Nakis

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Meteor Showers and Tidal Waves : Hawks Destroy the Champs & Phoenix Preview

Apologies for the late recap today. By now you all know the Blackhawks walked into Los Angeles and put a damper on an otherwise memorable afternoon for the Kings and their fans. Marian Hossa dominated. Corey Crawford made the saves he had to and the Blackhawks weren’t giving an inch in their own zone all afternoon.

We won’t do a full narrative summary of this game only because you’ve probably read summaries elsewhere and after a long day of drinking, I simply can’t remember all the details. We’ll give you a couple of quick thoughts on the game from yesterday before we move on to the Phoenix game tonight.

Marian Hossa went a long way toward alleviating fears that he may not be the same player after Raffi Torres nearly killed him last year. Hoss dominated almost every shift he took and had one of his best games as a Blackhawk. If he does this all year long, it’ll be awfully hard for Stan Bowman to sell the idea of buying him out.

Corey Crawford’s performance will keep the mob off his back until at least Tuesday when Vladimir Tarasenko and Blues come to town.

– One can’t help but feel good for Michael Frolik. There’s no question he’s been an offensive disappointment since being acquired from Florida, but that wrist shot over the glove of Jonathan Quick was a thing of beauty and he put in some tough minutes on the penalty kill as well. Frolik may not be the player ‘Hawks fans thought they were getting, but he’s a guy that’s easy to pull for. Here’s hoping Frolik turns it around this year.

Joel Quenneville rolled four lines and Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook both played under 24 minutes. This is a recipe for success. Sure, it was easy to do yesterday as the ‘Hawks dominated from the get-go, but we’d all like to see more of this.

Moving onto the game tonight in Phoenix:

Ray Emery will get the start in goal tonight against Phoenix. Many would like to have seen Crawford get a chance to build on his outing last night, but Q and Co. have the condensed schedule in mind and this decision was probably made a week or so ago.

In other lineup news, Daniel Carcillo suffered some kind of leg injury yesterday and will miss the next month of the season. We may not be the biggest Carcillo fans, sure, but it sucks for a guy who rehabbed for months to get injured in his very first game back. A tough blow for Carcillo, to be sure. However, his injury gives Brandon Saad a shot to crack the lineup. It’ll be interesting to see if Q just slots Saad into Carcillo’s spot with Jonathan Toews and Hossa – or changes the lineup entirely. Could this be Viktor Stalberg’s chance to enter the top six again?

We’re still waiting to hear if Michael Rosival will replace Sheldon Brookbank in the lineup tonight. Rosival played for Phoenix last year, but Q usually will stick with a lineup as long as it wins. We’ll see.

The odds favor Academy Award nominee Mike Smith starting in goal tonight for Phoenix. While he let in four goals against Dallas last night, the Coyotes don’t play again until Wednesday and Jason LaBarbera sort of sucks.

The Coyotes may be a boring team, but that doesn’t mean they’re a bad one. All the usual suspects (Vrbata-Doan-Hanzel) are still around for Phoenix with new additions Steve Sullivan and Matthew Lombardi providing some depth. But their blue line is their real strength, with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Keith Yandle and the newly acquired Zbynek Michalek leading the way. The ‘Hawks best effort will be required if they are to come home for the Blues game Tuesday night with 4 points.

…and yes, Raffi Torres is still suspended. If you were hoping for shenanigans, tonight probably isn’t the night.

We’ll be around later with a (full) recap.

Credit: Bill Turianski www.billsportsmaps.com

CtA Season Preview: Northwest Division Edition

Credit: Bill Turianski www.billsportsmaps.com

Credit: Bill Turianski www.billsportsmaps.com

(Now we’ll take a look at the division the Canucks win every year in a cakewalk and managed to feature exactly one playoff team last year.)

Northwest Division

2011-2012 Standings
#1 Vancouver (111) Calgary (90) Colorado (88) Minnesota (81) Anaheim (80)

Vancouver Canucks

New guys: Jason Garrison (I wanted him), Cam Barker (you’re all horrible people for making fun), Jim Vandermeer (?) and Derek Joslin.

Gone: Samuel Pahlsson (yup, that one), Sami Salo (one ball joke) and Aaron Rome.

Not yet gone: Roberto Luongo

Young players to keep an eye on: There really isn’t a whole lot here. With injuries to guys like Ryan Kesler and David Booth, hulking winger Zach Kassian will get a shot to play in the Vancouver top six. Chicago Wolves defenseman Kevin Connauton scares the shit out of me – but at least it looks like he’s at least another season away from leaving Rosemont. Should Kesler or Booth miss more time than expected, puny 5’8 center Jordan Schroeder could be called upon to fill the void. Due to all the injuries, 2011 1st round pick Niklas Jensen will get a shot to make the roster out of camp, but that appears to be a long shot.

Outlook: Think a team with Barker and Vandermeer can’t make the playoffs? Think again. Edmonton and Minnesota aren’t pushovers anymore, sure, but the Northwest still belongs to the Canucks. Their depth looks questionable, but as soon as it *really* starts to hurt, they can pull the trigger on a Luongo deal and probably improve multiple spots. Garrison should more than make up for the loss of Sami Salo and I can’t imagine the Sedin’s letting this team nose-dive. As much as you don’t want to hear this, it looks like Vancouver probably gets home ice for at least the opening round.

Edmonton Oilers:

New guys: Nail Yakupov (clearly a cancer in the dressing room) , Justin Schultz (this guy could have played anywhere in the NHL and chose Edmonton), and Mark Fistric (became an Oiler just the other day).

Gone: Taylor Chorney.

Young players to keep an eye on: All of them. Yakupov, Schultz, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and the list just goes on and on. All of these damn guys are probably going to be superstars (if they aren’t already) and constitute a fine young core for Edmonton. How the hell they plan on paying all these #1 picks in the future is beyond me – but that’s their problem. Should injury strike their defense, 6’3 Swede Oscar Klefbom (a fine hockey name) could see his first NHL action. 2011 2nd rounder David Musil would be another option here.

Outlook: Is this team closer to the ’07-’08 Blackhawks or the ’08-’09 Blackhawks? It’s impossible to say. Some analysts have suggested that the lockout could benefit younger teams. If that’s the case, then the Oil should be in decent sharp – even with Nikolai Khabibulin in net. In my view, the weakest area on this team is the blue line. Yes, Schultz is a great young prospect, but this isn’t a unit many teams are going to fear as they move into the Oilers zone. The offensive potential is pretty much unlimited. If the trio of #1 overall picks click right away, those defensive problems may not matter much. Edmonton is one of the tougher teams to judge this year. Could go either way. Sorry, total cop-out.

Minnesota Wild

New guys: Zach Parise (now sporting a Mr. Monopoly monocle at all times) , Ryan Suter (ditto Parise), Zenon Konopka, Jake Dowell and Torrey Mitchell.

Gone: Guillaume Latendresse, Erik Christensen and Mike Lundin.

Young players to watch: The Wild have a pool of prospects that should make any Blackhawks fan who supports realignment strongly reconsider. They are stocked pretty much everywhere. Center-icemen Mikael Backlund and Charlie Coyle, along with defenseman Jonis Brodin and Matthew Dumba, are elite prospects. While it’s unlikely any of them except Backlund (and maybe Dumba) see time in the NHL this year, all are worth keeping an eye on in the future. Guys that have seen NHL time like Brett Bulmer and Jason Zucker could be called upon again if needed. Mario Lucia, Zach Phillips, Johan Larsen and Matt Hackett round out their prospect poll. Not too shabby. In fact, it’s absolutely terrifying.

Outlook: As good as this team may one day be, expectations are probably set a little too high for this season. While you can’t blame Minnesota fans for being excited with the arrival of Parise and Konopka Suter, there are still a lot of question about this teams defensive depth and nobody knows how quickly this semi-overhauled roster will take to gel. The improvements are impossible to ignore, but this is still a team that looks scarier for what they might one day become – as opposed to what they currently are.

*We should mention that their owner, Craig Leipold, was a big driver of this lockout on the owners side. So fuck him and his team. Hating Minnesota is going to be a lot of fun.

Colorado Avalanche

New guys: PA Parenteau (the rare player who wants to leave the Islanders), Greg Zanon and John Mitchell.

Gone: Peter Mueller (getting a second chance with Dale Tallon) and Jay McClement.

Young players to keep an eye on: Colorado’s defense is a disaster, so guys like Ty Barrie, Stefan Elliott and/or Duncan Siemens could get a look once this team is out of the playoff race – which will probably be about three weeks from now. Often injured prospect Joey Hishon may finally get a look if they can’t lure back Ryan O’Reilly from Russia. Mark Olver went to Northern Michigan University, which makes him awesome.

Outlook: This team sucks and will be even suckier if they can’t re-sign O’Reilly. Sure, Gabriel Landeskog is a monster and they have a number of talented forwards, but like we mentioned already, that defense is just terrible. The goaltending behind it is almost as bad. Not a playoff team. Moving on.

Calgary Flames

New guys: Sven Bartschi (remember this name), Roman Cervenka, Dennis Wideman (contain your laughter) and Jiri Hudler (condolences to Hudler on the recent passing of his father).

Gone: Olli Jokinen (obligatory waffle gif), David Moss and Scott Hannan.

Not gone because Jay Feaster is delusional: Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff.

Young players to keep an eye on: Bartschi and Markus Granlund (coming over from Finland). The Flames also drafted John Gaudreau, but he’s a few years away. T.J. Brodie is an option on the blue line if they don’t want to torture themselves with Anton Babchuk and Corey Sarich.

Outlook: This team has some talent, yes, but still drag around entirely too much dead weight. The guys over at Hockeenight are always making fun of Flames for giving out no-trade clauses to any and all comers – and its’s completely true! It’s like this roster was carefully booby trapped to guard against any and all rebuilding efforts. Even if they wanted to give up the chasing the dragon and start over, they couldn’t do it.

Oh, and Mike Cammalleri is still a douche.

Western Conference playoff picks:

Los Angeles-St.Louis-Vancouver-Chicago-Phoenix-Detroit-Minnesota-San Jose

(That concludes the Western Conference portion of our season preview. We’ll be back in the next day or so with a look at the East.)

96-97 Bicycle NHL Aces Playing Cards

CtA Season Preview: Pacific Division Edition

96-97 Bicycle NHL Aces Playing Cards

96-97 Bicycle NHL Aces Playing Cards

(We’re moving right along with the CtA season preview. Today we take a look at the Pacific Divison which has a ton of old guys.)

Pacific Division

2011-2012 Standings:
#3 Phoenix (97) -#7 San Jose (96) – #8 Los Angles (95) – Dallas (89) – Anaheim (80)

LOS ANGELES KINGS:

New Guys: Nobody. This team is pretty much the opposite of the 2010 Blackhawks. They get to keep the band together.

Gone: Nobody. Well, Ethan Moreau retired, but he doesn’t really count.

Young players to keep an eye on: The Kings have a number of fantastic young offensive players in their system, but with every position on the roster filled, it doesn’t look like there will be a need to carry any of them. Should a center go down, Andrei Loktionov would be a candidate to fill the roster spot. Slava Voynov is the kid on the blue line and should get more minutes in his second season. While he had a quiet playoff, he’s still one of the most intriguing young defenseman in the NHL and possess with an absolute blast from the point. Dwight King, who was stellar for the Kings when they got hit with the injury bug, will also enter his second season.

Outlook: Pretty damn good. The lockout should have taken care of any hangover problems and they have the entire Cup roster ready to make another run. Watch out.

Dallas Stars:

New Guys: 112 year old Jaromir Jagr, Derek Roy, Cody Eakin, Aaron Rome (eww) and Ray Whitney (also old).

Gone: Brad Richards (just rubbing it in), Mike Ribeiro (SUSHI), Sheldon Souray (has a ‘Baywatch’ wife), Steve Ott (gross) and Adam Burish (I thought he sucked but you all loved him).

Young Players to (probably not) watch: They have a couple good young prospects like goaltender Jack Campbell, Brett Ritchie and 6’7 fucking monster Jamie Oleksiak – but I’m not sure any of these guys fit into their immediate plans. There may be spots to be had on their (weak) blue line for players like Brenden Dillion and Patrick Nemeth. Personally, I love those hulking defenseman so I hope its Oleksiak.

Outlook: It’s sort of sad to see the Stars Twitterverse treating Jagr as if he were Sidney Crosby. But I guess it can’t be denied the Stars are sporting a different look this year and that should be refreshing to their fans. Roy and Eakin strengthen the Stars down the middle, yes, but that defense still looks awfully suspect. The Stars always seem to hover right around that 8th spot and I’m sure they’ll be right there again. Maybe the addition of a few seasoned vets like Jagr and Whitney will get them back into the playoffs……or maybe not. The best news for the team this offseason was the announcement that will be sporting a new uniform very soon. We can all agree this is a good thing.

Phoenix Coyotes:

New players: Steve Sullivan (still alive), Zybnek Michalek, David Moss and Nick Johnson.

Gone: Ray Whitney, Adrian Aucoin (only Columbus would have him) and Taylor Pyatt.

Young players to keep an eye on: Puck mover David Runbland should make the team. Otherwise, there aren’t many spots on the blue-line to be had and their offensive pipeline is nil.

Outlook: This team is boring as hell and I don’t want to really waste my team thinking about them. A lot depends on Mike Smith replicating his performance from last season. A dull team that competes every single night. Always dangerous. Continuing to watch Oliver Ekman-Larrson develop will be a pleasure. He should give fans in either Seattle or Quebec City something to cheer about for years to come.

Anaheim Ducks:

New Players: Bryan Allen, Sheldon Souray, Daniel Winnik and Brad Staubitz.

Gone: Lubomir Visnovsky (currently doing everything he can not to be an Islander), Sheldon Brookbank (now a Blackhawk) and the mustachioed George Parros.

Not Gone: Teemu Selanne. He’s sticking around for one more season. Admit it, you don’t give a shit about the Ducks and you wanted him to be a Jet. I sure did

Young players to keep an eye on: Devante Smith-Pelly and potentially Emerson Etem. Both are good, strong forwards on a team desperately in need of some depth behind their big three. Power forward Kyle Palmeri is another candidate to see time in the NHL.

Outlook: Bruce Boudreau will coach his first full season with the Ducks. They got some help on the back end in free agency, but this is still a team with a few glaring problems. My theroy is that Jonas Hiller struggled because he stopped wearing that badass black helmet with the gold cage. Or maybe it was the vertigo. This is a team that teases a fire sale every year, but if they stumble this season it could finally happen. I want Bobby Ryan.

San Jose Sharks:

New Players: Brad Stuart (former Red Wing) and Adam Burish.

Gone: Torrey Mitchell and Daniel Winnik.

Young players to watch: Uh, none? There’s that tool who wears #69. They have Chicago area native Tommy Wingels who played well for them last season. They also have Sebastian StalbergVik’s brother. In retrospect, they probably shouldn’t have traded Charlie Coyle.

Outlook: This is a team that has a bunch of good players but just never seems to be able to but it all together. Are Stuart and Burish what they’ve been missing all along? I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. I’m always conflicted when I think about the Sharks. I want to pull for Marty and Nemo and Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski are certainly likable players. But at the end of the day the fuckbaggery of Joe Thornton and guys likes Marc -Edouard Vlasic are enough to make me forget all that other stuff. Remember Thronton’s repeated targeting of the head of Jonathan Toews? Vlasic’s love of the slash behind the play? Then add the whole Hjammer offersheet thing. Yeah, screw the Sharks.

Central Division

CtA Season Preview: Central Division Edition

CENTRAL

(Over the next few days CtA will take at look at the offseason moves and potential young impact players of each team around the league. We’ll being going division by division, starting today with the teams we all know and hate in the Central. We’re damn glad to be back with you folks.)

CENTRAL DIVISON
2011-2012 Standings:
#2 St. Louis (109) – #4 Nashville (104) – #5 Detroit (102)- #6 Chicago (101) – Columbus (65)

Detroit Red Wings:

New Guys to hate: Damien Brunner, Mikael Samuelsson (again), Jordin Tootoo (you already hated him) and Carlo Colaiacovo (ahahaha).

Elsewhere: Niklas Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom (HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE), Juri Hudler and Brad Stuart.

Young players to keep an eye on: Brunner, Brandon Smith (Ben Smith will have his revenge) and Gustav Nyquist. Brunner is a wild-card, but he played with Z overseas and seemingly all the reports from Europe had he and Zetterberg developing a thing. Lets hope not. Nyquist, a guy I think is going to be pretty damn good, had 35 points in 34 games at Grand Rapids. We’ve all heard about Smith by this point. It’s a ‘show me’ season for him. It’s also possible we’ll see a little bit of Jakub Kindle this season.

Outlook: Yes, they look vulnerable in their own end, but they have Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. They’ll find a way into the post-season. Once they get there, those cracks in the D are likely to be fatal and we’ll start the ‘Shea Weber to Detroit’ watch. Man, that’s going to be horrible.

St. Louis Blues:

New Guys to hate: Vladimir Tarasenko (please go away), Jaden Schwartz and Jeff Woywitka.

Elsewhere: Carlo Colaiacovo and John Davidson.

Young players to keep an eye on: Tarasenko, Schwartz and Ian Cole (fuck Ian Cole). The thought of seeing Tarasenko 6 times each year for the next several years makes me want to run into a dark room and cry. He and Schwartz have the potential to be Toews/Kane lite. It’s hard to judge how effective young players are going to be, but there isn’t a team on the league that wouldn’t want this tandem. What I’m trying to convey here is that I’m really freaked out about that and you should be too. Ian Cole is a douche on Twitter and probably on the ice as well.

Outlook: Their style is boring as all hell, sure, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a very good hockey club. If they get the same goaltending they got last year then there’s no reason they can’t have that same kind of success. Much like the defending champion LA Kings, the Blues have almost everyone coming back from last season, so getting into rhythm shouldn’t be much of a problem, and that’s a good thing in a short season. Barrett Jackman still plays a meaningful role on this team and you’d have to think that comes back to bite them eventually. Hopefully.

Nashville Predators:

New Guys to hate: Scott Hannan and Ryan Ellis.

Elsewhere: Ryan Suter, Andrei Kostitsyn, Alexander Radulov and Andres Lindback.

Young players to keep an eye on: Ellis and (hopefully) Austin Watson. I honestly have no idea if Watson will play for Nashville or not this year, but Ellis will, and they need someone (and probably more than just one) to help fill the void left by Ryan Suter. Roman Josi is another young defenseman who Nashville will ask to contribute.

Outlook: They still have one of the best goaltenders in the game and Barry Trotz is a coach who always gets the most out of the roster afforded him, but the loss of Suter was absolutely devastating to this teams on ice product. Will they continue to be a thorn in everyone’s side or do they begin to fade away? I’m betting on the latter.

Columbus Blue Jackets:

New Guys to pity: Brandon Dubinksy, Artem Anisimov, Sergei Bobrovsky, Nick Foligno, Tim Erixon and Adrian Aucoin (resist the urge to kill).

Mercifully Elsewhere: Rick Nash and Mark Methot. Methot is now hilariously being talked about as Erik Karlsson’s partner in Ottawa this year. Poor Erik Karlsson.

Young players to keep and eye on: Truth be told, Columbus has a lot of good young talent – most of it on the blue line. John Moore, David Savard and Tim Erixon are all solid prospects and could (will) all see time in Columbus this season. Unfortunately, their best defensive prospect, Ryan Murray, is out for the next 6 months, so you won’t be seeing him this season. It appears Boone Jenner will be given a shot to make the big club, although that jump just feels unlikely. Will this be a breakout year for Ryan Johansen? How the hell should I know?

Outlook: I don’t think this Columbus team sucks as bad as everyone is making them out to suck. However, that doesn’t mean they still don’t suck really bad. Rick Nash is obviously not going to be replaced by anyone, James Wisniewski is counted on to play a significant role and their goaltending is, uh, well……..

I choose to believe the guy in the middle is Marian Hossa

Na Na Hey Hey……

 

I choose to believe the guy in the middle is Marian Hossa

The NHL owners made good on their threat to wait out the Players Association today, canceling the first 82 games of its season. The first of the games called was scheduled next week with 4 games on October 11th.  You all know the story by now, of course.  The NHLPA and the NHL cannot figure out how best to split a staggering 3 billion dollar pot. Both sides, of course, claim to be looking out for the best interests of the fans. The players are probably closer to the right in this instance, but it wasn’t all that long ago that their belligerence cost us a season. Both sides have now shown a willingness and ability to be stubborn and petty. The players seven years ago, management today. I’m pretty apathetic at this point.

The Blackhawks will miss a lame opening night with Columbus, but will also miss their first trip to Winnipeg, which could explain why Jonathan Toews sounded so pissed off today.  Games with Detroit, St. Louis and a potentially exciting Colorado team are gone too. Nobody has any idea what a season will look like due to the massive uncertainty. so who knows if these games will ever be made up. Probably not. Who knows.

Thank the Risen Lord for Thursday Night Football every week this year.

 

End of Season Reviews : Dave Bolland

The Rat doesn’t need any introduction. Let’s get right to it!

The Good:

After Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, you’d be hard pressed to find a Blackhawk who is asked to do more than Dave Bolland (okay, maybe Jonathan Toews) night in and night out. Whether it’s anchoring their most important line, killing penalties or playing on the power play, he does it all, and he does it all pretty damn well. This season, Bolland was once again asked to shoulder the burden of shutting down other teams top lines, and as usual, he delivered. The 200 ft game Bolland (he played tougher minuets than anyone) can and does bring to the table is a major factor in the success of this hockey team – especially in the playoffs. As usual, Bolland was a mainstay on the penalty kill (which was awful) and led the team with 3 shorthanded goals, which really wasn’t a surprise. What was a surprise was the fact that he ended up tied for 2nd on the team with 7 power play goals. His 10 special teams goals were 2nd on the Blackhawks behind Marian Hossa. Another reason everyone loves Bolland : the playoffs! His performance was criticized in some quarters, but I thought that line was the most consistent and effective the Blackhawks had. I shudder to think what the Phoenix series would have ended up looking like without Bolland, along with Bickell (which probably says something about the ‘Hawks).

More >

End of Season Reviews : Bryan Bickell

The likelihood of President Obama ever attending a hockey game did not increase after meeting Bryan Bickell at the White House last season.

Ahh, Bryan Bickell. If you’re the type of fan who has bemoaned the ‘Hawks lack of grit and toughness the past two seasons, you probably fucking hate Bryan Bickell.  You tell anyone who will listen what a softy he is – ugly too!

There is little question that through two full seasons, Bickell has been a disappointment in a few categories. As a young  6’4 forward with a decent shot,  the Blackhawks envisioned Bickell being a big part of replacing what players like Andrew Ladd and Ben Eager brought to the ‘Hawks forecheck in the years leading up to the Cup victory. It hasn’t quite worked out that way, even though I would argue that he hasn’t been exactly been a flop either.

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Detour On The Road To Dynasty

( Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

Well, it’s not the way we had it scripted, but the 2011-2012 Chicago Blackhawks season ends not with a bang, but a whimper.

It was supposed to be  a lot different (better), of course. This particular ‘Hawks team was going to be the one to restore all the glory after a mostly forgettable 2010-2011 season. That season was written off fairly early by many fans who understand how contracts and the CBA worked. Hey, they would be back with a vengeance the next season, reloaded and rested, right? We heard a lot about how much that loss to Vancouver pissed them off. We heard about how hungry they were to prove the critics wrong. We were told the ‘Hawks finally had some money to spend. We had reason to be optimistic.

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Shaw Sits Three : ‘Hawks v. Phoenix

Yup

As you all know by now, Andrew Shaw has been suspended for 3 games by NHL chief disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan for his collision with Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith in Game 2. That’s right folks, Shaw will sit longer than Shea Weber, Matt Carkner and Byron Bitz - all of whom committed offenses far more  harmful to the game than Shaw did. So what did we learn today? Do not, under any circumstance, get close to a goaltender. Why the NHL considers the brains of goaltenders more important than the brains of other players is a question they will have to answer down the road. It’s absurd.

Shanahan, praised by many as the man who would save hockey from itself, has been unacceptably inconsistent with his rulings and is quickly losing credibility all around the league. Have his rulings really been any better than those of Colin Campbell? I’m not so certain anymore. Sure, he has been more transparent with his cute little video explanations, but what good is transparency without consistency? Wasn’t consistency the real problem with Campbell? Shanahan promised to step in and reform a broken system. To date, he has failed.

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Weapon Of Choice : Game Two Preview

Unknown to Johnny, Shane Doan is about to punch him in the back of the head ( Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

After suffering heartbreaking loss on Thursday night, the ‘Hawks still have a chance steal home ice in the series tonight. At the afternoon skate today the Blackhawks were rolling with the same lines they played with onThursday night. One suspects (prays) that Quenneville is just bluffing.

It’s hard to imagine that Q would be crazy enough to throw Sean O’Donnell back into lineup tonight, but this is a man who played John Scott on a regular basis. O’Donnell was consistently out of position and made horrible decisions all night long.

Niklas Hjalmarsson had one of his worst games as a Chicago Blackhawk on Thursday and one can’t help but attribute some of that to his partner. The Coyotes are a team that is ferocious on the forecheck and  getting someone who can move the puck on the other side  would probably go a long way in getting a minimally competent, non-panikly Hjalmarsson back for the ‘Hawks. Sami Lepisto is the guy who fits the bill here. But again, we don’t know what Q plans to do tonight.

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We’re Almost There : A Quick Glance At ‘Hawks and The Rest Of The League

This team will not be discussed in this post.

The Leafs will not be discussed in this post. (BLAIR GABLE/REUTERS)

We’re only one horrible, awful work day away from the opening game of the 2011-2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs! The anticipation is certainly building and I know you’ve been reading all about the impending ‘Hawks/Coyotes series. I wanted to gloss over a few things related to the Blackhawks and then get you up to speed with the rest of the league.

Sean O’Donnell has been skating with Niklas Hjalmarrson this week on the third pair during practice. I can’t be the only person who is a tad apprehensive about this. I understand that this playoff series does not hinge on the play of the 6th ‘Hawks defenseman, but I’m not sure why Dylan Olsen was benched after he appeared to be coming along quite nicely down the stretch. Despite appearing in the final regular season game, it doesn’t appear that Sami Lepisto is going to see much ice time, if any, over the next few weeks either, so that leaves us with OD. Maybe the Blackhawks don’t want to dress two extremely young defenseman (the other being Nick Leddy) in a playoff series, but the burden of proof will be on OD to show he can keep pace in a playoff game. On the upside, the old man has been around the block, appearing in 104 career playoff games. He’s been here before.

♦  It hasn’t always worked out when tried in the past – but Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa are skating together this week in practice. If you’re standing near Keith Yandle and Derek Morris, you probably smell something putrid lingering. We should not forget that Viktor Stalberg and Marcus Kruger elevating their games made this possible. Those two are rolling along great with the always dependable Patrick Sharp. With that second line rolling, the top six of the Blackhawks is as strong as any team in the NHL. Goals will be scored.

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

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Bums Gone Wild : ‘Hawks Tie Minnesota (Lose in Shootout)

"Who's the dead man?" ( Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE)

Apologies for the late recap tonight. You’ll forgive me.
Anyhow, do you remember the Wild ever being as douchy as they’ve been these past two games? Me neither. This is a team that used to be content simply existing and would come into the arena, put on their ugly uniforms, get their ass kicked, and then leave quietly. I don’t know if it’s Mike Yeo or just Dany Heatley, but this team’s character has been altered dramatically. They still lose all the time, mind you, but they no longer leave quietly and seemed to enjoy head-hunting more than playing the game tonight. It’s going to be very easy to hate them once they’re in the new Norris Division.
Since it’s late we’ll just give you a quick rundown:
The ‘Hawks dominated most of the 1st period and struck midway through when Jamal Mayers barley buried a nice feed from Michael Frolik (he lives!) past southpaw Josh Harding. Late in the period, the ‘Hawks were given a 5 minute power play after ‘Nobody Nate’ Prosser gave Mayers a pretty obvious head-butt. Take a wild guess on how that power play turned out?

Sunday Bloody Sunday : Preds 6 – Hawks 1

Two Hall of Fame goaltenders in this photo. (Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

So, this game is getting the recap it deserves. This was the sort of game where the Blackhawks give up 6 goals to a team that shuns offense. It was almost like Corey Crawford and Ray Emery decided to have a contest seeing who could suck the worst. Somehow, Brendan Morrison found a way to top them both.

This was a game the ‘Hawks just have to forget about and move on from. They have played very good hockey the last two weeks and its not like this game broke their backs, although pulling even with the Predators would have been awful sweet.

The ‘Hawks had a chance  midway through the 1st period where Johnny Oduya was stoned cold by Pekka Rinne and they didn’t do a damn thing the rest of the evening. The Predators had goals from Matt Halischuck, The Other Kostitsyn, Patric Hornqvist, Francis Bouillon, Shea Weber and Mike Fisher. Crawford was pulled after the 4th Predator goal. Pekka Rinne was spectacular – per usual.

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‘Hawks Notes : More On Keith Suspension

(Warren Wimmer/Icon SMI)

As I’m sure you all know by now, Duncan Keith has been suspended for 5 games by the NHL (Brendan Shanahan) for his blatant elbow on Vancouver Canucks forward and all around creep Daniel Sedin.

Keith made the argument to Shanahan that he was trying to impede Sedin from making progress in the neutral zone. No sale. This was always going to be a tough sell for Keith even had Thing 1 not been injured.The replay clearly shows Keith getting his elbow up and if you believe the Thing 2 (Henrik), Keith made clear his intention to even the score after a highly questionable (and probably suspendable) hit he took from Thing 1. In the future, Keith would do well to keep his mouth shut about such actions. He made up his mind to take a shot at Sedin and there was no reason he had to advertise it to the world – they would have found out eventually, right?

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Playoff Preview? : Blackhawks Visit South Stars

Hate Jon Casey. Love the sweater.

Admit it. You haven’t been excited about a Blackhawks/Stars game since Ed Belfour and Brett Hull wore the Star. Even when they had Brad Richards and James Neal they weren’t all that exciting to watch.

So what makes the game tonight different? Well, Dallas (39-27-5) currently occupies the 3 seed in the Western Conference standings with a ever so slim 2 point lead over Phoenix and the Sharks only 3 points behind. With the Blackhawks currently the 6th seed, Dallas would be the opponent in the 1st round.

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Hawks v. Rangers : Original Six Friday Night Hockey

Gotta love these Original Six matchups.

The last time the ‘Hawks faced the Rangers they were on a 9 game losing streak and starting straight into the abyss. They marched into Madison Square Garden and put 4 goals up in the first 10 minutes of the game – including a penalty shot goal by Jonathan Toews just over a minute into the game. Tonight, they will face the Rangers after a horribly dispiriting 5-1 loss to St. Louis on Tuesday. In that game, the Blackhawks went 0-5 on the PP and couldn’t even manage a single shot on 3 of them. It was awful and you are a true fan if you managed to stay with that game through the end. But not everything is fucked right now. The ‘Hawks have won 3 out of their last 4 including impressive road wins in Ottawa and Detroit.

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Hawks Acquire Oduya : Scott To Rangers

Who farted?

Well, the trade deadline came and went today without the Blackhawks making the major splash many of you probably hoped for.

Stan Bowman decided the rent was too damn high and sat on his hands for the most part instead of going out and getting the 2nd Center and shutdown defenseman that this team so desperately needed. He had plenty of cap space to make just about any deal he wanted happen – but the opportunity simply didn’t present itself.

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To Hell We Ride : Hawks Drop Two in California

( Kelvin Kuo-US PRESSWIRE, US PRESSWIRE)

What a disaster.

The Blackhawks travled to California this weekend with a chance to build some momentum after going 4-1 in their last 5 games. Sure, they blew a 3rd period lead against Dallas on Thursday, but considering they won their 4 previous games after a horrible losing streak, a split in California would have put the Hawks at 5-2 since the end of the losing streak and the Blackhawks still could have been viewed as a team on the rise. It wasn’t to be. They got annihilated in Los Angles and the result tonight wasn’t much better.

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Will You Smile Again For Me? : Hawks Win 4-2

Let it all out, Hoss ( Bruce Bennett, Getty Images)

Maybe Alicia Keys (note: I do not listen to Alicia Keys ) knew what she was talking about in that one Jay Z song?

The Blackhawks rolled into New York and played absolutely inspired hockey all night long. The Hawks threw 4 first period goals past a stunned Martin Biron and that’s all they would need to beat the best team in the Eastern Conference. While things got a little bumpy at the end of the 2nd period, the outcome was never really in doubt after the forth Blackhawk goal – which came just under 10 minutes into the contest.

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Misery : 0-8-1

( Christian Petersen -Getty Images)

0-8-1. That is worse than the start the Columbus Blue Jackets got off to at the beginning of the season. I hope all the jerks taking their kids to Disney on Ice are having a great time – because its killing the Chicago Blackhawks.

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Close Your Eyes And See The Skies Are Falling : Hawks lose 5-2

"Take your time, Stan. " (US Presswire photo)

Oh boy.

The Hawks were lucky to not be trailing by several goals at the end of the 1st period.

The opening period saw each team playing rather tentativly, which makes sense as both teams entered the game with long losing streaks. The goaltenders each made some decent saves and the Blackhawks had a power play opportunity that yielded exactly zero shots. Former Minnesota Wild winger Chuck Kobesaw had the best chance of the period in the waning seconds with Ray Emery down and out, but he missed a wide open net. This game didn’t really begin until the 2nd period though.

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Silver Linings : Crow’s New Cage

(Getty Images)

Is that sour taste out of your mouth yet? Yeah, it’s not out of mine either. Losing to the fucking Canucks is the absolute worst. If you’ve been a Blackhawks fan since the early 90’s, you’ve sort of been conditioned to expect losses in games with Detroit. Sure it sucks, but you knew it was coming. When they lose to the Blues, you can at least be reasonably sure they will kick the shit out of them next time – because they are the lowly Stanley Cup trophy-less St. Louis Blues. But losing to Vancouver? Goddamn it stings quite a bit. The worst part about this loss is that there won’t be a chance at revenge until March 21st, when the two teams face each other for the final time of the season at United Center. The last time Vancouver beat us, the Hawks only had to wait 10 days to see them again.

The Blackhawks battled their asses off last night, but ultimately fell short in overtime when nobody seemed to notice Thing 1 (or was it 2?) costing right into the wide open slot. Not scoring in the 2nd period (which they absolutely dominated) proved to come back and bite the Hawks right in the keister. An unbelievable goaltending performance by Cory Schneider and one bad giveaway by Viktor Stalberg were the keys to the Canucks victory. It’s as simple as that.

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Life During Wartime : Hawks In A Dogfight, All-Star Draft

"Tazer, I don't want to go to Ottawa, I'm tired."( Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune)

So, the Blackhawks have to be the best 4th place Central Division team of all time going into an All Star break, right? If you would have told the general public a month and a half ago that the Blackhawks would be where they are at this point, they would have lost their collective shit. While most people aren’t freaking out quite yet,  the “trade Patrick Kane” movement that seems to spring up each time he hits a rough patch is back in force.

By far the most mind-blowing criticism we’ve seen in the past few days of Kane was that he was cherry picking  while 3 other Hawks were fighting in the defensive zone  (killing yet another too many men penalty) in the waning minutes of the Tuesday Nashville game. How can these people be serious? Why the hell else would Kane be on the ice at the end of a game on a penalty kill? THE HAWKS NEEDED A DAMN GOAL! OF COURSE HE WAS CHERRY PICKING! Game 5 in 2010 anyone?

Listen, we all know the Blackhawks lack a big time asset that will help us land the defenseman we need, but the notion that you would deal Kane at this point in his career is simply absurd and it’s getting extremely tedious going over this every time either Kane or the Blackhawks slump. Another thing, how many guys in the league would cut off a finger to have a down year in which they recorded 41 points in the first 50 games?

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Quick And To The Pointless

This was too easy ( Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

So Bartl was supposed to be around with your Boxing – but he has gone MIA. Sombody should probably look into that.

But we have bigger fish to fry! We’re going to forego a traditional recap as the game was yesterday and you’ve probably already read recaps  here and here. Just a couple of real quick thoughts on the game and some other things:

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How Near, How Far : Hawks Fall in Overtime

Jared Leto creeps up on Marian Hossa (US Presswire Photo)

Wow. What a roller-coaster ride that was. One can’t help but wonder what the outcome would have been if the Blackhawks had decided to play in the 1st period.

About that abortion of a 1st period – it may have been one of the worst of the season (excluding the Edmonton game, of course). Detroit was able to glide right into the Hawks zone and set up  while the Hawks couldn’t even execute a dump and chase. Detroit led in shots on goal by an astounding 21-4 (9-0 through the first 7 minutes) margin and out-hit the Blackhawks 12-9. As you probably guessed by looking at the shots on goal, the Wings dominated every aspect of the game in the opening frame. The only reason this game wasn’t 5-0 at the end of the period was Corey Crawford, who was outstanding.

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