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www.the-rink.com • 55 Years Old • Male

"Stop It Right There!!!"

Posted 8:08 AM ET | Comments 4
If last night provided a snapshot of the Hawks' lineup the rest of this season and next (with a few tweaks), then Hawk fans have a lot to look forward to: three scoring lines and a really active, dominant defense.

Yes, Columbus came out flat. And they were also without their standout goaltender, Pascal Leclaire. But all games, and all teams, are in some ways measuring sticks. Columbus, it can be argued, is a very similar team to the Hawks: a mix of veterans and skilled youngsters up front, a team that will finish somewhere close to .500 (though the Jackets should be above .500).

Not only did the Hawks outwork Columbus all night, but now that they're almost completely healthy, they look to have a fair amount more talent at forward and defense. Marty Havlat, Patrick Kane and Dustin Byfuglien dominated last night. Columbus' best defensemen: Foote and Klesla, look slow and one-dimensional compared to Seabrook, Wisniewski, Keith and Barker.

Some Columbus fans might argue Kris Russell is one of their best defensemen. I don't know whether that's a good thing. Russell has talent but he's very small, and probably should be in the AHL right now, working on his game and working out in the gym. He reminds me a lot of former Hawk Steve McCarthy. And again, I'm not sure that's entirely a good thing.

Cam Barker. No, he didn't score. But whatever Denis Savard is sprinkling on his corn flakes is working wonders. He's moving well, really strong in his own end, making smart, crisp passes and in many ways the Hawks' most solid defenseman right now.

Nikolai Khabibulin continues to play well. On one of Columbus' two goals last night, he made a great first save only to lose the puck in a mass of confusion around the net. The question before Hawk management is can he play at that level consistently through next year. And I will say that I would much rather have Leclaire right now than Khabibulin.

Look to see this lineup a lot the remainder of this year. And, look for the Hawks to only do some minor unloading of vets (Lapointe, Perreault) at the deadline.

Yes, it's somewhat unfortunate that this year had to be undermined by injuries. Still, last night's lineup holds promise. Add in another top 4 defenseman, maybe another top 6 forward, and this is a team to be reckoned with next year.
Filed Under:   Blackhawks   Blue Jackets  
February 14, 2008 11:07 AM ET | Delete
Here's hoping you guys left all of your scoring in Ohio.
February 14, 2008 12:41 PM ET | Delete
Walter,Your d-men are in for a long night handling Big Bubba. My sense that he would be a monster at forward was accurate. No predictions beyond that.
February 14, 2008 1:45 PM ET | Delete
Even though I am a huge Islander's fan, I've grown to love the Hawks. They're basically my team of the West and I was pumped at the beginning of the season to see you guys potentially looking at a playoff birth. I was skeptical when you guys drafted Kane but I gotta say, he is something else. With a core of guys like Kane, Toews, Seabrook, Keith, and Havlat, you guys will do damage in the very near future. If only Havlat wasn't only hurt and you guys could get consistent goaltending. Unfortunately, you're the exact prototype that I want the Isles to be next season - a young core with mixed veterans. Too bad the recent news we have here is that Simon is coming back..WOOP DEE DOO!
February 15, 2008 1:15 AM ET | Delete
Thanks TopRt. Good luck to the Isles in the future. As much as I love Kane, watching tonight's game, I really became convinced that Toews is the better player. Enstrom, Backstrom, Mueller and Gagner are all going to be good ones, but these two (especially together) are going to be unbelievable. If Pittsburgh holds on to Crosby and Malkin, I think you can safely say the Hawks and Pens are going to duke it out a lot over the next decade for supremacy. Also wathing the Hawks game tonight, i would not completely rule out a playoff spot this year— and I have been ruling it out for a while now. Now that they're getting healthy, with Barker really coming into his own and with Byfuglien up front, they are a VERY good team. They're still a longshot for the 8th seed. But if they got it, they could do some damage.
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