Nakis

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Posts by Nakis

(Photo courtesy of Jostens)

Season Preview: Central Division? ConferenceIII? The Blackhawk Division?

We know how you feel, Bryan.

We know how you feel, Bryan.

We’ve finally arrived at the Division you all really need (want) to know all about: the plainest sounding goddamn division in the NEW AND IMPROVED NHL. We’re going to assume that you mostly know what’s going on with the Blackhawks. Jimmy Hayes, Ben Smith and the intriguing Joakim Nordstrom made the team while Jeremy Morin and Brandon Pirri find themselves back in Rockford yet again. Once can’t help but feel a little sorry for Morin and Pirri, in the weeks following the Stanley Cup, it seemed most people just assumed they’d both be Blackhawks this year. They’ll probably get a look at some point down the line, but it can’t bode very well for either of them that they’ve been passed over yet again.

Joel Quenneville has decided to keep eight defenseman to start the year. Mike Kostka beat out the now Vancouver Canuck Ryan Stanton for the last spot. Sheldon Brookbank is still around in the 7th slot.

That’s where the Blackhawks are at. What about the other teams in the Central?

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Chris Chelios: First Ballot Hall of Famer

This is quick because there’s work to be done, but former Blackhawks defenseman Chris Chelios was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame this afternoon along with Scott Niedermayer and Brendan Shanahan. There was no immediate word on whether or not Craig Janney would attend to honor Shanahan.

There is a good case to be made for Chelios being the best US born hockey player of all-time and a better one for being the best defenseman to ever don the Indian Head sweater. It didn’t end the right way here in Chicago, but he was the heart and soul of a lot of Blackhawks teams that many of us lived and died with.

Sure, he scored numerous big goals (including two consecutive playoff OT winners against Vancouver) as a Blackhawk, but the clip above is probably still my fondest Chelios memory. I was at that game and vividly remember him fighting off the linesman and tearing Adam Burt away from Brian Noonan so he alone could pummel him. Just a spectacular performance. He was assessed 37 PIM during this altercation and subsequently suspended four games for abusing the linesman. The Hawks lost the game 6-2.

Anyway, let the great #7 retirement debate begin so we can get it over with. It’s not coming out of circulation anytime soon.

Check out this dude. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune)

Here’s Lookin’ at You: Blackhawks beat Kings 2-1, Take Game 1 of West Final

I fully admit to being slightly pessimistic coming into game one. I told anyone who asked me I thought the Kings would probably take a game in Chicago. The Hawks were coming off a highly emotional series against their departing arch-rivals, the Kings played just the kind of game that gives the Blackhawks fits, their goalie was a freak, the Rolling Stones were fucking up the ice…….the list went on this way.

After watching the game this afternoon, I’m thinking that pessimism was pretty much completely unjustified. For starters, the Kings are coming off a long series, too. The sneering, Anaheim Ducks-like assault we expected never materialized and the Hawks came out flying, playing a more physical brand of hockey than we’ve seen from them all year. Sure, Jonathan Quick was fantastic, but he wasn’t unbeatable. The Hawks were indefatigable in their efforts to get pucks at Quick and didn’t allow themselves to be frustrated by his early mastery. Hell, the ice didn’t even factor in today. In short, despite facing a phenomenal goaltender and surrendering a fluky goal to the Kings early – things really couldn’t have gone all that much better today for the home team.

You should all feel good about what you saw. The Blackhawks controlled the play with very few exceptions and moved the puck efficiently in all three zones. The power play actually produced chances and Corey Crawford made all the saves his team needed him to make. The Hawks withstood the late Kings push and killed the last two minutes by playing keep away on a power play.

1-0 good guys.

To the good stuff:

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“Series On” : Blackhawks-Red Wings Game Two Recap

So it turns out the reports of Detroit’s demise in this series were grossly exaggerated. Many Blackhawks fans were understandably eager to bury Detroit after Game One, unfortunately it just doesn’t work that way in the playoffs. The advanced stats pretty much confirmed the eye test – the Hawks were terrible while the Red Wings were fantastic.

You, the fan, have every right to be annoyed with the Blackhawks lack of urgency this afternoon, but give the Red Wings the (significant) credit they deserve, too. They silenced the United Center (quiet as I’ve ever heard it) by slowing down the Hawks in the neutral zone using THE LOCK and seemed to get in the way of just about every shot the Hawks attempted. Unlike Game One, nobody in a red sweater had room to maneuver and Jimmy Howard never had to bail out the guys in front of him. The Wings played the perfect road game and will go back to Detroit with home ice advantage and the belief that they can play with the Blackhawks.

Mike Babcock said it best after the game: “Series On.” It sure is.

Let’s get to the nitty gritty bullets asterisks:

* Andrew Shaw was atrocious. I counted three plays where he had possession but failed to get the puck into the Detroit zone. One Shaw giveaway led to a shorthanded breakaway for the Wings.

* Jonathan Toews complained about the officiating after the game. He had reason to be pissed off about the non-call on Henrik Zetterberg for mauling him while he was down, but somehow I don’t think anyone is buying the ‘poor officiating cost us’ angle tonight. Plus, everybody knows the Blackhawks power play is horrendous anyway.

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(Brian Cassella/Tribune Photo) "Wow, we're really fucking good."

Only The Beginning : Hawks 3 – Flames 1

(Brian Cassella/Tribune Photo) "Wow, we're really fucking good."

(Brian Cassella/Tribune Photo) “Wow, we’re really fucking good.”

Tonight the Blackhawks arrived at the United Center and competed in a contest they couldn’t have possibily cared less about. Despite the games meaninglessness, they managed to walk away with a 3-1 victory. They finished 18-3-3 at home. They are 18-3-2 on the road. They will have home ice throughout the playoffs. What am I getting at here? YOU SHOULD ENJOY IT. Really, think about it – the Toews/Kane era may be as good as it ever gets. After the sour note we ended last season on, it was goddamn satisfying watching them put everything together to dominate the Western Conference this year. This was the type of season we envisioned this team having once it became clear THE CORE was truly something special. Are they head and shoulders above the rest of the NHL? Absolutely not… but I can’t help but feel that optimism should carry the day here.

Things that happened during this mandatory attendance game:

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With Fire From Above: Hawks 1 – Wild 0

(Jim Mone/Associated Press)

(Jim Mone/Associated Press)

So this game was a lot more one-sided than the scoreboard indicated when the final buzzer sounded. The Blackhawks completely dominated a scoreless first period and had the best of the play the final two periods as well. In a perfect world the Marian Hossa goal which was called back would have counted. Whatever, they survived.

The first half of the second frame was rather calm until the Hawks claimed the momentum and the only goal when Marian Hossa blasted a slap shot through the five hole of Niklas Backstrom following a hysterical Clayton Stoner giveaway. Hossa winding up and firing away in the slot is just a joy to watch. We saw it against St. Louis in the shootout last week, we saw him beat the Blackhawks this way in 2008, and we saw it again tonight. Keep it coming, Marian.

The rest of the affair was mostly dominated by Chicago, with the Wild really never getting it together to make that final push. Emery made the saves he had to and the Hawks were able to avoid the 3rd period blues they’ve dealt with the past month or so.

It’s getting late and I have actual real life work to do so lets get right to it, shall we?

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Blackhawks-Predators Precap!

So I watched this snoozefest at home recovering from a late night out and I’m pretty sure the pace of this one put me to sleep for certain stretches of this game. This one will be quick:

* You might disagree, but I can’t be the only one who feels like this year is starting to drag a bit? I know it’s a shortened season and it’s probably largely due to the Hawks clinching around the 10th game. Playing a team as boring as Nashville four times over nineteen days definitely isn’t helping. Bring on the playoffs.

* Everybody’s new favorite shit-stirrer Ray Emery had 20 saves, a few of which were spectacular. Good on him.

* The Blackhawks have a good penalty kill. #analysis

* Michal Handzus and Bryan Bickell was the tallest 2 on 1 combo ever. Even giant Pekka Rinne was intimidated. Nice pass by ‘Zus.

* Daniel Carcillo played and didn’t suck. We’ll see if that was enough to get him out of Q’s doghouse.

* We’re still seeing Marcus Kruger take some draws even when ‘Zus is on the ice. Is this a confidence thing?

* On Saturday night at Lottie’s, a few of us caught Bartl singing along to ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ by Gotye. NEVER LET HIM FORGET THIS. There is surveillance video of this and I intend to acquire it.

* Like I said, this game was boring as hell.

With tonight being the second night of a back to back, you’d have to guess Corey Crawford will get the call (UPDATE – Emery in goal) between the pipes. I really do fear the Twitter consequences of a loss. Goaltending controversies tend to bring out the worst in people. Take the bull by the horns, Corey.

As of this writing, there was no word on the Hawk lineup. Logic would dictate Michael Rozsival would be back on the blue line with Brookbank headed to the bench. But you never can tell with Q.

It’s hard to imagine the offensive lineup changing much if Bolland and Sharp still aren’t ready to go.

Anyway, I’m off to the Cell with Bartl. My quest to make a Sox fan out of him continues…..

Go Hawks.

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Anaheim Ducks

So Close : Ducks 4 – Blackhawks 2

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Anaheim Ducks

Well, that sucked. The Blackhawks played a (mostly) good game in Anaheim, but another victory just wasn’t in the cards tonight. It’s really late so we’ll get right to it.

Peter Holland opened the scoring just a minute and a half into the game for the Ducks after Brent Seabrook inexplicably failed to clear the zone not once, but twice in the same sequence. Just minutes later, following a (horrible) Brandon Bollig penalty, Jonathan Toews scored on a shorthanded breakaway that won’t soon be forgotten. After blocking a blast off the stick of Sheldon Souray, Toews was off to the races and went forehand, backhand and then back to the forehand, undressing Jonas Hiller in the process. If you missed it, go watch it.

The Hawks were outshot 7-2 through the first 12 minutes, and indeed at times it felt like the Ducks were dominating the play in the opening frame. The Hawks were able to escape the first period ties thanks in large part to the brilliance of Corey Crawford.

The second period was a tale of two Blackhawk power plays. The first came just two minutes into the period. It featured exactly zero shots on net. It was horrific. It made me cry. Ten minutes later, they went back to the man advantage and looked like a completely different team, moving bodies around and getting traffic in front of Hiller. It culminated with a 93 MPH Nick Leddy rocket finding it’s way through traffic and past Hiller. Credit to Viktor Stalberg, who loomed large out in front.

It appeared the Hawks went ahead by two early on in the 3rd when Brandon Bollig directed a puck past Hiller – but the suits in Toronto ruled there was a distinct kicking motion and disallowed the goal. But not to worry – the Hawks were pushing the play. At one point, Steve Konroyd opined the Hawks were playing like they were down a goal. Indeed (early on), it appeared the Hawks would avoid going into their usual shell and keep attacking, but it wouldn’t last.

As the Hawks started to fall back, the Ducks seized the momentum. All of the sudden, the Hawks were on their heels. Bobby Ryan tapped in a fat rebound to tie the game with five and a half minutes remaining. Then, it all collapsed. Ryan Getzlaf moved in on a 2 on 1 with Teemu Selanne, who beat Crawford five hole. It was Selanne’s first goal in 10 games and only his 6th of the year. Sheldon Souray added a late empty net goal. Bah.

Now it’s super late so just a few Bullit Pointz (or whatever):

* Instead of being 7 points up in the Conference, the Hawks are now just 3 points ahead of the Ducks.

* What massive balls the Captain possesses. Sheldon Souray is famous for his cannon. Toews had no qualms whatsoever about stepping in front of it. It lead to a breakaway and a goal. All hail Jonathan Toews.

* Corey Crawford had a fantastic first 55 minutes. The last 5? Not so much.

* Patrick Kane skated 25 minutes tonight. I know they’re far away and have five days off coming up, but if Hossa can’t go on Monday I’d like to see someone from Rockford get called up. If Joel Queneville is only going to let Daniel Carcillo play three shifts and still refuses to dress Jamal Mayers, then why not give him someone he can use in the short term? The Hawks have NHL ready talent in Rockford, there is no need to wear down guys like Kane.

* Tough guy Bryan Allen really showed Marcus Kruger who was boss there at the end of the second period. What a douche.

* Speaking of douches, in the second period Brandon Bollig delayed beginning his backcheck to scream at the official. Note to Bollig: You are not Jonathan Toews. Shut up and get back.

* Quenneville was surprisingly upbeat in his post-game press conference. Not really sure what to make of that. He “hopes” Marian Hossa will play Monday. So do I.

* Brandon Saad had another fantastic game.

* You know you’re pumped for the Kings on Monday. Look out for another CtA podcast on Sunday evening.

Brandon Bollig recalled from Rockford

This means a sick, cruel joke was played on all of us yesterday. Get well soon, Michael Frolik.

"This sweater looks much better on me, doesn't it guys?"

Blackhawks send Bollig to Ice Hogs

"This sweater looks much better on me, doesn't it guys?"

“This sweater looks much better on me, doesn’t it guys?”

I’ll tell ya where he’ll go. Someplace warm. A place where the beer flows like wine. Where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. I’m talkin’ bout a little place called… Rock-ford.

No word yet on a possible call up. Does this mean Jimmy Hayes or Ben Smith comes up? Is Steve Montador actually going to play hockey again? We have no idea.

So, what was your favorite memory of the Brandon Bollig era?