Plenty has been written already, and more is sure to follow. Its like waiting for Christmas Morning this time around for anticipation. With that, I thought a quick look at the bottom six and possible "Black Aces" would help. The guys that some say won the Cup for the Hawks in last years playoffs. Lets take a look at the third and fourth line guys that may just make all the difference.The common way of looking at it is that the #1 and #2 line guys of any team good enough to get in the playoffs are usually very, very good. This year is no different, With the reigning Cup champs, reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner Jonathan Toews leads his cohorts once again. Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp are, like Tazer, Allstars. Marian Hossa is no slouch either.
Together with whomever the respective coaches feel completes those 1st and 2nd lines, usually their production will be comparable.
That is where all the guys that make little plays, and are not the biggest stars ( who is the guy making a perfect pass to Bobby Orr in this famous goal? Exactly. )
Although you never know with Joel Quennville, who changes up lines worse than Vigneault sometimes, I am going to set Brouwer and Bolland aside as the second liners for this purpose. Both are injured, with Troy Brouwer injuring his shoulder when he missed a check, and Dave Bolland still not cleared to do anything more than figure eights, no matter how badly Coach Q wants him back. Of the two, Bolland's absence might actually be the more impactful, as he was somewhat effective against the Twins last year.
- Jake Dowell ; Centre Spent most of the last three season more in Rockford than in Chicago, where he played 79 games, with 6 goals, 15 assists, a +5 and 63 PIM. He was on the roster the last two playoff years, but did not see the ice.
- Michael Frolik : Left Wing/ Centre. Hesitated to put him here, as he is the 2nd line centre for Hossa, in all likelihood, until Bolland can return. Highly touted at the time of the trade, when he came from Florida. Had 8 goals and 21 assists in 52 games for the Panthers, while taking 8 minor penalties. Has 3 goals and 6 assists in 28 games for the Hawks, while taking 7 penalties. Has to be considered a disappointment, though he has shown flashes of his skill.
-Tomas Kopecky ; Right Wing. Another of Hossa's linemates due to injuries, I list him here for the reason of him being talked about as the "New Buf", that will terrorize Luongo. While his 6'3", and 203 lbs seems a bit more moveable than the 6'5" and 265 lbs he is replacing, his 15 goals and 27 assists in 81 games is OK, his -13 and 60 PIM kind of stand out like a stinking pile, but thats what they are saying. Maybe its a feint.
- Ryan Johnson ; Centre. Ahhhh yes, Balls. We know this guy, or at least thought we did. Don't remember him talking quite the way he does here ( listen to the embedded interview ). Regardless, we know he can block shots, take faceoffs and kill penalties. Not good enough to get signed right away when the season began ( and he was healing his ever broken feet ) His production in 34 games for the Hawks of 1 goal and 5 assists (with a -2 and 4 minors ) is better than his last year in Vancouver. Tells you something there. He is good in the room. Who knows? Have to disagree there though RJ. The Canucks are respectful, sure. Not scared of your new team.
- Viktor Stalberg ; Left Wing. Another of the guys that may play farther up the list due to injury. Has seen time on most of the lines this year, and could be too far up the depth chart depending on the machinations of the Q's line blender. But way intended as a third liner when he was picked up from Toronto. Although he is out friend stacie's favorite player ( for possible reasons that could have nothing to do with hockey ), he has 12 goals and 12 assists in 77 games with all those chances given. His +2 and 43 PIM must make the Hawks wonder who won that deal with the Leafs. has some speed and hands, and shows flashes. His problem has always been one of consistency.
- Ben Smith ; Right Wing. Who? I know! But I saw him in some of the 6 games he has played for the Hawks since being signed out of Boston College, where he played 42 games and scored 16 goals and 27 assists. Thats good right? Here a Sun Times writer tells us he played in a national championship game at Ford Field in Detroit, so he is used to big game pressure. I guess he has as many goals as Cody Hodgson in the NHL at 1. And HE's in the playoffs too. So there.
- Fernando Pisani ; Right Wing. Pisani is an interesting case. His career has been derailed and lessened by his battle with ulcerative colitis, which can affect when he can and cannot play. He is a good all round player when healthy, though that is now a relative thing. His best playoffs was the Oiles '06 run, when he scored 14 goals and 4 assists in 24 games that run, including a Game 5 O/T winner versus the Canes in the Final. Respect man. Totally. You have to wonder if his best days are behind him since he signed a 1 yr, 500,000 deal with the Hawks this year. He has 7 goals and 9 assists in 60 games played, with an even plus/minus and 5 penalties.
The Black Aces- Who knows, because players get put in lineups for reasons unknown in the playoffs, but the other guys on the Hawks roster are Marcus Kruger, out of Stockholm , Jeff Taffe, who has bounced around the NHL and the various AHL teams they use since being drafted 30th overall by the Blues in 2000. The centre has seen time with the Coyotes, Rangers, Penguins and lastly Florida, before being traded for ( for Marty Reasoner ) by the Hawks in the off season. 1 game played, Zeros across the board.
Lastly, John Scott. The 6'8", 258 lb Scott is well known to Canuck fans from his time in the Wild organization, where he and Derek Boogaard tried to revive "old time hockey". Played some defense this year for the Hawks, as well as left wing in 40 games, where he has 1 assist ( probably a second assist, those don't mean as much! ) and 72 PIM. Brought in to be tough, I guess. But his glacial skating style just does not fit with a Hawks team that can skate. There has been some talk from the "fans" ( I don't think from our SCH friends, but elsewhere ) that HE is the guy that should be planted in front of Luongo to replace Byfuglien. All I can say is yes please. He has the ability to turn every Canuck blocked shot and picked off pass into a five on four the other way. I will be truly amazed if he sees the ice. Who knows though.
There it is. Thats the folks that will make up the depth and grit of the defending Cup Champs. Its not the same as the Cup winners. But who knows. Maybe there is a John Druce, a Kris Kontos, or a Michael Rupp amongst them.
Playoffs are funny that way.