Posted by: Adventures in Pucking | October 5, 2011

Blackhawks preseason wrapup

Even though they ended with a 2-5 record, it’s been a very interesting preseason/training camp for the Chicago Blackhawks. Here’s a recap of what’s been happening since September 17th:

The Good: I’ve written about the additions to the roster, and I can tell you that they’re working out pretty well. Jamal Mayers and Rostislav Olez are proving to be strong assets on their respective lines. I’m surprised that Dan Carcillo is behaving himself, but with Shanahan doling out suspensions with gusto, he’s got reason to be a good boy. The last two games have featured Andrew Brunette as a first line winger alongside Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane with great results.

Speaking of Kaner, the big experiment of him at center is going along swimmingly; his faceoff percentage in his first game back was at 66%, which is much better than his season percentage of 43%. Sometimes he’s a little hesitant on defense, so he’ll need to work on being a little more aggressive.

Once he gets that backcheck in motion, he'll do wonders in the middle.

Defensively, the team needs to improve a bit more, but I can see nothing but good things from guys like Dylan Olsen and Nick Leddy. I really want to see more more from Steve Montador and Sami Lepisto – Sami seems to like hanging back and letting his defensive partner take the heat. And I see that they’re splitting my one of my favorite bromances/defensive lines, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. I hope this is temporary.

The goalie battle is over, with Ray Emery winning the coveted backup spot. The feeling is that Alex Salak, who’d spent the past season in the Swedish leagues,  needs more experience in North America before he gets his shot at the NHL. He’ll hone his skills in Rockford.

And never fear, Patrick Sharp will be ready for the season opener after his emergency appendectomy.

The Bad: Two big injuries happened in the last weekend before the season. Within the same game against the Red Wings, Viktor Stalberg suffered a knee injury and Ben Smith took an awful head shot from Brendan Smith. While Ben is questionable to play this weekend (he needs to be cleared for contact first), Stally won’t be back for another 3-4 weeks. But this gives some guys who haven’t been cut yet the chance to take their spots, even temporarily.

The Up and Coming: Holy crap, I have been more than impressed by one of our draft picks from this year, Brandon Saad. He played in every preseason game but the last one, and he’s been strong as winger on the line with Jonathan Toews. Stan Bowman knows how good he is because he signed him to a 3-year entry-level contract and put him on top line with Toews and Sharp for the first game. Welcome to the big time.

To paraphrase Dan Patrick, you can't stop this kid, you can only hope to contain him.

You Better Work It: Coach Quenneville isn’t happy with Brian Bickell’s performance so far, and I can’t say that I’m impressed with him either; he needs to fill in the gap that Troy Brouwer and Brian Campbell left when they were traded. And surprisingly, Jonathan Toews isn’t as impressive as I thought he’d be – it’s like he’s become a bit complacent, especially since Kane’s been put at center. If he wants to be a Selke nominee again, he needs to step up his game.

The Blackhawks start the season on the road in Dallas on the 7th, with their home opener against Dallas on the 8th. Roll out the red carpet, here they come!

– Krista

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