BY NEAL MALONE
I was in the car listening to Chicago sports radio today and the Blackhawks were the topic of discussion. It was a simple debate about what the expectations should be for the Blackhawks in the playoffs this year. Easy enough.
However, it was the opinion of a certain radio personality on The Score that really got me thinking. His expectations were rather high, to say the least…Stanley Cup or BUST!
I wouldn’t say his expectations made me angry because well, I would love it if the Hawks won the Stanley Cup. I also think that they are absolutely capable of doing so. But it is exactly his mindset that is going to leave this city awfully disappointed if the Hawks bow out early.
Hey, I’m all for optimism…but I’m surprised that people in this town still have it. Sure, I’m talking about the perennial disappointment that is the Chicago Cubs. Yes, I’m also thinking about the early playoff exits and droughts of some of our other teams, like the Bears.
But without dwelling on the shortcomings of some of the other teams too much, let’s stick with the Hawks here. Have you watched them lately?
Goaltending remains a huge question as the playoffs edge closer. Yes, Niemi lovers…even if he is handed the clear starting job right now. The defense has to limit giveaways in their own zone, especially with the absence of Brian Campbell, which is a bigger hit than a lot of people lead on. And also, the Hawks special teams has been average at best. In March, the Hawks aren’t in the top 10 in penalty killing percentage (T-11th) or power play percentage (19th).
So right now, there isn’t a justifiable reason to have “Stanley Cup or bust” expectations. Since the Olympic break, the Hawks have a losing record at 5-6 and they’ve been blowing late-game leads left and right, which…ugh…is a whole other animal.
Listen, I share the same sentiment with Hawks fans…I love them. My eyes light up every time I think about the always-exciting NHL playoffs including my favorite team, the Hawks. Hell, my team won’t only be in the playoffs, they’ll be seriously vying for a title if they play their cards right.
But that’s the key. They have to re-discover that midseason form. You know, the form that had them going to San Jose and winning 7-2? Ok, maybe that’s a little too much to ask.
All I’m saying is…proceed with caution when you formulate your expectations for the Hawks in the playoffs. I’m not saying you have to be pessimistic and cast this team off as another Chicago playoff reject, but be realistic.
Because if you go into the NHL playoffs with the same mentality as our anonymous Chicago sports radio personality, then you may very well be disappointed. The Hawks aren’t the only good team in this league.