Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville had a lot of people scratching their heads before the game. And with what happened on the ice Wednesday, most of those questions are very justified.
Why Antti Raanta over Corey Crawford? Why is Sheldon Brookbank playing as a forward? Why can't Bryan Bickell get back on the power play?
Ok maybe not everyone was asking the third one but I sure am.
Coach Q decided to go with Raanta in net for some reason in a key division game rather then letting him play last Sunday against Buffalo or this upcoming Friday against Nashville. Neither team is a playoff team and could be potentially easier matchups then against the Avs in Colorado. Raanta wasn't awful but wasn't great, stopping 26 of 29 shots. He made some big saves early on but was scrambling alot so clearly there was some rust.
Was this Q not letting the Avs see Crawford again assuming that the two teams will meet in the playoffs? Maybe but it also might have been good for Crawford to have a little success against this team before a potential playoff matchup. Crawford has allowed 9 goals in three games against Colorado this season on 53 shots. Raanta has allowed 7 goals on 63 shots, also in 3 games, and has the Hawks loan win against the Avs.
Neither goaltender has been good against Colorado this season but unless Q is going to start Raanta in the playoffs, it sure seems like he overthought himself here by not starting Crawford.
Now to the second big question, why the hell is Brookbank playing at forward? Regin is healthy and if Q doesn't want to play him, what about Jeremy Morin? Morin has been playing great for Rockford and one would think he could help the offense with Marian Hossa out. Brookbank played a total of 4:33 which basically left the Hawks short a forward the entire game. It caused Patrick Kane & Jonathan Toews to each skate over 23 minutes and Patrick Sharp & Brandon Saad to skate over 19 minutes.
If it wasn't for the fight Brookbank had with Cody McLeod, you probably wouldn't have even noticed he was playing. Quenneville said after the game the thought behind playing him was to provide some energy. How much energy can he provide in less then 5 minutes of action? This experiment needs to stop and stop now.
Something else that needs to stop is the exclusion of Bickell from the power play. No offense to Ben Smith, but how the hell is he seeing 3 minutes of ice time on the PP and Bickell can't even get a shift? What has Kris Versteeg done to warrant his spot on the second PP unit?
It seems like to me that the Hawks second power play unit could be much more affective with Bickell's big body in front of the net. With how the Marcus Kruger lead line has played it has regulated Bickell & Co. to basically 4th line duty. I'm sure this is not what GM Stan Bowman had in mind when they resigned him over the summer.
Unless the defending champs are going to be happy with a first round exit come playoff time, Q & Co. better get these things figured out come playoff time. With 16 games to go there isn't much time left. Let's hope they aren't putting all their hope on Tuevo Teravainen coming over to save the day.
Remember how that went with Kruger in 2011?