Coach Q said at Tuesday’s morning skate – to paraphrase – that he wasn’t concerned about scoring. He knows his team can score. What he’s concerned about is keeping the puck out of their own net.
Scott Darling has done a pretty damned good job of that in his first two NHL starts, stopping 56 of the 58 shots he’s faced. And the goal he allowed against the Ducks? It came off of the Blackhawks’ inability to generate chances on the power play before Brent Seabrook’s blunder allowed Devante Smith-Pelly to streak down the ice on a breakaway.
If Q wants to be confident in his offense, fine. I mean, the talent is there, obviously. But don’t ignore the issues. The Blackhawks haven’t scored more than two goals in four straight games, losing three. The power play is 2 for 13 in that stretch and has converted just 18.4 percent on the season.
Furthermore, Andrew Shaw should not be tied for the team lead in goals with three. Saad, Hossa, Toews – these guys need to start putting pucks in the net. And two of Kane’s three goals came in one game – against Philadelphia. If Q thinks there aren’t problems offensively, then he needs to get his head out of his ass. It seems like the goaltenders – all three of them – have a pretty solid hold on the net when they’re in there. That would be the least of my concerns right now.
I’m posting this pretty late after the game, so everything else I have to say is in Boxing. Have at it …..
I ran into the CI crew during the first intermission at the corner bar near section 322, and Fels asked me when the last time two Chicago-area goaltenders faced each other prior to Sunday. My best guess was when Craig Anderson went up against Glenview native Al Montoya, and the last time they started against each other was Jan. 2.
The last time it actually happened in Chicago? Beats me, but Lemont native Scott Darling won Sunday’s Battle of the Chicago Suburbs by making 32 saves in a 2-1 win over the Senators and Park Ridge’s Anderson.
Darling wasn’t tested all that much, but he kept cool for a guy making his NHL debut in his hometown for the team he grew up rooting for, which I guess is kind of a big deal or something if you’re searching for a narrative. Not a bad one, but more importantly I’m happy the Blackhawks were able to come away with two points with their third-string goaltender as Corey Crawford sat out a fourth straight game.
Most of us here at CtA have discussed Crawford missing an extended period would probably be the most damning injury to the Blackhawks’ success this season. Antti Raanta and Darling have at least showed they can hold up in a small sample size, but going on much longer without Crawford, who is 3-0-1 with a 1.66 GAA and .926 save percentage (take that, haters), sure isn’t ideal.
The only goal Darling gave up was Milan Michalek’s short-handed tally in the second period, and it’s tough to blame him for it. As Brad Richards was coming to the boards to secure the puck off a ring-around, the ref inexplicably skated in front of Richards, forcing him to miss it. That sprung Alex Chiasson and Michalek, and well, you know the rest.
Jonathan Toews’ goal was the Blackhawks’ first in the second period all season, and it also gave Patrick Kane his 500th career point off the assist.
Anything else I’ve got is in this season’s first edition of Boxing. Have at it….
We mentioned in the St. Louis game recap that the Blackhawks either set up a dumb, chase-Oshie-around box-and-one type of coverage or Jonathan Toews got lost on Dmitri Jaskin’s game winner last night. Take a look at what actually happened on Jaskin’s second career NHL goal:
This is simple enough. The Blues had been making some changes: a D-pair (Bouwmeester and Pietrangelo) has just entered the surface to hold the puck in the zone, and a new forward (Jaskin) is waiting at the bench. Bouwmeester flips the puck to the net, and the Hawks have the Blues outnumbered down low 3 v 5. However, as Toews is sucked deep to the front of the crease, attacking the same forward (Patrik Berglund) as Niklas Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya floats comfortably behind the four battling in front. TJ Oshie is wide open, and (yes, goaltending experts) good rebound control by Antti Raanta puts the puck safely into the corner. Both wingers are properly set up at the top of the circles.
Here is where the breakdown begins. Toews, for reasons unknown, skates behind the net. The puck stays with Berglund along the near-side boards. Schwartz heads to the bench for a line change. The box-and-one seems kind of evident now, as you see Toews is nowhere close to being in position, while the other four players are in a box. Coverage is not bad here because the Blues are still in the process of making the change, leaving Toews’s responsibility safely to the outside. But then…
Berglund rims the puck around the boards. Toews shifts to the front of the net, and both Saad and Oduya chase to the far-side boards. If this is a true box-and-one, Oduya should stay at home picking up Oshie, and Saad should bust it to the boards to battle and try and get the puck out to Toews, who should be in the slot at this point. Kane properly moves towards the top of the circles to get after his point man. Berglund floats back to the front of the net. Even on a rim-around pass to the opposite point, the likelihood of Oduya tracking this puck down is low. He makes a mistake, but the opportunity to take a chance exists because it looks as if Toews is going to stay home in front of the net. The breakdown continues as neither Oduya nor Saad win the race to the puck and Pietrangelo fires it on goal…
As the puck is shot on goal, Jaskin enters the picture right off of the bench. Saad and Kane both have their point men pretty well-covered (yes, Kane is not RIGHT ON TOP OF HIS MAN, but Ol’ Jabe is not open). But now, we see Toews chase Oshie into the corner. Again, a mind-boggling play considering that Oshie has one point on the year, an accidental assist from earlier in the game, and he can’t score from there with 7.6 seconds left. He’s not dangerous in that position. Hjalmarsson has Berglund covered in front just fine, but Oduya does not pick up Jaskin.
Let’s go even further into this and say that Toews is marking Oshie. Let’s say Oduya picks up Jaskin and the play goes on the same way. TJ Oshie scores here. Toews is two steps behind the man he’s covering, and Oshie is looking to get to the front of the net. It’s bad coverage either way by the captain, and I think he and Oduya confused each other.
And here’s the goal. Jaskin is wide open. It’s clear Oduya never looked at him and tries to go back to his place in the box on D. Hjalmarsson does see him, but it’s too late when he releases from Berglund. Jaskin skated by Kane, who had an obligation to grab Bouwmeester, thinking his center would cover the slot area. Saad is in the right spot. But we see Toews, again chasing behind Oshie. This time, stick up in the air and straight legged. I’m convinced that if Jaskin doesn’t get that rebound, Oshie does. And if Raanta miraculously stops a shot here, Patrik Berglund is wide open in front too.
All in all, absolutely miserable defensive zone coverage late in the period. The Blackhawks need better from Toews in his own end. He can help make up for Oduya’s deficiencies by being in the right spots.
Dmitri Jaskin’s goal with 5 seconds left in the second period ended up being the game winner as the Blues took down the Hawks on Saturday night. Another comeback attempt in the third failed for Chicago as they couldn’t quite figure out Brian Elliott. Again.
Alright, look, St. Louis is a good team. They will make you pay for mistakes. The Blackhawks are lucky they didn’t pay for more mistakes. But the defensive tire fire that led to Jaskin’s goal can be directly attributed to Jonathan Toews chasing TJ Oshie around the zone. That freed up Johnny Oduya to attack the puck on the far side boards with Brandon Saad, but unfortunately, neither one of those guys decided to pick up Jaskin coming off the bench. Game over. With 5 seconds to play in the period, there’s no reason to play some kind of aggressive box-and-one defensive coverage that marks a guy who has one point on the season. It’s absurd. And if that wasn’t the set up, then the captain went for a swim, which he did a half dozen times last night.
Let’s break it down…
Well, at least we only have to play these guys two more times, right?
We’ve been waiting for a dominating win like this one. The Blackhawks were rewarded for being better than and outplaying the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night. Considering the ways Chicago has won this year, it was a relief to see them get out to an early lead and not let up for a full 60 minutes. It’s weird to say this after watching him give up four goals, but Steve Mason was the reason this game wasn’t a dozen to nil. The Flyers defensemen are awful and the Blackhawks made them pay.
Let’s break down this beating, shall we?
I was not prepared for this shit. I didn’t bring my golf shoes. I wanted to tell you what the Hawks did wrong, did right, and what piled up into the great big heap of action we fork over to the Hockey Gods.
But I can’t. The game was a fucking mess. Oduya scored early; Andrew Shaw waved his stick over the dot because he is supposed to do that, not because he could win a draw; Weber did a Weber on a 4 on 3; the clock tick-tocked while I muttered “What the fuck?” under my breath into some very nice cask conditioned ale; an obsequious Florida State fan cheered at the TV behind me; Toews forced a turn-over, created a break away, and potted a short-handed game winner in OT that I had to watch six times to understand; then I walked home trying to figure out why that was my reward for spending the day excited about this game.
The Hawks got away with this one. They won. They dominated possession (58.18% Fenwick For at 5v5). But they still went to OT. They still gave up a point in Conference III. You can’t do that in this division. You can’t do that with the Kings.
And that’s the thing. That’s what’s burning me, even after a long walk in the cold tonight. I still feel that puck knocking off Leddy and knuckling past Crow. I still see Drew Doughty’s chinless face in my dreams. I want the Hawks to read “It’s a marathon” op eds for losers and sneer and put on that sweater and knock the shit out of every team in the league.
I don’t want perspective. We kept our perspective all last year. Look what it got us.
If tonight’s game was the Hawk’s response to Q’s “let’s not be cute” speech, get fucking cute again right now.
And get Shaw off the dot.
Welp. The Blackhawks dominated Calgary in just about every facet of the game except for the one that counted. Credit to Jonas Hiller for keeping this game from becoming a 10-1 domination. The Flames’ netminder was fantastic, making some huge saves and getting bailed out by some Blackhawks blunders on the doorstep. If every Hawks loss this year looks like that one, we won’t have too much to complain about.
Actually, there wasn’t much to complain about other than going 1-7 on the power play. Even with that atrocious percentage, the Hawks power play had scoring chances and just couldn’t finish.
Anywho, let’s hit up some talking points and get back after it on Saturday night.
While it’s always good to see the Hawks dishing out a thumping to one of the league’s basement dwellers, it’s worth bearing in mind that this is likely going to be the worst team to visit the UC this season. Buffalo, despite some unconvincing talk about how they’re ‘not in the business of tanking’ this year, are terrible. That said, there’s enough promise in some of their young players that they’ll not be that way for all that much longer. Their time will surely come, but that time is not now.
Six different Blackhawks got their names on the scoresheet and yes, one of them was Gorilla Salad, which has surely got the droolers yelling “TOL YA SO, DAT CARCILLA IS GRATE AND HAS HEART AND GRIT”. The fact that he scored by going to the net had Edzo in raptures and likely in need of drycleaning his suit.
Anyway, there’s not an awful lot more to say about last night, so let’s get to some talking points and you can all go back to your Sunday hangover.
With the 2014-15 campaign set to start tonight the staff got together today (read: we sent an e-mail because we’re at work and needed a distraction) to try their hands at prognosticating the upcoming season. Go ahead and bookmark this so you can make fun of us in April when the Washington Capitals somehow win the President’s Trophy or something. Without further needless introduction, here’s what we came up with for the coming hockey season.
Cheer the Podcast Episode 17 (10.5.14): With the salary cap move finally taken care of Jim, Tom and Adam get together to talk about life after Nick Leddy. We can guarantee this will be the #1 Kyle Cumiskey searched podcast on iTunes by Wednesday. The Daniel Carcillo Experience is back in town and, so, well… [trails off while looking at the horizon]. But there’s NHL hockey this week so basically we spend almost an hour waffling about the 13th and 14th forwards and 3rd pairing affecting the Blackhawks Cup chances this season
Audio after the cliff.
Well then, that was quite the 48 hour period, wasn’t it? With a devastating left/right combo the Hawks’ management landed a knockout blow square on the chin of any fans who had lingering hopes that this was the most progressive organisation in hockey. Dan Carcillo is back, Nick Leddy is gone, Peter Regin is on his way out via waivers and two of the brightest prospects are back in the AHL. And now? Now the Hawks are finally cap-compliant, but at what cost?
Cheer the Podcast Episode 16, Part 2 (9.19.14): The second half of the season opening podcast concludes with a preview through the Central division. We more than live up to our reputation as the #1 Dallas Star fan on Twiiter while a new season of laughs at the expense of Winnipeg and St. Louis begins.
Audio after the jump.
Cheer the Podcast Episode 16, Part 1 (9.16.14): And, we’re back! In the first installment of a two part podcast to open the 2014-15 season the crew largely focuses on the Blackhawks and what has changed since the draft (hint: not much). The guys also welcome Tom Pauly to his first podcast as a CtA member. Topics discussed include the cap and speculation on who will go to get under it, Versteeg’s leash, which kids will move from the Rock to Chicago and a small segment on professionalism from the least professional bloggers currently covering the Blackhawks*.
Audio after the jump.
“We offered Kevin what we believed was a generous and fair contract. Unfortunately, he felt it was in his best interests to become a free agent.” – Stan Bowman
The Blackhawks issued a statement today which confirmed news that anyone who has been paying attention knew three months ago: Kevin Hayes will not sign his entry level contract with the Blackhawks. The team will receive a compensatory 2nd round draft pick (54th overall) in the 2015 NHL Draft, which is thought to be quite deep by people who seem to know that sort of thing. Hayes will be eligible to sign with another team at midnight.
It’s common knowledge that Hayes desires to play in the NHL immediately. Accordingly, he’s been linked to teams such as Calgary, Florida, Colorado (laughable bottom six) and the suddenly depleted New York Rangers. One would think teams like Edmonton (who would be insane to start running the clock on Leon Draisaitl) and Vancouver would be interested as well. Most of the scuttlebutt seems to focus around Calgary and Florida, though. If you believe Hayes just wants to play, Calgary is probably the most logical destination due to the ample number of jobs up for grabs and the presence of his college flame, Johnny Gaudreau. Many will tell you that Gaudreau made Kevin Hayes at Boston College and it’s not hard to imagine why Hayes would like to ride that train as far as it’ll take him.
Prepare yourselves for some rampant speculation: we’re into August, the Cruellest Month for Hockey fans (with apologies to TS Eliot) and there is very little happening. However, what we do know for sure is that,somewhere between now and the puck drop in Dallas on the 2nd of October, there is going to have to be a change to the Hawks roster.
As of this writing, Chicago are $2,216,795 over the Salary cap (all figures from Capgeek). This count includes Teuvo Teravainen’s $894,167 but even if he starts in Rockford and someone like MANSHITTER or Nordstrom comes up instead, the Hawks will still be over the cap by nearly $2 million. So, clearly, something is going to have to happen and by far the most likely (but not the only, as we shall see) outcome is that a player gets moved to free up the neccesary cap room.
Which leads us to the question, of course: who is it gonna be?
Let’s have some wild guesses that will doubtless be proved utterly wrong, shall we?
Cheer the Podcast Episode 15 (6.28.14): Jim and Adam get together for draft tonight as their mindsets wildly change over a 24 hour period. Patrick Sharp is the topic du jour, followed by the abundance of right side defencemen which now includes Niklas Hjalmarsson and how the lower than expected cap ceiling may cause the Hawks just to stand pat. The implications of Ryan Kesler’s trade to Anaheim, the low ceiling cap on teams already up against it and the impending free agency period all roll back to that $69M number as the guys fully delve into the first true offseason podcast of the summer.
Audio after the jump.
Cheer the Podcast Episode 14: Part 2(6.16.14): With part 1 having looked back at last season, part 2 focuses on the offseason ahead and the questions that need to be answered. The Brent Seabrook conundrum (the idea that actively shopping him is reactionary nonsense), Patrick Sharp as the lone core piece we’d be OK with seeing moved and Toews/Kane getting extensions are primary discussion topics. We also look at the barren UFA landscape to see if any pieces there would make sense for the Blackhawks. Business opens for buyouts today as well as trades. This should lead you into that whole process.
Audio after the jump.
Cheer the Podcast Episode 14 (6.12.14): Sadly, the guys convene to look back on a season where the Blackhawks failed to win the Stanley Cup. In the first part of a two part episode they focus solely on the 2013-14 season and what went both wrong and right. Topics include players jettisoned like Brandon Pirri, Jimmy Hayes and Dylan Olsen as well as those coming back such as Kris Versteeg, Peter Regin and David Rundblad. The Kings series is dissected with Patrick Sharp’s disppearance and Joel Quenneville’s questionable roster decisions put to the fire. Still, there were a lot of positives like career highs in points for Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa scoring 30 goals and the continued success of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Still, the guys are left disappointed at what could have been.
Audio after the jump.
With our podcast schedule in flux due to life and whatnot, the fellas here at CtA decided to put together a three-part round table that starts with the regular season, taps into the playoffs and looks ahead to the offseason. We did this figuring we’d spare you from one 500,000-word post.
I’d also like to introduce our newest contributor, Tom Pauly, who is extremely knowledgeable about hockey and is just as demented as us. Basically, he fits right in. Give him a follow on Twitter @ThomPauly, and also be sure to check out his hilarious other venture, The Full Amonte.
All right, on we go.
Generally speaking, we here at Cheer The Anthem are of a “Live-and-let-live” mentality when it comes to other blogs. There is little value in calling out other fans of the team we follow. However, sometimes, something is written that is just too monumentally awful and wrong and dumb to avoid commenting on it. One of those things was written today by John Jaeckel over at Hockeybuzz, the place where braincells go to putrefy. Now, JJ is apparently a good guy and I’m happy that that’s the case.. but he doesn’t half talk some complete bollocks on his website. So, in time-honoured fashion, I Fisked his latest pronouncements.
The levels of fandom lead to emotions such as these, especially in this city.
Cubs fans can take losses knowing nothing is expected of them for years to come. White Sox fans know they’re stuck with an average big league club and a depleted farm system, and any signs of positivity they get are just a bonus.
When the Bulls bow out in the first round of the playoffs, their fans can shrug it off in what-could’ve-been fashion knowing their best player was lost to injury – again.
Bears fans? Blame Jay Cutler, root for the backup, watch a promising start “fade to black,” schedule your fantasy draft, rinse, repeat.
Tapping into Blackhawks fandom doesn’t afford you the luxury of burying yourself in any of those aforementioned situations anymore, though. The regular-season losses are analyzed down to the 18th skater more often than accepted as ho-hum. Playoff defeats are heartbreaking to the point of downright tragedy.
All of that comes with expectations, which the Blackhawks meteorically have risen since their surprising run to the Western Conference Final in 2008-09 and subsequent two Stanley Cup titles. There’s no more acceptance of losing a playoff series without a mandatory period of depression – no matter how long or short. Even those singing the praises of an exciting season and thrilling run to a fourth conference final in six years aren’t going to seek out a highlight of Sunday’s final goal. It hurts too much.
It wasn’t meant to be like this. As you may recall, being already hairy of face, I decided to brew a Playoff Beer in lieu of growing a beard. The beer was brewed the day of Game 1 against St Louis and bottled the day before the 2nd Round against Minnesota began. The idea was, of course, to use it to toast another Cup, but of course that isn’t going to happen now. So I poured it all down the drain.