Not yet time to fret for Blackhawks fans

Though+Brad+Richards+has+not+met+fans%27+lofty+expectations+thus+far%2C+look+for+him+to+improve+as+he+adjusts+to+his+new+setting.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Though Brad Richards has not met fans' lofty expectations thus far, look for him to improve as he adjusts to his new setting.

Zach Kuehn, Staff Writer

As the Blackhawks’ season continues, improvements have to be made if the team wants to make the playoffs this year. They stand at an 8-6-1 record, which is currently outside of the playoffs. While the record doesn’t look so bad, it’s subpar for a team that was the preseason favorite to win the Stanley Cup this year. On many occasions, they have lost games they should’ve won.

The Hawks suffered a key injury when they lost forward Patrick Sharp to a knee injury, keeping one of the Hawks’ best scorers out for three to four weeks. Sharp is a first line player and anchors the Hawks power play. This injury comes at a bad time for the Hawks, as they have had trouble scoring goals in the early going, ranking 22nd in scoring. Last season, the Hawks had the league’s best offense, scoring and average of four goals per game.

Despite the lack of scoring, the Hawks have allowed only 1.87 goals per game, which is the lowest in the league. Goalie Corey Crawford had been great so far this season, posting a stellar 1.81 goals against average. When he went down with an injury, backups Antti Raanta and Scott Darling played solid.

Another problem for the Hawks this year is not playing a full sixty minute game. The Hawks play one good period, and then two bad periods and lose the game. This happened recently on Nov. 7, against the Washington Capitals, when the Hawks had a two goal lead late in the second period. Soon enough, the Capitals scored three goals in five minutes to take the lead before the second ended. Then in the third, the Hawks couldn’t score, and they lost 3-2. This has been the case more than once this season, and it shows in the Hawks’ record.

In the offseason, the Hawks signed free agent center Brad Richards, who was primed to play alongside Patrick Kane, but has yet to solidify himself on a line. Richards has been inconsistent thus far, only having eight points and a 0 plus/minus rating. He also has 36 shots but only two goals on the year. He has showed signs of potential, but also signs of regression, being a veteran player, as he has played 14 seasons in the NHL. With Richards not being the player the Hawks thought he was going to be thus far, others have had to step up, namely Kris Versteeg. After missing the beginning of the season due to a lower body injury, Versteeg has made some big plays in recent games. In a game against the Montreal Canadiens on Nov. 4, Versteeg scored a highlight reel goal against star goaltender Carey Price to put the game away for the Hawks in the third period. He has been promoted to the top line, playing in Sharp’s spot.

With a solid defense and good goaltending, the Hawks should improve, once the offense gets rolling again. Over the last few games, the Hawks have put up two solid victories, and a sloppy loss, but the offense is showing signs of life, scoring five goals on one of the best goaltenders in the league, Carey Price. If the offense returns to form, this team can be very dangerous down the stretch. The team is starting to return to form, but more net front presence and attacking the offensive zone from the middle and not the outside area if the offense wants to improve. The improvements have to come quickly, though, as the Hawks are about to embark on a two week road trip. The Hawks need more net front presence, attacking the offensive zone from the middle and not the sides.