By Jay Zawaski-
(CBS) Welcome to another edition of Zawaski’s Shorties. The day after each Blackhawks game, I’ll share my brief (or short) thoughts on the contest and the news of the day.
On Sunday night, Chicago’s 6-2 win over the Dallas Stars served as a reminder of who the real Blackhawks are and the offensive output they’re capable of unleashing on a nightly basis.
Let’s get to the shorties…
Blackhawk down — Rookie defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk suffered a lower-body injury after getting struck by a shot in the first period. van Riemsdyk returned to the Hawks bench and could be seen kneading the muscle on the top of his thigh or his knee. I don’t want to speculate, but if it were some kind of fracture, I would think rubbing the injury repeatedly would cause agonizing pain, not relief. Rubbing usually equals a muscle injury. Regardless, the postgame reports didn’t seem optimistic. I wouldn’t expect van Riemsdyk back any time soon.
Now, with van Riemsdyk out, the Hawks will turn to Rockford to fill out their defensive corps. A source told 670 The Score to expect either rookie Klas Dahlbeck or veteran Kyle Cumiskey to get the call. A second source predicted Dahlbeck, as he’s the more reliable defensively, but we’re told “management loves Cumiskey.” He would bring another element of speed and offense to the blue line but also a concerning lack of defense. And isn’t defense really what being a defenseman is all about?
Regression to the mean – The Hawks’ biggest problem all season hasn’t been their team defense. It hasn’t been their power play or their goaltending. The puck just hasn’t gone in the net. JenLC over at the Committed Indian does a much better job with these numbers than I do, but it’s really not complicated. The Hawks lead the league in total shots on goal (682). They are 28th in shooting percentage (ahead of Buffalo and Winnipeg) at 7.04 percent. That’s going to change, and Sunday night was a good example. In their 6-2 win, the Hawks shot 12.7 percent. Obviously, that’s not sustainable, but with the offensive firepower on the Chicago roster, the goals are going to come.
Richards gets his shot — Brad Richards spent Sunday’s game centering the second line in between Kris Versteeg and Patrick Kane. The trio combined for eight points, with Richards adding a pair of assists (in his 1,000th game). He now has eight points in his last 10 games and has seemingly found his stride with the organization. When Richards signed in July, it wasn’t to be a bottom-six checking center. He was supposed to fill the role at at second-line center. Last night, he did it and did it well. We’ll see if coach Joel Quenneville leaves well enough alone and lets that line gel. Yes, Richards has a number of defensive problems. Chicago might even have to hide him on the bottom six in a series against a team like Los Angeles or Anaheim, but for the time being, he’s fine on the second line.
D**n it Versteeg! — Let’s talk about the most confounding player on the Hawks roster. Kris Versteeg finished Sunday’s game with a goal, two assists and four instances of me swearing at my television. The goal he scored was absolutely beautiful, but how many times did he opt to make an impossible pass instead of the simple play? At one point, he found himself all alone on his backhand in front of the net. Did he shoot? Nope. He decided to dish an impossible pass instead.
I’ve been so torn on Versteeg all season. On one hand, you have a guy with a lot of offensive ability on an affordable contract. He’s certainly capable of a 50-plus point season. On the other hand, he’s a turnover machine. At this point in his career, a step and a half slower than he was in 2010, can Versteeg be trusted in a critical playoff situation? I’d certainly be itchy. Freeing up that contract before the deadline could be a blessing for the Hawks, who are obviously cap-strapped next season. I’d bet Versteeg’s future in Chicago is tied directly to Teuvo Teravainen’s perceived “readiness.”
Thanks for reading this edition of Zawaski’s Shorties. The next one should come Friday after Chicago plays at Calgary on Thursday night.
Also, be sure to join me and my special guest, Johnny Oduya, for a Bud Light “On the Glass” event this Tuesday. Oduya and I will be at McGee’s (950 W. Webster in 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.