Alongside young guns Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, the Blackhawks really came out to play in the first half of the season. The Hawks hit a few bumps in the road here and there, but they have come out okay.
The Hawks have turned around their season compared to last year—so far. Last year at game No. 45, the Hawks had 44 points and a 20-21-4 record. This year the Hawks have really turned it around.
The Hawks are 25-12-8 with 58 points—sitting pretty in the No. 4 spot in the Western Conference—two points behind Calgary. My MVP for the first half is, with no doubt in my mind, Kane. Kane had 42 points, 16 goals, and 26 assists. Although the joint goalie play from Cristobal Huet and Khabibulin has been great, Kane is still my choice for first half MVP.
Two words: Winter Classic. The Hawks really started the game off well. They had a 3-1 lead after the first period. That fell...fast!
The Red Wings scored five unanswered goals and went on to win the game at Wrigley Field, 6-4! The defense faltered and Huet's play wasn't, to say the least, his best.
Huet has been great all year—.919 save percentage and a record of 12-8. The classic loss wasn't just Huet's fault. The defense played really bad. The penalty kill for the Hawks that game was the worst that I have seen it in a long time.
Improvements and Predictions
The Hawks need to desperately improve on the penalty kill and play better defense. If the Hawks ever take a lead like 3-1 again against the Red Wings or any other great hockey team, they need to go into shutdown mode. Don't try and be finesse. Just play hard hockey and keep the puck out of your zone.
My prediction is the Hawks will finish in the fourth spot in the conference and end up losing in the 2nd round in the playoffs. The Hawks are still young and have a lot to learn before they can compete with teams like the Bruins, Red Wings, and Sharks.
Overall, they get a B. They have room to improve, but I am not going to be too hard on them...yet.