Right now the Blackhawks lead the entire NHL in points, they were the first to 50 points, and they have three of the league’s top 15 scorers. Both Blackhawks goalies are playing great lately and it’s easy to see that this team is good and one of the best in the NHL right now. It’s easy to assume that the team that is leading the league in points has few imperfections and doesn’t have much to improve. You couldn’t be more wrong if you assume that.
The thing that makes the Blackhawks scary this year is that they are leading the league and still have a lot of problems and things to improve. They are far from perfect and it’s actually a surprise that they are doing as well as they are considering the problems they have.
The first problem is that their defense is lacking a second defenseman on the third pairing. Steve Montador has turned out to be a great signing and plays his position well. He needs a capable defenseman next to him. Lepisto, O’Donnell, and Scott have all been given a chance there and none of them have stepped up and made a big difference at that position. If the Blackhawks can make a big trade at the deadline to get a defenseman, they can be a very good team and dangerous in the playoffs.
The second problem is that the Blackhawks don’t have a definite second line center. Kane was there at the beginning of the season as part of an experiment to see if Kane would be better there. He played well and was good at dishing the puck and playing defense, but the Hawks weren’t winning games with him there and he wasn’t scoring goals. Kane was moved back to the top line with Toews. Kruger was playing well on the fourth and third lines, so the Blackhawks decided to give him the chance to play there. He did play pretty well, but unfortunately was knocked out in one of his first few games at the position.
This gave a chance for the player who I think fits in the second line the best to show himself. Brandon Pirri was recalled from Rockford and put on the line with Sharp and Hossa. In his first game, he saw time on both the penalty kill and power play. He played well during even strength time too. He played not as well in the next game, but better in the game after that. I think he can be the answer to this hole because he has chemistry with Sharp and Hossa and because despite the Hawks wanting him to develop in the minor leagues, he is NHL ready.
The Blackhawks need to give all they have to trying to get a good defenseman. The Blackhawks can take care of the second line center problem using Pirri or Kruger because they have both played well there.
The Blackhawks can be a great team in 2012 and can do a lot of good things. They have a good shot at winning the President’s trophy and maybe even the Stanley Cup. Before they do that, they have holes to fill. If they can transition new players into the team while continuing to win they way they have been, they can get a lot of points and be one of the top seeds in the West.
If these Blackhawks fill the holes and play better defense, they can be great. They don’t have the depth of the 2010 Blackhawks, but they have talent and a high power offense. The defense needs to hunker down and help the team get wins. The 2011-2012 Chicago Blackhawks have a chance to be great.