In an article titled “Niemi’s Moves Makes Things Interesting”, Rogers made statements regarding fans under-valuing the loss of Antti Niemi, former Chicago Blackhawks goalie.
“Finally, anyone not giving Niemi credit for the playoffs is nuts… the defense wasn’t THAT good, certainly not like the regular season. They gave up 5 MORE shots a game in postseason. Thats a lot. Nashville outshot them in back to back games. Offensively challenged Nashville. That didn’t happen ALL season until that point.” Rogers stated in a comment addressing fan loyalty toward the Hawks blue-liners.
While all statistics reported are true, the scope is a little off. There is no reason why newly designated starter, Marty Turco, wouldn’t provide more consistency then the Blackhawks lacked last season.
The quality of teams in the regular season is lower than that of the constant competition seen in the playoffs. Obviously, the best of the best reaches post-season. The quality of opposition rapidly increases as playoff teams often have more than two lines that have the ability to change the outcome of a game.
This is the sole reason why comparing playoff stats to regular season stats fails in credibility. Yes, the Blackhawks gave up five more shots in a game, but of those additional shots how many were quality shots?
In the NHL, there isn’t a team out there that does a better job at taking away the angle. This can’t only be contributed to the defenseman, but also to the instilled “defense-first” mindset of many of the forwards in the Blackhawks organization.
Throughout the regular season, the Blackhawks won the series against the Predators 4 games to 2, the same as the first round playoff series.
The biggest stat looked at in the post-season was that of the Blackhawks holding the Predators’ power play unit to a anemic 1 for 26 success rate. Some say that your best penalty killer is your goaltender.
In most cases I would agree, fortunately for Blackhawks fans, the Hawks aren’t considered most cases. Of the twenty-six power plays, the Blackhawks allowed only 38 shots when shorthanded. What does this mean?
Picture this… for every time shorthanded the Blackhawks defense allowed only 1.27 shots. An amazing accomplishment for a team that drills defensive responsibility.
Pretty hard to imagine a goaltender being you number one penalty killer when you goaltender is barely playing a role in it.
Obviously after enduring an off-season, as the Blackhawks organization and fans have, some look for answers. Coming off a banner season expectations usually will soar, but with roster overhaul many fail to recognize the Blackhawks as any kind of Stanley Cup threat.
Some have gone as far as saying, “I have a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach, Hawk management and all us Hawk fans will be regretting losing Niemi for the next 15 years.”
Where is the faith in an organization that has brought Chicago fans a Championship. A Championship that had been chased for 49 years. All being constrewn because of the release of a goalie that hit stride at the right time.
Honestly you can’t take anything away from what Niemi did in the post-season, he was absolutely brilliant at times. In a hard salary cap world where one team is strapped and you have a decision to prove your playoff brilliance or leave, then make the call. Arbitration seemed like the chosen route of both agent, Bill Zito, and Niemi.
Thus, out goes Niemi and in comes Marty Turco. A 34-year-old goaltender that has been playing for an under-acheiving team of late.
Turco provides experience, but still lacks that championship so many in Dallas hopes he can get in Chicago. To those thinking the Hawks have taken a step back by saving money, think again.
As far as routine skills go, any doubters can hardly argue against the skill set of Marty Turco. Perhaps being a bit older than one would like right now, remember the “stone wall” defense from last season primarily remains intact. On top of that they are a bit more mature and versatile.
The re-signing of Niklas Hjalmarsson may be the most scrutinized, but what can be made of it is the fact that he is worth every penny. The more the young man plays, it seems the stronger he becomes. Easily a top four defenseman in any organization, Hjalmarsson will undoubtedly be out to prove his paycheck to those still sour about losing Niemi.
The Blackhawks may be in just the position they flourish in. Over the past two years they have grown familiar with having to prove themselves. At such a young age, they now have a goaltender that strictly cares about winning. While it may seem selfish, can anyone blame Turco? Better yet… the price tag will prove the most valuable come the drop of the puck in October.