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Hawk Talk: Crystal Ball

Tuesday, 11.14.2006 / 11:39 AM / News
Chicago Blackhawks

Even though sports are so unpredictable, there are times when you can see something coming as obvious as the sky being blue. I think this certainly applies to the Blackhawks over the last couple weeks.

How they played and how they fared all makes sense to me and really should not be a shock to you. Now I didn't know each individual outcome before it happened. But collectively, the way things have shaped up have kind of followed a pattern. Here is the condensed version:

Team loses star players on offense. Team struggles to score goals. Team loses number one goaltender. Team continues to struggle to stop goals. Backup goaltender gets some playing time, backup starts to play much better. Team gets a week of practice to FULLY adjust to playing without stars and team starts to play better.

There it is, in a nutshell. The surprise would have come if the Hawks had continued averaging four goals a game or Brian Boucher was great right away. We all hoped that would happen, but it was not the case.

There's a reason Khabibulin and Havlat are the highest paid players on the team, and to lose them, along with the other major injuries, well, what did you think was going to happen?

It doesn't mean you can't go out and win a game, but as Boucher said on my post-game show Sunday night, after those guys went down, the team, whether we knew it or not, was kind of shellshocked. It showed.

It's pretty obvious the best thing to happen to the Hawks was that week between games. Ask any coach, if you need to go through an adjustment period, the hardest thing is to do it in the midst of a busy schedule. Roles were changing for players and a little time to collectively catch their breath was definitely needed.

Now look what has happened since that week. Three solid games with great goaltending and just enough offense to earn five out of six points. I truly believe if that week off came even sooner, the losing streak would have been shorter.

The power play is better, the D-zone coverage is better, and the goaltending is better. Why? Practice. It's no secret.

But what becomes difficult -- the more games you play, and the more distance you put between that week of practice and the present -- is maintaining. As fatigue sets in and games pile up, the bad habits sometimes return.

I bet every coach would like a week of practice every month in the season. Players may not, but coaches would.

Now that the Hawks have found their balance without their stars, that survival talk is back on. I don't know if I see a seven-game winning streak in the air (hate that west coast!) but now that Bulin is just about back, they can hopefully keep winning some tight games and then open up the offense again when Havlat returns.

As predictable as the past was, maybe the future is as well. Try this:

Team learns how to play tight, low-scoring games out of need. Star player returns. Team continues good defense while star provides more offense. Team wins more games.

As predictable as the blue sky. Stay tuned.

Email Blackhawks pre- and post-game radio host Jesse Rogers at jrogers@chicagoblackhawks.com.