Done with ‘Gobble-Gobble,’ Time For ‘Quack-Quack’
The tryptophan coma everyone talks about following Thanksgiving dinner is actually a myth, you know. To get enough tryptophan into your system to turn you narcoleptic would require that you eat something like 1,750 pounds of turkey in one sitting. And despite some valiant attempts on my part, I was only ever able to consume about one third of that.
Let’s hope the Blackhawks aren’t sleepy after their Turkey Day festivities, as they have the fifth game of the Circus Trip facing them this afternoon when the team heads into Anaheim to face the Ducks. The lead-up to this game has been uninspiring, with the Blackhawks trying to break a 3-game losing streak — the second one this month — and struggling to deal with the absence of key members of its young core.
This visit to the Pond might be just what the doctor ordered.
Anaheim has played 10 games in November, and lost 9 of them. Their 6-11-4 record puts them on the brink of descending to last place in the Western Conference, if surging Columbus can continue to not suck. The team’s seemingly endless tailspin has even bloggers searching in vain for answers, as the title of this piece illustrates clearly. If there is any team for the Blackhawks to be facing when trying to end a slump, this is the team.
So what about it, Anaheim? What’s the scoop with you guys doing so badly? Miracle veteran Teemu Selanne is having another stand-out season with 7 goals and 19 points through 21 games, leading the team in scoring; Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf are both doing their jobs; goaltending is adequate, though not spectacular — Jonas Hiller carrying the load, and Dan Ellis being less than impressive in relief.
Which leads one to believe the defense is the culprit, and the plus-minus numbers suggest that’s the case. Top-four blueliners Cam Fowler, Francois Beauchemin, Toni Lydman and Lubormir Visnovsky are all south of zero, and combine for a cumulative -33 on the year. But surprisingly, that doesn’t tell the whole story.
The actual problem is lack of offensive contributions from the supporting role-players on the team. Anaheim averages 2.95 goals against per game, which is in the bottom half of the league, but nowhere near the basement. However their offensive production is 2.00 goals per game — dead last in the league. So while the defense and the goaltenders are busting their butts to keep the team in the hunt, and the big-money producers are holding up their end of the bargain, the rest of the team just can’t seem to put in that extra goal or two to put games in the win column.
This means a relatively easy job for the Blackhawks tonight, if they have been paying attention. Selanne, Perry and Getzlaf are the Ducks’ only serious scoring threats, and if the Hawks can shut them down, this shouldn’t be a difficult outing.
Which is more than I can say for the last 3 games of this road trip. The Blackhawks’ effort was there in our last outing against San Jose, at least on the defensive side. But the team’s passing looked like 10-year-olds on a house league soccer team, and they were not able to penetrate the force field around Antti Niemi despite dozens of good attempts.
Once again, our shooting accuracy needs some acute attention. On more than a few occasions throughout the San Jose game, the puck was on the Blackhawks player’s stick with a clear view of the net, and their shot missed — badly. I mentioned on Twitter “100 pucks, 100 push-ups.” Each player gets 100 pucks and an empty net. Start shooting. You miss even one shot wide or over the goal, you do 100 push-ups — and start again. Each of these guys makes at least a half-million dollars a year. This is their JOB. There isn’t one valid excuse they can give me.
Hit. The. Fucking. Net.
But that was merely one of a myriad of problems the Blackhawks are struggling with during this road trip — most of which coming from the blue line. Defenseman Duncan Keith has seemingly lost his way, and spent considerable one-on-one time with Head Coach Joel Quenneville on the ice at Thursday’s practice. Rookie defenseman Nick Leddy shows flashes of brilliance, but continues his ill-advised and poorly-executed Bobby Orr expeditions that take him WWWAAAYYY out of position and provide no offensive benefit. Seasoned veteran Sean O’Donnell has seen some action after sitting for a half-dozen games, but has shown his gratitude by tossing panic-induced blind passes up the boards and making foolish plays in the defensive zone. Though I won’t make mention of the rest of the blueline corps’ foibles, nobody is without blame during this last stretch of losses.
On the offensive side, Coach QStache continues his ongoing combinatorial mathematics challenge of achieving all possible permutations of forward lines in the least number of games. I would honestly not be surprised to see Ray Emery take a shift at center with Jay Blunk and Mike Gapski on his wings. Every period a new set of possibilities; every shift a new adventure.
It is as if Q thinks the forward lines are a slot machine: just keep pulling the handle, and by some stroke of luck all the numbers will come up a winner. He doesn’t seem to think that there’s any benefit to putting lines together and allowing them the benefit of TIME to develop some chemistry between the players. I still think that Q’s approach is a misguided way to run a hockey team, and with the ‘Hawks now 4-5-1 in their last 10, being held to 2 or fewer goals in each of those 5 losses (and being shut out twice) I think it’s time he stopped pulling the handle and try a new tactic.
But in his defense, one must factor in the injuries he has been struggling to accommodate during this trip. Michael Frolik has just returned from injury; Dave Bolland missed practice again on Thursday, though he will be in the lineup tonight — still plainly not at 100%; and Brent Seabrook will be a game-time decision again, though after warm-ups for the San Jose game the decision was “no.” One has to think that will be the case again tonight. Anaheim is healthy across the board, and we will expect to see Jonas Hiller in goal; Corey Crawford gets the start for Chicago.
Afternoon start for the Blackhawks out in Anaheim — 3pm puck drop on this Black Friday. Pat and Eddie will be live on WGN TV; WGN AM-720 has the radio broadcast; XM subscribers will find the game on channel 215; Sirius Premiere customers should look for channel 214.
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About the author
Tim spent Saturday mornings playing street hockey in suburban Toronto before moving to Chicago at age 11. He played amateur hockey in Chicagoland through high school, got his B.A. in Communications, then wasted 7 years as a news/talk radio host. Today he tinkers with computers and web sites and yells at the TV a lot.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Tim Currell on November 25, 2011 at 11:31 am, and is filed under 2011-12 Game Previews, 2011-12 Regular Season, Anaheim Ducks, Anaheim Ducks, Blackhawks, Chicago Blackhawks. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.|