Despite luring the top goaltender on the free agent market in Nikolai Khabibulin to their team this summer, the Chicago Blackhawks have struggled to find their game this season. The team recently completed a five-game road trip through the West Coast that saw them start with a two-game win streak before they dropped the final three games of the trip.
“[Khabibulin’s] been playing awesome. We’re just not getting wins for him when we should be. He’s playing the best that he can and I feel bad for the guy that we’re not getting enough offense for him so he can get a W,” said Blackhawk rookie forward Rene Bourque.
Inconsistency has been a problem and not surprisingly, confidence and the mood in the locker room have been low.
“Unfortunately, we’re short of what we’re capable of playing. It’s just the consistency factor is something we obviously miss. There are individuals who need to be more consistent. They sometimes have a tendency to play against one another as opposed to playing together,” said Blackhawks Head Coach Trent Yawney.
Despite their inconsistent play, the Blackhawks have a 10-14-2 record, keeping them right in the middle of the Central Division and playoff hunt. Bourque feels that the team has all the tools to succeed.
”I don’t think anything has to change. We just have to follow our systems. We haven’t been playing for 60 minutes and taking bad penalties and not giving up too many odd man rushes,” he said.
Bourque has been one of a few bright spots on a young Blackhawks team. He has 6 goals and 15 points in 25 games and ranks 11th in scoring among all NHL rookies. He’s been teamed on a line with Mark Bell and Kyle Calder and the line has been effective. Bell has 11 goals and 21 points on the year while Calder has 19 points. Both Bell and Calder recently had an eight-game point streak that was snapped versus Florida while Bourque himself just had a four-game point streak that was snapped in the Hawks loss at Anaheim. The streaks show just how effective and consistent this line has been.
“We’ve been playing good the last five or six games and we’re getting the puck deep and outworking their defensemen down low. We all have the skills to put the puck in the net and we’re playing well together,” said Bourque.
While Bourque’s line has continued to play well, Yawney would like to see contributions from more people.
“That’s an encouraging part, but unfortunately it’s a team game. You can’t depend on three players to carry your team for the year. We need more contributions from more people,” he said.
While the Blackhawks have been inconsistent early on in the season, their future certainly looks bright as they have one of the most impressive group of rookies in the league. This impressive group of prospects includes:
Pavel Vorobiev, RW
Perhaps the most highly-touted of the Blackhawk rookies, Vorobiev is one of four Blackhawks who is also among the NHL’s rookie leaders. He has 6 goals and 15 points through 20 games. Vorobiev recently missed three games due to an ankle injury suffered nearly three weeks ago against the LA Kings.
Brent Seabrook, D
Seabrook leads all Chicago defensemen in points and ranks sixth in team scoring with 15 points. He ranks 12th among all NHL rookies in points. The first round pick in 2003, Seabrook spent last season in the WHL where he appeared in 63 games accumulating 12 goals, 54 points and an impressive +25 rating.
Duncan Keith, D
While Keith may not be racking up points, scouts love this kid. He has 2 goals and 8 points in 25 games and averages 21:02 minutes of ice time each game. Keith spent last season playing in the AHL notching 18 goals and 49 points.
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