By Jay Zawaski-
(CBS) Starting today, I will publish a story of my quick thoughts after every Blackawks game. They’ll be called “shorties” because they will be short. Get it? There’s also a hockey thing called a shorty, so that works nicely, doesn’t it?
Let’s get to it after the Blackhawks’ 3-2 win in a shootout against the Lightning on Tuesday night.
Morin the enforcer? — On Tuesday, Jeremy Morin took two roughing penalties in response to post-whistle action. On Sunday against the Sharks, Morin dropped the gloves with former Hawk Adam Burish. So what has gotten into the Chicago winger?
Let’s rewind to this past summer. It seemed certain that Morin would somehow part ways with the organization. He had played well during the 2014 run to the Western Conference Final but still hadn’t earned the trust of coach Joel Quenneville. As a restricted free agent, Morin seemed like perfect trade bait … until the Hawks traded tough guy Brandon Bollig to the Calgary Flames.
This seemed to signal a shift in philosophy, and suddenly Morin appeared a shoo-in for opening night. Well, then the Hawks signed Daniel Carcillo at the end of camp. Carcillo took Morin’s roster spot most nights — until he was injured. With Carcillo now targeting a Sunday return, Morin could be feeling the pressure to keep his job. Quenneville hasn’t responded to the offensive creativity shown by Morin. Maybe he’ll respond to the physicality. Thus, the theory on Morin’s recent aggression.
I believe we’re seeing a kid doing everything it takes to keep his spot in the lineup. I guess we’ll find out when Carcillo does return.
Crow says no — Lost in the panic of the Hawks’ lack of scoring has been the stellar play of goalie Corey Crawford. He’s fourth in the league in goals against average (1.76), allowing only 18 goals in 10 games. He’s seventh in save percentage (.931). Numbers aside, Crawford looks as comfortable and confident between the pipes as he ever has before.
“I’m reading plays really well,” Crawford said. “I’m not letting too much bother me.”
In the past, Crawford has acknowledged everything piling up on him and getting him off his game. So far, so good this season.
Richards’ revival — Brad Richards’ first handful of game with Chicago were certainly an adventure. The veteran center was clearly having trouble adjusting to the speed and defensive expectations of the Quenneville system. Now, he has eight points in his last 10 games and has been contributing at both ends of the ice. Yes, he’s been victimized several times while manning the point on the power play (more on that later), but overall, general manager Stan Bowman and his staff must be pleased with Richards’ play of late. If the Hawks can get 40 to 50 points out of him (he’s on pace for 46), he’ll be a bargain at $2 million.
Oduya’s injury — The Hawks didn’t hold practice Wednesday, so don’t expect any news on defenseman Johnny Oduya’s lower body injury until Thursday around lunchtime. It didn’t look good, though. As the third period ended, Oduya could be seen angrily storming to the Hawks’ locker room.
After the game, Quenneville said, “We’ll see. Hopefully he’ll be alright.” If I’m to interpret the Q-speak, I’m going to call that “day-to-day.”
Losing Oduya for any extended period of time would be really bad news for the Hawks. He and his partner, Niklas Hjalmarsson, consistently match up against the opponent’s top competition. They are both buried in the defensive zone for most of their shifts. Without a doubt, Oduya and Hjalmarsson are the Hawks’ top defensive pair.
Rund-benched — Ever since I said “David Rundblad sucks” on Twitter, he hasn’t sucked. In fact, he’s been pretty darn good. Rundblad had just put together his best stretch of hockey as a Hawk and was becoming a real asset on the blue line, especially on the power play. Then on Tuesday, Quenneville decided to bench Rundblad in favor of veteran Michal Rozsival. Yes, I understand that there’s value in getting all seven defensemen in the rotation in the lineup, but I don’t think it was the right time to sit Rundblad. He recorded two assists in last week against Montreal and has been one of the team’s best possession defensemen since that time.
Bowman gave up a second-round pick to acquire Rundblad. It’s safe to assume he wants him playing, especially if he’s playing this well.
Kane’s killer — That winning goal in the shootout? I don’t know how a goalie stops that. If you take a look at the highlight, you can see Ben Bishop’s frustrated reaction. He knew it was coming and still couldn’t stop it. Kane has used the move several times this season already. The shot is simply unstoppable if Kane executes it correctly. I’m not a fan of the shootout, but having a player like Kane certainly makes them easier to stomach.
Thanks for reading the first edition of Zawaski’s Shorties. The next edition coming Saturday after the Blackhawks face the Red Wings in Detroit on Friday night.
Also, be sure to join me and my special guest, Johnny Oduya, for a Bud Light “On the Glass” event next Tuesday. Oduya and I will be at McGee’s (950 W. Webster – Chicago) from 7-8:30 p.m. talking hockey. There will be a Q&A session, followed by an autograph signing. I hope to see you all there.
Jay Zawaski is the executive producer of the Spiegel and Mannelly Show on 670 The Score and the Blackhawks columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JayZawaski670.