The Chicago Blackhawks started out the second half of their season with a whimper instead of a roar, losing in a 5-2 snoozefest to the Edmonton Oilers.
Despite the outcome of that game, there is plenty for fans to be optimistic about as the team enters its final 40 games of the year. They are close to the division lead, right in the thick of things in terms of the President’s Trophy, and they are one of the most well-rounded teams in the NHL.
With the team heading into the second half of their season, we have five players that will need to step up their games in order for the Hawks to find success.
Hossa is currently in third place on the Blackhawks with 29 points so far this season, so this isn’t an indictment of his ability to appear on the scoresheet. What we’d like to see more of with Hossa is simply goal-scoring. He’s a tremendous defender, and the top line is doing a great job of driving possession this year, but if he could put more goals in the net (he has eight so far this season in 42 games), it would make an already dangerous Blackhawks offense even more lethal.
Oduya has only three points so far this season, and he’s a minus-3 rating, but his offensive production and plus/minus aren’t why we want him to step up his game. His defensive discipline has been sorely lacking in recent weeks, and his ill-advised pinches and bad positioning are costing the team goals. He needs to get his act together quickly, or the Blackhawks might have to burden Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook with even more difficult assignments.
Speaking of players that need to step up, Rozsival has been a guy that hasn’t been playing up to snuff so far this season. He has generally been a guy the team has relied upon in the postseason, but with Trevor van Riemsdyk out and David Rundblad and Tim Erixon not exactly lighting the world on fire, the Hawks need Rozsival to start playing more consistently in order to take pressure off the top four.
Sharp has been an incredibly productive player when he’s been on the ice this season, scoring nine goals and dishing out 12 assists in 28 games. While we’re not asking him to step up in any particular offensive area, it’ll be crucial for him to stay on the ice in order to help the team’s offense.
Speaking of players that are playoff performers more so than regular season heroes, Shaw needs to continue to up his production on offense. He has six goals and six assists so far this season, and for a guy who scored 20 goals last season and makes it a point to get to the front of the net, he simply needs to produce better if he’s going to be an integral part of the team’s rotation come playoff time.