On Beauty: Blackhawks 4 – Ducks 1

Some have suggested that, when examined in the cold hard light of arithmetic, Patrick Kane is nothing special. If you look at how he affects his linemates’ possession metrics, he is revealed for what he truly is: a scion of the eye test. Patrick Kane shines in the mind’s eye, his exploits better suited for hockey’s  chansons de geste than for the slogging accumulation of shot attempts at the commodified game’s industrial heart.

Last night, in the second period, Patrick Kane exposed the limit of this kind of thinking. He’s done this before – a certain playoff hat-trick comes to mind – but last night’s coup de grace was more poignant for its utter banality. Three points is three points, even for two teams firmly assured of playoff berths, but the contest lacked any utilitarian drama. What interest attended the game came only from larger metaphysical questions. Not that we’re supposed to care about these things anymore. Just rack up the points, shift-by-shift and possession-by-possession. Until, that is, Patrick Kane receives a pass from Patrick Sharp and cracks the game open in an instant.

There is no point describing the interval, reducing the moment to a set of actions that anyone, reading them after the fact, could convince themselves lay within their grasp. They do not. Because Patrick Kane is beautiful.

He is not pretty. He is not a physical presence. He is an aesthetic moment on the ice. And Anaheim possesses no counter.

That was the answer to Anaheim’s pre-game pondering. Can they compete against the league’s elite? The Blackhawks are not pretenders. This core has won the Cup twice, in campaigns demanding a tithe from every account, tangible and intangible. Just last year they skated within one bad bounce of returning to the Final in a series that promptly etched itself in folklore.

And what of the metrics for that? Who cares. They are legend. They are beautiful.

And the Ducks? After last night, a certain thought must be gaining volume. They are losers.

 

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Coming Home to Roost: Ducks – Hawks Preview

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The smart take is patience. The smart attitude is to understand one January game in the context of an eighty-two game campaign, exhale slowly, and place both Wednesday’s loss and tonight’s affair in perspective. This isn’t the Premier League. What matters is making it to the post-season and winning sixteen games. It doesn’t matter if you win sixteen in a row, start as a wild card, or win in some ungodly L.A.-sanctioned combination.

Who cares. I spend my days apart from my wife and son, churning through business, rushing to be back in their arms, worrying about status and accomplishments and money and things, wanting only to bask in their love without a care, all against a barely contained roaring dread that at the end I will know with certainty that I could have made a greater mark on the world if only I had actually studied for the fucking SAT. To get through life with any semblance of happiness, I exercise the smart take. I am patient. I don’t expect perfection.

From my hockey team? Fuck perspective. I don’t want fifty-five solid minutes squandered in the final engagement, a good job good effort handshakes for everyone. I don’t want enough wins.

I want all the wins.

And I feel this need more keenly tonight. Some say we should bask in this golden age of Blackhawk hockey. Cups are now a real possibility every year, rather than a dream aching in the chest. But I do not want to bask.

I can glimpse the twilight in the offing. All is temporary. And just as I clutch my son tightly at night in the knowledge that one day too soon he will spurn my embrace and one day more, but not enough, distant I will be unable to hold him, I cannot simply enjoy this moment. In the near future the glory will lapse. The Hawks will be nothing more than a decent hockey team.

So I want more than a win tonight. I want vengeance. I want to scrub the coppery taste of loss from my mouth. I want Toews to take a moment this evening, look out at the executives and middle managers clinging tightly to a sepia-tinted fiction of Blue Collar America while they CHEER THE ANTHEM and toss a one-liner to Hossa. Then unleash hell.

After all, Ducks are disgusting creatures: http://www.nature.com/news/2009/091223/full/news.2009.1159.html

 

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Let’s leave Chicago to the Eskimos: Kings 4 Hawks 3

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Photo by Juan Ocampo/NHLI via Getty Images

Woof. The Blackhawks blew three leads last night against a struggling Kings squad en route to a 4-3 loss. A controversial Tyler Toffoli goal tied it with under 7 minutes left in the third and a few minutes later Jake Muzzin ripped a shot that deflected past Hawks goalie Corey Crawford to seal the deal.

Chicago got off to a good start, with a blast from David Rundblad getting blocked right onto the tape of Patrick Kane who buried less than two minutes into the game. Jeff Carter returned fire to tie it later in the period on a wrister that Crawford should have had. But the Blackhawks Patrick Sharp buried on the power play to send the visitors to the locker room ahead 2-1.

The only tally of the second was Jeff Carter again and, again, one that Crawford should have stopped.

Andrew Shaw also scored for the Hawks in the third period to make it 3-2. A nifty play from Teuvo Teravainen made that happen.

Quick breakdown…

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Arizona Bay: Hawks @ Kings Preview

And so it begins: the Hawks head out on the annual Western swing, a road trip that is overblown in importance (points are points) but nonetheless throws up enough quality of opponent to keep the players interested (until they get bored and inevitably lose to the Jets). It’s a shorter trip this time, only playing the Californians with no jaunts to Arizona or Western Canada before heading back to Central opponents in Minnesota, Winnipeg and St Louis. Last time out the Hawks clocked the Kings and Ducks yet barfed one up to the Yotes before heading to Sochi. The year before saw the first dropped points of the season to the Wild and the Nucks and, of course, a sweep thereafter. 2012? Let’s not go there.

 

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Londres

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We’re coming off the All-Star Break and gearing up for a swing out West. Since there’s little to write about right now, here’s an article I wrote for the print edition of The Committed Indian a few weeks ago, concerning another NHL gimmick and what might not be a bad idea for its future. As ever, thanks to Sam and the guys for letting me contribute and you can subscribe to the digital version right here. Or just pick it up at the UC on game nights. Do yerselves a favour, innit?)

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The Ras Man (PicAgency)

Blackhawks recall Rasmussen; Place Kris Versteeg on LTIR

The Ras Man (PicAgency)

The Ras Man (PicAgency)

The Blackhawks made news today by recalling Ice Hogs center Dennis Rasmussen from Rockford ahead of their six game road trip which starts in Los Angeles on Wednesday night. The Hawks placed the surprisingly productive winger Kris Versteeg, who has been out since being injured during the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day, on LTIR to make room for the 6’3 Swedish forward. The beats indicated last week that a forward would likely be recalled in wake of Dan Carcillo’s six game suspension, which was handed down by the league last Tuesday. Rasmussen has 8 goals and 8 assists in 44 games so far in his first North American season. He signed with the Hawks as a free agent in June.
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Cheer The Podcast: Episode 20

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Cheer the Podcast Episode 20 (1.23.15): Well, we finally talk Teuvo, hate on Tim Erixon, wonder what the hell is wrong with Johnny Oduya, question the use of Andrew Shaw, and discuss whether or not David Rundblad is any good. Listen up:

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CtA’s All-Star Break Roundtable

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Now that we’re back to getting some regular content on the site, we’ve decided to re-introduce every staff member with our opinions on some Blackhawks issues as the NHL takes a break from games that count.

Feel free to tell us how stupid we are and voice your gripes in the comments or on social media. Let’s get after it then, shall we?

Oh, also, Sellers’ answers are the best. I mean it’s not even close. OK, now let’s get after it….

The Blackhawks are 7-5-0 since Christmas and are tied with St. Louis (Blues have a game in hand) behind Nashville in the division. How do you account for the recent slip in their play?

Nakis (@JimNakis): It’s undeniable that the Blackhawks started coming back to earth after Corey Crawford took a fall at that Enya concert. I think it’s some combination of general fatigue, substandard defensive play from Oduya, Rozsival and Rundblad and Crawford trying to rediscover his pre-injury form. All things considered, I’m not super worried about the state of this hockey team.

Adam (@SouvenirCity): The Jets are no longer a punchline and two of those losses came at their hands for starters. Losing to the Stars isn’t wholly unexplained neither. That team is good and merely took some time to figure out a few things. Defensively they’re going to remain a mess more likely than not, but Dallas scoring 6 goals? That’ll happen with the kind of firepower they have up front. The only losses that really pissed me off were the WC and the Oil. The Winter Classic was a tough one to swallow given how it happened. I don’t fancy the Capitals much and that’s twice now the Hawks have dropped games to them. 0 points vs. WSH is not a good look. The Oil are the worst team in the league and it’s no longer a loss I can laugh off. Stop losing to them. Crawford was out for the beginning of that stretch I believe and our third pairing doesn’t give me much, if any, confidence.

Mighty Mike (@brightblack76): Combination of things, really. There’s the standard winter doldrums, where they seem to lose interest for a bit. There’s also been some rank bad luck (see Avalanche, Colorado for a prime example). The various injuries and suspensions and general Q line-juggling have disrupted the flow a bit as well. And yes, Crow hasn’t been imperious since his stage-dive went wrong. Nothing to worry about, really, although I’d like to see them push for the Division so that they avoid having to go through the Preds AND the Blues (although getting the Kings in the 1st Round would hardly be a walk in the park either).

Tom (@ThomPauly): The snooziness of January. Probably not what people want to hear, but these games are boring for good teams. They mean very little when you’re virtually guaranteed a playoff spot. And with the runs of success the Hawks have had in the past, it’s understandable that they’ve been just okay since the mid-December. I’m not, by any means, suggesting that it’s acceptable, but take a look at the January record for the Hawks last year. They were 5-2-6 to start the year last year. That’s not too good for any team, much less one that expects to compete for a Stanley Cup.

Sellers (@lexpatriate): These are clearly not champions. Champions don’t take breaks. A champion would have seized the opening and pressed the advantage and initiative and no letting up on the gas. A champion would have championed.

Bartl (@BartlSTATS4): Let’s take a look at the losses since the holiday break. Outdoors in the final seconds in Washington. Varlamov’s stellar 54-save shutout. At Edmonton in the second of a road back-to-back. A home to loss to a legit Winnipeg team that has owned the ‘Hawks. And a flat stinker against Dallas, which happens. I mean I’m not trying to make excuses, but I’m simply not getting worked up, especially after dominating Arizona and winning at Pittsburgh before the break.

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And ladies and gentlemen, the kitchen is closed: Hawks 3 Pens 2 – SO

Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

It always feels good to beat the Penguins, but something about it feels so much better when they’re wearing the sweaters that the franchise wore while they swept the Blackhawks in 92.

Another shootout victory this year has them 6-1 in the skills competition, a far cry from a lot of losses and few wins last season. With that said, the journey to get there was both good and also frustrating.

Before Patrick Kane and Jonathon Toews scored and Corey Crawford stopped both Pens shooters, the Blackhawks blew a two-goal lead as snipers Zach Sill and Steve Downie would rally to get Pittsburgh a point. What a shitty sentence to have to type. Those two guys suck.

Really this was a tale of two halves of hockey. Chicago absolutely owned the first period. There were numerous stretches of play (minutes at a time) in the Pens zone but only one goal to show for it – a bomb by David Rundblad after Marian Hossa walked Sidney Crosby at the blue line.

The first part of the second period saw the Blackhawks score on the power play! Hossa put a laser beam inside the far post while Bryan Bickell put on a good screen in front of Marc-Andre Fleury.

The wheels fell off then for awhile in the second period. A dogshit, brutal turnover by the WWF jobber tag-team of SHAWZY AND ROZY allowed former Blackhawk Andrew Ebbett to find a wide open Zack Sill for a one-timer. That was Sill’s first goal this year in 32 games. Some folks will point to Sill being Teuvo Teravainen’s man, but in reality, he was providing low support on former Blackhawk superstar Craig Adams because Michal Roszival is terrible.

A short time later another bum-ass turnover by Roszival and poor low-zone coverage from Brad Richards allowed Steve Downie to bang in a rebound and tie it at two. Blech.

We better break this thing down before I start vomiting about Roszival…
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Washer: Yotes 1 Hawks 6

 

I’m not sure when or why it happened.. it may have been the Yotes beating the Hawks in the 1st round in 2012, maybe it was the Torres hit on Hossa and  the idiotic attempts to defend it.. more likely it was the complete inability of their oversensitive fans to take a joke about moving to Quebec.  Then there’s the flopping and histrionics of Mike Smith. Maybe it’s the intense jealousy because the “AAAARRRROOOOOO” goal celebration has been rightly restored to Chicago. Whatever, in recent years the Coyotes have gone from “Minor Irritant” to “Douchenozzles” and are now sliding back into irrelevance again.

Hanging six on the Yotes, especially with the aforementioned Smith in goal for all of them,  was fun at any rate.

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Cheer the Podcast: Episode 19

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Cheer the Podcast Episode 19 (12.26.14): We’re posting this a few days after the fact but you’ll forgive us as certain life events have made podcasting a bit more sporadic this season. Jim and Adam sit down to discuss the Blackhawks as we near the midpoint of this season and the Winter Classic is on the horizon. We look back at what we missed and hit on in our preseason predictions. Our mea culpa for Kris Versteeg being a primary tenet there. Oh, and those Stanley Cup Champion Dallas Stars, too. After a little bit of a bumpy start there’s almost nothing to complain about and we try not to do just that.

Audio after the jump.

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Dusseldorf: Hawks 3 Devils 2 (SO)

I’ve got a test on Aggression for my Social Psychology module on Friday, so I spent a lot of today watching videos of chimps killing each other and Nazi propaganda films, also reading about the Rwandan Genocide, the Stanford Experiment and Abu Ghraib. Reckoned that sitting through an hour of the Devils skating around couldn’t be any worse, so you’re stuck with me for the recap. No Fatso, of course, but Jaromethuselah Jagr was there to bring the average age up by 3,619 years.  Jaromethuselah has been very quiet against the Hawks of late, getting zero goals in the 2013 playoffs as a Bruin and recording exactly one shot in the Hawks’ two games against him last year. So, how did it all pan out?

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Smell The Glove: Blackhawks (4) Blues (1)

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Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

A satisfying beat down of the Blues happened Wednesday night. It was 1-1 heading into the third period until Kris Versteeg buried a Jonathan Toews pass at the 59 second mark. The floodgates opened after that as Patrick Kane added two more tallies (both assisted by Versteeg). There’s not a whole lot to discuss with this one, it was a systematic ass kicking. Just a couple of points in the breakdown: More >

Don’t the sun look angry?

I assume one of the guys has recap duty.. so wait for them for “intelligent” analysis.

I’ma go wit this

Can’t wait for California to slide into the ocean. Fuck the Ducks, the Kings and (sorry, pals) the Sharks.

 

Love, kisses and apocalypses

 

Midtown: Hawks 1 Canucks 4

 

Funny old game, Hockey.  Also occasionally deadly boring and generally forgettable. Last night was a prime example of this. Once upon a time, a game in Vancouver would have been circled on the calendar in red ink with “Buy moar booze” written underneath it. Now, however, it’s just another late night. Let’s talk about it a little, shall we, and then get on with our lives.

 

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Cheer the Podcast: Episode 18

Cheer the Podcast Episode 18 (11.22.14): The first podcast of the new season is in the can as Jeff, Jim and Adam sit down to sift through everything from the Leddy trade to Phillip Danault. Kris Versteeg is shoehorned into places where they sent Crisobal Huet. Ben Smith and Andrew Shaw get a lot of play on the podcast, mostly for getting too much play on the ice. The guys go through the West and touch on LAK’s off ice obstacles, SJS’ Cup or Bust mentality (part IX) and why Dallas & Colorado are slow out of the gate.

Audio after the jump.

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Crying Lightning: Blackhawks 3, Lightning 2 (SO)

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The punishment for watching the Blackhawks as much as some of us do is that we can’t just accept taking two points from one of the hottest and talented teams in the NHL without delving into some underlying issues – and there were a few that need to be pointed out from Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout win over Tampa Bay.

Oh, you want the good stuff first? OK, let’s look at the good stuff.

♦  For as much as we’ve harped on Kris Versteeg on this site, on Twitter, on Facebook, in our own text and email threads, in your haunted dreams, etc., he’s actually been pretty decent lately, and it’s tough not to justify his place on the top line with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews – for now. Sure, you’re still going to find him blindly firing a pass to the center of the ice with no one there and he’ll stickhandle himself out of position, but he’s getting to the net and creating some chances. It’s far more than what we expected after playing like a pile of dog shit last season.

♦  Corey Crawford got hung out to dry twice – both involved Brent Seabrook, and we’ll get to that later – but he played another solid game and has done so pretty much all season. His solid play furthers my point of cocking your hand back and swiftly decking anyone who suggests anyone else is the system is better suited for his starting role.

There’s more good, and overall the ‘Hawks played rather well on both ends Tuesday, but here are some things that are concerning:

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Capocalypse Soon

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This article originally ran in the Committed Indian a couple of weeks ago. In light of the recent news that the salary cap may not rise as expected next year, it seems apposite to share it with you. But you should still subscribe to the Committed Indian here

 

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Walking On A Thin Line: Blackhawks 5 – Sharks 2

Saad sure did provide #more tonight

While still trying to process exactly what the hell happened there in the last three minutes of the 3rd period you’d have to be one joyless bastard to not have enjoyed tonight’s hockey game at the United Center. Seven goals with five of them coming from the home reds and even a few quality saves thrown in from both goaltenders made this a quality affair. Really helped to rinse the taste out from the six minute stretch that cost the Blackhawks a win on Friday night against the Capitals.

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Gameday Preview: Caps v. Hawks

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CHICAGO — Jeremy Morin sat on his haunches at the back of the cage. Every muscle tensed. His fists were clenched, held stiffly in front of his shins. When I happened to make eye contact with him, he let out a low growl. The young man’s rage distorted the air around him.

Bryan Bickell, on the other hand, slept soundly in the next cage over. Whenever Morin wasn’t growling, Bickell’s soft snoring filled the room. A snapshot of Bickell’s baby was taped to the wires beside his head.

Contrary to popular belief, Joel Quenneville’s “dog house” is more than a metaphor. Never before glimpsed by anyone outside the Blackhawks organization, there is a bona fide detention center. It is a small, dead-end cinder block hallway buried deep in the United Center’s bowels.

Several years ago (no one will specify when), an equipment manager heard that an animal testing lab at the University of Chicago was upgrading its enclosures. He bought seven cages destined for the scrap heap, brought them to this hallway, and bolted them to the wall. According to unconfirmed reports, Joel Quenneville smiled.

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Morin and Bickell were not alone on the day I was granted access. Brad Richards occupied a spot down the hall. He sat against one side of his cage, watching pensively as a handler showed me the water bottles and feeding trays. Brandon Saad was on “part-time” – he could roam freely between practice sessions, but had to return immediately after dinner.

I tried to speak to Richards several times, but my handler wouldn’t allow it. The old timer’s eyes were hollow and doubtful. He seemed more rueful than angry.

“I think it’s good for them,” my handler was saying. “It shows them what Q’s looking for. Sometimes, they need this kind of motivation.”

It was then that I noticed small notes taped to the cage doors. They were titled “Requirements for Release.” I hurried closer to read them but each simply said “More.”

I turned to ask about the vagueness of this when Quenneville himself entered the hallway. Morin’s rage evaporated. His body uncoiled. He slumped into a heap and turned towards the wall behind him.

Quenneville merely grunted. Walking past, he motioned for me to follow. At the end of the hallway he pressed a single cinderblock, causing a hidden door to swing open with a loud hiss.

“Are you sure, Q?” asked the handler. Q said nothing. I followed him through the doorway.

We were in darkness. Then the lights snapped on and a gleaming contraption of steel, tubes, wires, gauges and switches loomed before us. My handler scurried in, rounded the machine’s base, and began pressing buttons. Steam hissed. Beeps and bloops and whirring echoed off the walls.

I asked what this monstrosity was. “Machine,” replied Quenneville.

“What does it do?” I asked.

“Machine,” said Quenneville. “Kiwi fruit.”

The machine was thirty feet tall and twice that at its widest. It took my handler several minutes to power it up. When he was done he was out of breath. He came back to stand beside me.

“Some of those gauges are hard to turn,” he said, panting.

“What is this thing?”

“It’s the Blender.”

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We Got the Narrative You Want: Hawks 5 – Canadiens 0

IMG_6003Editor’s Note: Like all self-respecting operations, this story was written prior to this evening’s contest, and edited for accuracy upon completion of the festivities.

HAWKS 6 5 – CANADIENS 1 0 [SOOOO CLOSE!]

Late Sunday night, after the shutout loss to the Winnipeg Jets, Corey Crawford [SHUTOUT] called his mother. He had an unusual request. “You and the other moms still have those minivans, right?” he asked. “Can you get everyone together and meet us at the border? We don’t want to take the plane to Montreal.”

Crawford mère was confused but she didn’t let on. Of course everyone still owned their minivans. Of course they could rustle up une petit caravanne, drive down to the New York border, and ferry a professional hockey team to its hotel. It would be a great way to spend some extra time with her son [SHUTOUT] and his teammates.

Corey [SHUTOUT] told his mom to figure out the details, except for one thing: “Shawzer said it can only be hockey moms.”

Crawford mère nearly pointed out that Mr. Shaw’s request was superfluous. There is not a mother in Châteauguay who was not, at some point, a hockey mom. Then she thought better of it. The emotions roiling Mr. Shaw were obvious, even third-hand.

[STET] Mr. Shaw needed his mom. Like the rest of his team, Mr. Shaw has been playing far below expectations. Asked to fill the “2C” role on a Stanley Cup favorite, Mr. Shaw has run into the natural limits of his game. He loses the majority of his face-offs. Defensive responsibility baffles him. Playmaking ability taunts him from just beyond his grasp. [STET]

Tonight was different. [SHUTOUT] The Blackhawks dominated the Canadiens in every respect. [Well, Except the 1st Period.] Brad Richards opened the scored [!!!!] , putting in a rebound on his eighth attempt. Patrick Kane tallied a natural hat-trick, including the game winner. Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad also joined in the fun. [Sigh. But Versteeg scored twice! My son’s faith is rewarded! Rundblad had TWO assists!]

Looking at those relaxed, happy faces in the visitor’s dressing room tonight, it seems that Crawford [SHUTOUT] was right. This team needed a few hours nestled in the supportive bosom of les mères de Châteauguay.

Captain Jonathan Toews™ [Who did score] told the press scrum that Les Mères “helped us remember why we play the game.” Captain Jonathan Toews™ channeled those memories into four points, all assists. He went on, saying “We needed to remember our love of this game, to play with our heart, not our heads. We needed to relax. Try not to force things. Canada. Moms. Hockey moms. Hockey moms Canada this game is in our blood it is character we have character goals will come goals heart.”

Patrick Kane tallied a hat trick, including the game winner. He paid Les Mères their due respect. “I think every kid growing up playing hockey . . .” he began, then trailed off. Captain Jonathan Toews™ leaned over and finished his sentence: “remembers those van rides to games, how your Hockey Mom would center you.”

Yeah,” Kane continued. “I also watched my favorite highlights of myself, but Canada Hockey Moms.”

Asked what inspired his life coaching breakthrough, Crawford [SHUTOUT] told the press corps it was “empathy.” After the Winnipeg loss, Corey sensed the rising tide of self-doubt in his teammates. He remembered all the times growing up that he doubted his own ability. He thought about the off-season following the Blackhawks’ first round exit against Phoenix. What did he do then? He called his mom. [SHUTOUT]

[Go fuck yourself, Emelin.]

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Toast: Maple Leafs (3) Blackhawks (2)

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Peter Holland scored 2 minutes into the third period to put the Leafs ahead for good 3-2 on Saturday night. It was Holland’s first goal on the season and it helped to set up the real story of the night’s contest: James Reimer was sensational. Optimus Reim stopped 45 of 47 shots, including 26 (!!!) in the third period. The telling statistics to gauge the Hawks’ effectiveness in this game, though, are going 2-4 on the power play (good) and not scoring on 36 even strength shots (bad).

This game was the same story of domination without anything to show for it on the scoreboard. It’s incredibly frustrating to be on the short end of a goalie win, it’s even more frustrating when it happens seemingly every loss. The Committed Indian posted a pretty relevant tweet last night talking about the sustainability of the opposition’s SV%. And, while true, the Hawks are unfortunately not playing the same opponent every night. It’s not just one goaltender that has Chicago’s number. We’re looking at 4 or 5 in this short season so far. Yes, we should still expect the floodgates to open, but we’re 11 games in, it needs to happen soon.

Let’s break it down…

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Thanks for the memories, Jared

The Hack, the Hoss & the Hall Of Fame

Thanks for the memories, Jared

Thanks for the memories, Jared

 

In the happy glow surrounding Marian Hossa’s 1,000th NHL point, we should really have been bracing ourselves for the Hot Takes on his HOF candidacy from the Hockey Meeja. Sure enough, The Hockey News’ Blowhard-In-Chief, Ken Campbell, was quick to get the crayons out today to let us know that he has his doubts.

 

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