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.
Posts by Tim Currell
We tend to scoff at the Canucks in general, because we have Roberto Luongo’s number and we tend to knock them around like a piñata pretty much every time we see them, especially at the United Center. But we had better take the game more seriously this time: the Canucks come in fresh off a 7 – 2 win over Calgary. That game included a noteworthy hat-trick from Mason Raymond — one tally on the power play, one at even strength, and one shorty. Not often you see that.
So you can bet the Canucks will be feeling their oats and itching for a scrap when they hit Chicago tonight, especially after the bitch-slapping we gave them in GM Place the week before last. We showered the Vancouver net with 41 shots, chased Bobby Lu before the end of the 2nd, and walked out of there with a 7-1 victory. They will be looking for some payback. Expect Vancouver’s Tanner pain-in-the-Glass to be the latest fool to challenge — and get bludgeoned by — John Scott early on.
The Blackhawks’ rookie goaltender Corey Crawford came off the Circus Trip with three starts, three wins, and a GAA hovering just below 1.00. The calls went out for a third straight start after his wins over the Ducks and Kings, and he got it on Tuesday night against St. Louis. He came away with another win, but I think he showed us exactly why doing a flip-flop for the starting role with Marty Turco is a mistake.
Before we get into that, I want to take you back ten years and revisit the story of two young goaltenders in the Blackhawks organ-eye-zation. Michael Leighton and Craig Anders(s)on — I really should tell that story about the extra ‘s’ — were both drafted by Chicago and came into the AHL in 2001. They played as a tandem in Norfolk, which was then the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate, and over the next three years started to gain confidence at the pro level.
Here and there they would get the occasional call-up, mostly to sit on the bench at the UC and watch Steve Passmore flop all over the ice and get his ass handed to him. Then, disaster struck. Blackhawks’s starting goaltender Jocelyn Thibault injured his hip, underwent surgery and was to miss a total of 60 games during the 2003-04 season.
It’s been an exciting few days for Blackhawks fans, as we wound down the Circus Trip with four wins, our star winger got injured at practice, and the phrase “goalie controversy” threatened to rear its ugly head again. But we’ll get to that in a minute. The task at hand are the boys in blue and gold, and game time is not even 12 hours away.
Since the LA Kings visited the United Center on October 27th, the Kings went on a tear. Los Angeles won six in a row, followed by a six-game stretch in which they allowed the opposing teams to take 11 of the 12 possible points from them. The Blackhawks arrive in Los Angeles on the occasion of that 13th game, wondering if the Kings will break their streak of bad luck, or start a new one.
The teams that de-throned the Kings in that stretch were nothing to sneeze at, including Columbus and Montreal, both in the top four teams of their respective conferences. But the key to these wins appears, statistically at least, to be dependent on two players. With rare exception, the following maxim is true: if Jonathan Quick plays, LA wins. If Jonathan Bernier gets the start, LA loses. Chicago faced Bernier in their game at the United Center.
Tonight, the Blackhawks will face Jonathan Quick.
The last time we saw the Anaheim Ducks it was less than two weeks ago at the United Center, and it was one of the games we want to remember from this year. Okay, Duncan Keith getting his pocket picked in the deep slot and allowing a goal less than a minute after we had taken the early lead wasn’t highlight-reel material. But the Blackhawks shelled Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller with 43 shots, allowing only 26 against, and Viktor Stalberg gave Corey Crawford the win with a late-OT goal.
It wasn’t perfect, but it was a nice send-off victory for the Circus Trip, as we now pay a visit to the Honda Center in Anaheim to see those same Ducks again. The Hawks are fresh off a loss in San Jose, where a stop-and-start effort ended in a 5 – 2 defeat, the salt in that wound being the name “Niemi” pasted across the jersey of the opposing goaltender. Hopefully the ‘Hawks get angry and hand it to the Ducks for some payback…
Well! What a difference 6 months makes.
6 months and one day ago, Antti Niemi was stellar between the pipes for Chicago as the Blackhawks swept the San Jose Sharks from the Western Conference Finals on their way to winning the Stanley Cup.
Now, Niemi is struggling in net for the Sharks, and both teams are shadows of their former selves. Chicago is hovering just one point above the 8th spot in the West; and if the playoffs were to start today, the Sharks would be scouting good tee times. So while on the surface this game appears to be a heated re-match of last year’s playoff encounter, in reality it will likely come down to which team sucks less.
The Sharks have been streaky this year: win two, lose two. Win three, lose three. They are coming off a loss and two OT defeats in their last three games, due in no small part to feeble goaltending. Neither Niemi nor starter Antero Nittymaki could get their team through overtime in their previous two efforts, and neither Colorado nor Dallas needed more than 3 shots to dent the twine for the game-winner. With Niemi’s 3.93 GAA, that honestly should come as a surprise to nobody.
Offense has been San Jose’s bread and butter for some time now, with Uber-Players Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley leading the charge on the team’s first line. They are getting goal support from other players too this year, with Ryane Clowe, Joe Pavelski and defenseman Dan Boyle close behind in the points race. That explains why the Sharks have scored five or more goals in 5 of their 9 wins so far this season.
Defense hasn’t been stellar so far, with half of their core lineup hovering at or below the +1 mark, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic bringing up the rear with a -10 on the season. Former Blackhawks draft pick Kent Huskins is a bright spot, with two assists and a +7 in 19 games.
The slow start to the year has San Jose fans puzzled, and the blogosphere talking trade. One thing is for sure: this is not last year’s Sharks.
So much the better, because this is not last year’s Blackhawks either. This time last year, the Blackhawks were wrapping up an 8-game winning streak that would leave their record at 16-5-2. This year, the Hawks longest winning streak is 4 games, and their record is 11-10-2.
Confidence should be high in the locker room, however: the Blackhawks’ had 13 players with at least one point in Saturday’s 7 – 1 win over Vancouver, chasing long-time whipping-boy Roberto Luongo in the process. It was a night for the stars to come out and play: Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane, and Jonathan Toews all lit the lamp, and Marian Hossa had 3 assists on the night.
Also starting to shine more brightly is Troy Brouwer, who has two goals in as many games and is starting to assert himself more decisively. Recently-written-off Fernando Pisani has four points in five games; and don’t look now, but Viktor Stalberg is fifth on the team with six goals, and he hasn’t even adjusted to playing with Kane and Toews yet. If that line ever gels the way it potentially could, they could change games all by themselves.
Goaltending remains solid: both netminders are above .900 save percentage and below 3.00 GAA, and one more win puts Corey Crawford back at the .500 mark for the year.
The weak spot continues to be defense, where the play of (though it pains me to say it) Duncan Keith deserves to be singled out as particularly sub-par. At least once a period he’s making a bad pass, getting his pocket picked, or losing a battle against the boards that allows a scoring chance for the opposing team.
It’s almost to the point of asking, “What’s wrong with the kid?” Bad breakup with the fiancee? Family member sick? Paying too much for car insurance? This is *not* the Norris Trophy-winning defenseman we saw last year, and honestly, something needs to be done about it. I have a feeling that if Dunc gets his act together this team will start to see a substantial rebound. In my opinion, somebody needs to take the reins on that task. Coach Q…
Late start tonight: puck drops at 9:30pm Chicago time. It’s a national broadcast on the NHL Network, though Chicago viewers will see the game on WGN. Broadcast radio is WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers should tune in to channel 205
A few bits and pieces from around the league on the Blackhawks’ day off.
Fan voting for the NHL All-Star Game has always seemed to me to be the election easiest to rig. Teams scatter fan ballots like confetti all over home games, and team with the most fans at the most games gets the most players into the game. The league is trying to put a lid on that, in its own way; but in the mean time the Blackhawks are reaping the benefits.
Despite his play being less than stellar of late, Blackhawks’ defenseman Duncan Keith is currently ranked first among defensemen, and second overall behind only Sidney Crosby in All-Star fan voting. Other notables on the Blackhawks include Jonathan Toews (3rd among forwards), Patrick Kane (5th) and Marian Hossa (8th). Some dedicated souls have Marty Turco sitting 14th among goaltenders as a write-in candidate, but it looks like Montreal’s Carey Price is going to win that one by a mile.
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We’re going to suggest you take a trip into enemy territory here, and visit one of our red-headed step-sister sites on the FanSided.com network. This time, in honor of tomorrow’s game against San Jose, we present you with Blades of Teal — which you have to admit is a pretty catchy title. They’ll give you an insider’s peek inside the tank in San Jose.
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A brief We’ll Always Love Them Even If They Wear Other Jerseys Now update for you.
Heading north to Minnesota we find John Madden starting to hit his stride after a slow start. His quick stick at the faceoff dot and penalty-killing abilities are helping Minnesota to secure a playoff spot.
Further north in Edmonton, we have seen Colin Fraser three times already this season, fulfilling his role as a grinding center with 22 hits to complement his 2 goals and 1 assist.
Up in Toronto, winger Kris Versteeg got off to a hot start and was an immediate favorite with fans and sports writers alike. But the bloom is off the rose, as his 6 goals and 6 assists are far fewer than Leafs faithful were expecting from a top-six forward. Don’t worry, Kris: the Toronto press tends to anoint anyone with a modicum of talent. Just stay consistent, they’ll get over it soon enough and start picking on somebody else.
Blackhawks’ fan favorite and consummate smart-ass Adam Burish landed in Dallas, and surprising nobody but his mother who is (no doubt) still ashamed, he leads the team in penalty minutes. He has seen time on a line with Mike Ribiero and Brenden Morrow, and has 2 goals to show for it.
But the real action is in Dixie, where some former Blackhawks are transforming a Thrashers team that we saw earlier this month. Winger Ben Eager has been throwing his weight around with 35 hits. Blueliner Brent Sopel continues his solid stay-at-home play, logging 15 minutes a night (and still sporting the homeless-musician haircut).
Dustin “BIG BUFF” Byfuglien has taken Atlanta by storm, returning to his native position on the blue line, and sitting second on the team in points — including a team-leading 4 game-winning goals. The Thrashers put the “A” on his sweater in recent weeks.
And finally, Andrew Ladd was recently named Captain of the Atlanta Thrashers, leading the team with 21 points (7 G, 14 A). He is having what more than one journalist is calling a “career year,” as his scoring and leadership abilities are illustrating the raw talent that has earned him two Stanley Cup rings. Congratulations, Andrew!
My update on Antti Niemi will be seen tomorrow morning: check back for our preview of the Blackhawks vs. Sharks tilt.
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One last note: Jeff wanted me to apologize to all of you for not getting your favorite “Boxing” features up following the games over the weekend. He told me to say that he’s been sitting at home playing “Call of Duty: Black Ops” and smearing Crisco on his nether regions.
And now, he’ll never let me apologize for him ever again!
No seriously, as is the case with all of us, work and life intervene. Jeff had his clothes stapled to his desk by cruel co-workers last week, and the custodial staff went through several pairs of needle-nosed pliers trying to break him loose. But he promises to be back in the saddle and “Boxing” again for you shortly.
Okay, well that was torture.
The Blackhawks followed up a dominant performance against the worst team in the Western Conference (a 5 – 0 win over Edmonton) with a middling effort against the second-worst team in the Western Conference (last night’s 7 – 2 loss to Calgary). The ‘Hawks are now back to .500, for the Circus trip, and for the season.
Tonight it’s the Vancouver Canucks, the team Chicago has bounced from the playoffs the last two years straight — turning Vancouver fans against their starting goaltender and team captain in the process. Now Roberto “WWWWWWWWWAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH” Luongo is just a plain old goalie, the captain’s ‘C’ now residing on the jersey of Henrietta Sedin.
But the change hasn’t improved Luongo’s play any, as the Canucks fell to the Hawks 2 – 1 earlier this year at the United Center, each of the Blackhawks deking Luongo out of his panty liners in the shootout to seal the win. Luongo’s 2.69 GAA, .913 save percentage and 7-5-2 record suggest that this year is bound to disappoint Canucks fans once again.
Offensively, the Sedin twins have been the Canucks bread and butter this season, and sure enough they are tied for the team lead with 24 points each. Mikael Samuelson and Ryan Kessler are the next most prolific forwards at 12 points apiece, so you have a frame of reference for exactly how much the Canucks are relying on the Sedins’ output this year. Suffice to say, stop the Sedins and you stop the Canucks.
But the Blackhawks have been having a hard time stopping anyone this year, as the loss to Calgary illustrated rather embarrassingly. Brian Campbell was the only blueliner that ended the night in positive territory, but the carnage was spread pretty evenly among the remaining defensive corps. Marty Turco’s barely-above-.800 save percentage from the tilt is the worst performance since the Edmonton shellacking on October 29th, and the most goals-allowed by him this season.
Marty, this is NOT the time to turn into Marc Lamothe. Coach Joel Quenneville has decided not to take that chance, and is starting Corey Crawford between the pipes tonight.
The Blackhawks’ offensive stars were kept off the score sheet completely in the Calgary game, another bad sign. The fact that we are wondering which of our million-dollar men are going to earn their keep on any given night is an indication that this team is not firing on all cylinders, and in fact has a long way to go.
And so, we cross our fingers, and hope for the best.
9:00pm CST game time this evening. Comcast SportsNet for TV here in Chicago, and Canadian viewers will see this game as the second part of a Hockey Night In Canada double-header on CBC. Broadcast radio is WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers will hear the game on channel 204.
Looks like no matter where you are or what your media tool of choice is, you can see or hear the Blackhawks take on the Calgary Flames tonight.
First, local radio is WGN AM-720, as are they all.
Satellite radio, for those XM subscribers, tune to channel 206 for all the action.
Local Chicagoland TV viewers can find the Blackhawks on Comcast SportsNet.
TV viewers in Canada will get this game on TSN — a treat for our Indian Head faithful north of the border!
And for you Hawkey Heads in the U.S. but outside of Chicago, a special treat. Fire up the web browser, click here, scroll down to the Blackhawks/Flames game, and click on “Hockey Night on Y!” in the lower right corner. Allegedly that’s a live stream of the game, courtesy of our friends at Yahoo! Sports.
I’ll try to remember to check it, but somebody post a comment here if it works, okay? I’d love to know. Not often they do this.
Everybody enjoy the game, wherever you are: and GO BLACKHAWKS!
What better way to start the annual Circus Trip than by obliterating the two crappiest teams in the Western Conference! The Blackhawks will get a chance to do just that when they take on the Flames at Calgary’s Scotiabank Saddledome.
I know the venue was built for the Olympics, but who designed that ass-hammer anyhow? Just looking at that thing gives me hemorrhoids.
I would imagine the cold November snows in Alberta got a little warmer for the Blackhawks on Wednesday night, after they finally gave the Edmonton Oilers the treatment they should have gotten when they visited the United Center earlier this season. A hat-trick for Captain Serious, Patrick Sharp broke his scoreless drought, and Marty Turco earned his first shutout as a Blackhawk. And there was much rejoicing.
Now it’s on to Calgary to hopefully douse an equally dismal Flames squad, prevented from occupying the Western Conference basement by none other than the Oilers, minus center Olli Jokinen. Roly Poly Olli decided to bury the shaft of his stick in Wojtek Wolski’s neck, and the league told him to enjoy some press box popcorn for three games. So for the next week, the only place he won’t live up to expectations is in the bedroom.
Former Blackhawk draft pick Rene Bourque leads the offensive charge for the Flames, with 9 goals and 15 points in as many games. Long-time captain Jarome Iginla is choosing to lead from the rear, being owner of a team-worst -7 rating.
But the real news in Calgary is the arrival of two new Flames, one of whom is familiar to Blackhawks fans. Defensive linebacker Anton Babchuk brings his howitzer slap shot — and its pathetic accuracy — to a Calgary squad rather lacking in firepower. His -4 rating suggests that firepower is about all he’s good for: part of the reason Chicago sent him packing.
On the Blackhawks’ side, far be it from Coach Joel Quenneville to fix something that isn’t broken. Expect the same lines as were on the ice for the Edmonton game, and Marty Turco gets the start again. All is right with the world once more, as Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa lead the ‘Hawks in scoring (in that order), though we still have a little work to do in the +/- department. And Duncan Keith is even showing signs of not sucking.
I’m a big enough man to admit when I’m wrong, and in winger Viktor Stalberg it appears that I may have been off the mark. He’s my “player to watch” tonight, as he is gaining confidence (along with speed) each time I see him. Against Edmonton he had only 2 shots on goal and tallied no points, but his assignment to the Toews/Kane line works very well for his skill set. I expect we’ll start to see the 20-goal scorer we hoped we traded for very soon.
Game time is 8:30pm Chicago time: Canadian viewers can see the game on TSN, Chicago locals will find it on Comcast SportsNet as usual. Broadcast radio is WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers turn the dial to channel 206.