Well, now that the haze and hagovers have cleared (at least for most of you I hope), and the resolutions are in and probably already broken or not even started, the Blackhawks have closed the books on 2010 and open 2011 Sunday night.
After this brief Southern California swing, the Hawks will be officially halfway through the season, which is scary in a lot of ways and not so in others.
If the Hawks can win both of these games -- a tall task considering what awaits Monday night in downtown Los Angeles -- they'll be on a 94 point pace. Is that enough? No. But there's every reason to believe that the second half should be better than the first, and markedly so (unless this injury thing keeps happening). But that'll be for study after this La La Land double.
Though he's already returned to practice, Jonathan Toews will still not play, and I'd be shocked if he suits up against the Kings as well.
All of this means we get to go through Crazy Q's Technicolor Emporium again, a strange land where the team's best center is played on a wing and defensemen are used ahead of your fastest forward. Do not focus too hard on anything you see, you may get queasy.
In all honesty, the Hawks' even-strength game against San Jose was right as it should be. They were as physical as they were all year, the boards were rattling at a Neal Peart-like rate with checks. They kept the Sharks chances to mimimum when they weren't down a man. But there's the rub. They took far too many unnecessary penalties and that led to their downfall. That has to be corrected in both of these games, especially Sunday, when the Ducks won't carry too much of a threat at even-strength.
The Hawks thoroughly outplayed Anaheim last time they were out here, and it would be nice to see that again. Especially for the moms who will all be there. The Hawks biffed both games of the "Dad's Trip" last year, and we don't need a repeat of that. I always wonder about these things, especially at a time when the Hawks need to be totally focused on hockey. Hopefully they can find the right balance.
Corey Crawford is back in between the pipes, though no one would complain much about what the Hawks got from Marty Turco these past three games, save that Scott Nichol goal. But the simple fact is the Hawks defensive game just improves with Crawford in net, as his more assured and predictable style leads to stability.
If that trend continues, the Hawks will be three-fourths of the way of a clean SoCal sweep of the season.