Many of the Chicago Blackhawks players have thrived in the team's first 12 games of the 2011-12 NHL season. Hockey is a team sport, but the 'Hawks have had plenty of impressive individual performances, thus far.
Despite the impressive individual performances, players are always looking to improve, and that's no different for the players on the Western Conference's first-place Chicago Blackhawks.
Not everyone on the team has had the most eye-catching start to the season, but it's a good thing the 'Hawks still have 70 more games remaining on the schedule for them to improve. However, the areas of improvement may be overshadowed by the 'Hawks' ability to tally two points in the standing column at such a rapid rate.
Bryan Bickell has played fairly well in the Chicago Blackhawks' first 12 games of the NHL season. He's gotten his name on the score sheet five times, tallying three goals and two assists, and it looks like his hand-eye coordination has improved because of how well he's been able to control the puck when it's been on his stick this season.
Defensively, Bickell has started taking advantage of his size and strength by upping his physicality on a regular basis.
Despite Bickell's successes, he still has to work on a certain aspect of his game. He's not afraid to fire the puck on net, nor should he be with the wicked wrister he has, but he needs to work on his accuracy. Far too often I see Bickell snipe a wrist shot from the top of the faceoff circles and have it go wide of the net.
Don't be surprised when Bickell continues to use the body and create scoring chances throughout the rest of the season. Bickell could quite possibly be a 20-goal scorer, if not more, this year.
Daniel Carcillo would've received a higher grade if he hadn't already served a two-game suspension this season. Despite the suspension, Carcillo has played with a cool head in his first eight games with the Chicago Blackhawks, only being sentenced to the penalty box once for two minutes.
Carcillo certainly is not a lethal weapon for the 'Hawks on offense, but he'll appear on the stat sheet every so often throughout the course of the regular season.
However, the less often the puck is on Carcillo's stick, the better off the Blackhawks are. He has a bit of an issue with puck control and coordination. Those two areas are definitely in need of improvement for Carcillo to be more effective on offense, but he'll begin to gel the more he plays with his linemates.
A "C" isn't the most impressive grade, but Carcillo will become more effective for the 'Hawks as the season progresses. Mark my words.
Corey Crawford has picked up where he left off in the 2011 Western Conference quarterfinals, despite the Chicago Blackhawks' first-round elimination.
Craw has stopped nearly 92 percent of the shots he's faced, and he's making an early case for the Vezina Trophy awarded to the NHL's best goaltender at the end of the season.
There have been numerous instances where Crawford stoned his opponent on a breakaway, including his breakaway save on Eric Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes, followed by his save on Staal's penalty shot.
Crawford's netminding can take the 'Hawks a long way if he continue to plays at the level he has been. Craw's teammates are getting a lot of attention by making plenty of plays in front of him, but Crawford's teammates know how important Corey's play has been to the team's success, especially in the shootouts, thus far.
Patrick Kane is the real deal. Kaner has scored 12 points in as many games, and he's looking like the point-per-night player I suspected he would be prior to the start of the 2011-12 NHL season.
After watching Kane thus far in 2011, it's obvious he dedicated his summer to working on his game. He's always been fast, but he looks that much faster when he skates through the open ice.
Kane has never been the biggest guy on the ice, but he's been holding his own when there's a cluster of guys fighting for the puck in the offensive zone. He definitely put on some muscle over the summer, and it's showing.
Kaner has stepped up big time when Joel Quenneville has called on him in important situations, especially with his play at center. It looks like Q's experiment is permanent, and that's been one of the most significant changes made to the 'Hawks' lines.
The 10 points Patrick Sharp has tallied in the Chicago Blackhawks' first 12 games are self-explanatory. He has a plus-minus of six. There's not much more Sharp can do to help the team succeed.
I'm a bit worried about Sharp, though. Despite his strong start, he doesn't look like he has the same energy on the ice as he's had in the past. This could very well relate to the emergency appendectomy surgery he underwent over the summer.
I'm not worrying too much about Sharp because of how productive he's been on the ice this season. He'll regain the stamina and strength he lost from the surgery, and he'll become the sharpshooter everyone in Chicago knows he is in no time.