads and poor defense in the first few months, everyone had a “I told you so” attitude, and predicted that the Capitals could not compete for a Stanley Cup; they weren’t ready.

Fast forward to today. The Washington Capitals lead the NHL in terms of points, and by a wide margin. They have, by far, the most goals scored, and their goals for to goals against (per game) differential is also the largest in the league. The defense has improved, and while the penalty kill needs work, the team is letting in far fewer goals than it did in November. While Varlamov was injured, Jose Theodore, the veteran, took charge and has been 16-0-2 since the middle of January, with excellent save percentages. Rookie Michal Neuvirth also filled in nicely while Varly was out.

But, in Chicago, things have taken a turn for the worse.

The Blackhawks' defense is simply not effective; neither goalie is doing very well at the moment; overall, the team has fallen apart. Chicago’s play at the moment is remarkably similar, in my opinion, to the Capitals’ play at the beginning of the season. The Blackhawks, right now;

- Cannot maintain a lead
- Have mediocre, at best, goaltending
- Are letting opponents score way too many goals

For example, the Blackhawks were up 3-0 over the Caps after two periods. The Capitals still managed to win 4-3 in overtime, without Alexander Ovechkin. The Blackhawks cannot do that if they want a Stanley Cup.

Thing back to November 2009…. wasn’t everybody saying the same thing about the Capitals?

I for one, am glad that the Capitals had all these issues at the beginning of the season, and look to be going into the playoffs on a high note.

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